Approximately 41% of the churches in South Carolina are NOT Incorporated. The South Carolina Baptist Convention recommends and encourages that all churches consider incorporation. The two basic reasons for this encouragement is to help a church provide clearer rules for operation (Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, and Policies and Procedures) and protection of the membership from liability. If lawsuits are filed against the church itself church leaders are generally shielded from liability – if the church is incorporated.
Churches in South Carolina do not have to employ an attorney to file their application for Incorporation, or making any changes to their Incorporation documents. Generally these Articles of Incorporation include the legal name of the church, its address, its purpose, its means of membership, and a list of its agents/trustees.
In South Carolina once the Articles of Incorporation have been drafted, filed, and fees paid ($25) to the Secretary of State the church does not have to make annual reapplications. Any changes of leadership, amendments to documents will need to be made periodically on the appropriate forms.
To download all of the needed applications simply go to: www.scsos.com then “forms”, “Non-Profit Corporations”, Applications. The filing costs associated with each form is noted on the last page of each form.
If you or your church is unable to download the forms please call the GuideStone & Church Administration Office (803-227-6170) for a sample of the forms.
When the Model Non-Profit Corporation Act was adopted in whole or in part by 33 states (South Carolina is one of those states) Church Incorporation made a dramatic shift. Church Incorporation documentation became a more important document than the Constitution of a church.
If a church is NOT Incorporated the Constitution is still a viable document, but the Bylaws need to be separated from the text as a separate stand- alone document and updated. The Bylaws become the more important church document.
If a church IS Incorporated and the “Constitution and Bylaws” are written together it is suggested that they be edited and become separate documents. Consider extracting all Constitutional portions of the existing Constitution and Bylaws into two stand- alone documents. Many Old Constitutions include charters, covenants, mission statements and historical information that is important and needs to be preserved as HISTORICAL documentation. Consider placing a footnote on every page of the revised Old Constitution, historical document that reads: Revised: (Date), As an Historical Document of the _________Baptist Church, Never To Be Revised Again.
If you are currently revising your Constitution and Bylaws spend committee time extracting the Constitution NOT amending it. Spend quality committee time completing the Application for Incorporation (www.scsos.com) and amending Bylaws. Bylaws become the most important church document that is to be used in all church business. Consider creating Policies and Procedures that are up to date and relevant to your existing church polity.
With the Constitution extracted the Bylaws are revealed. These rules are VERY important and can be used along with the Articles of Incorporation to create complete legal church documentation. The Articles of Incorporation and the Bylaws become the “new” Constitution and Bylaws of your church as the legal documentation that every church member should have. It is wise to keep a copy of the active documents available in the church office and with the church clerk at every church business conference.