All church bylaws should qualify the corporate role and duties of church officers. Church Officers, once named in official documentation are accountable to act only within the authority assigned to them by the church. Abiding by this guided authority and governance can prevent potential problems both legally and programmatically.
Baptist Churches traditionally have the following officers: Pastor, Moderator, Clerk, Treasurer(s) and Trustees. The Moderator and Clerk usually require only one person in each position. Some churches are qualifying a Treasurer and Assistant Treasurer, both bonded and authorized to sign checks. Moderator, Clerk and Treasurer are usually elected for one-year terms and eligible for re-election up to five years consecutively. It is not encouraged to allow terms to be unlimited due to burn-out, personal time involvement, security issues and protection and leadership availability. Church leadership is always strengthened by turn-over of personnel. The Pastor, would be the only consecutive term church officer qualified by specific duties and responsibilities found in the Bylaws and scriptural authority.
Church Trustees, because of their role providing documentation signatures on Articles of Incorporation, deeds and contracts need to have longer terms than the other officers. Consistency of these signatures is important. Consideration should be made for Trustees (maximum of three) to be voted into the position for life. Of course they could terminate their service by death, relocation or resignation.
The role of Moderator has often been assumed or assigned to the Pastor position in many older Bylaws. The more modern trend is for a church to enlist and elect a Moderator to perform the duties of the Moderator allowing the Pastor full range to perform the duties assigned to him. Pastors can be great parliamentarians to aid the Moderator in conducting a fair and orderly church business session. The role of Pastor does not need to have Moderator restrictions when church business is being carried out. The Pastor, as key leader of a congregation, needs to be able to speak unencumbered towards an issue without having to step-out of the Moderator role and provide that leadership in a church issue. Moderators must maintain total neutrality when presiding.
Replacement and discipline procedures for church officers are often overlooked as a vital Bylaws inclusion. Always include an entire Article titled: General Church Officers, Deacons and Other Leadership. Sections under this Article would be titled: Overview, Officer Functions, Enlistment & Election, Qualifications, Officer Rotation, Specific Duties, Termination and Screening of Leadership.
All church leadership should have a written job description – especially the official officers of the church. Church officers are really corporate officers of an incorporated or chartered body /organization that follow through with the official business of the church. Church (corporate) officers fulfill the legal governance of a church body and represent the congregation in all corporate matters of records, signatures, financial obligations and the conduct of business sessions.
Annually elected lay officers are: Moderator, Clerk, Treasurer and Trustees. The Pastor and some other staff are often additional church professional ministerial officers and are not annually elected. Church staff should avoid being placed in the position of qualifying their signature on long term church documents. Deacons are not official church officers, their role is specifically recorded in Acts 6:1-4, as servants to the congregation.
Those elected by the congregation annually:
MODERATOR: Needs to be an elected lay person with pertinent functions.
- Maintain the fellowship.
- Conducts orderly church business.
- Keeps church business in a timely agenda.
- Utilizes a parliamentary process that allows clarity and fairness.
- Speaks for the church in times of crisis. Some churches suggest that the pastor be moderator. This writer feels this is one of the most unfair practices a church can impose on their spiritual leader. Pastors make good parliamentarians. The role of moderator is neutral and unbiased. Few moderators will immerge from the role to speak on an issue – certainly not what a pastor should be forced to do during church debate.
CLERK: An elected lay person who:
- Records church minutes of motions, discussions, and identifies individuals participating in business.
- Preserves records.
- Corresponds with other churches for membership changes.
- Provides church history records.
- Prepares the Annual Church Profile.
TREASURER: An elected lay person who focuses on three stewardship categories: Receiving, Accounting and dispersing of funds. Other functions are:
- Counsel with Stewardship Committee.
- Maintaining financial records transactions.
- Maintain contribution records.
- Signs checks.
- Makes reports to committees and church on a regular basis.
TRUSTEES: Elected lay persons (3 maximum ) who hold the property of the church in trust for the congregation.
- Trustees are the legal agents for the church as directed by the church bylaws.
Maintains inventory of all legal documents.
- Counsels with other committees or organizations concerning legal matters.
- Some churches choose to rotate trustees. This writer feels consistency of legal perspectives, signatures and functions needs to prevail over rotation and elect Trustees for life terms.