Incorporation Can Protect Church Members

When an organization becomes incorporated, it gains the same legal rights and responsibilities as an individual. That’s true for churches and ministries, just as it is for businesses. Incorporation takes the weight of responsibility off the shoulders of individuals and instead, places it on the organization. In contrast, a court may find all members of an unincorporated church legally responsible for negligent or criminal actions committed by one church member.

Incorporated churches and ministries have several advantages

Churches and other ministries should consider incorporation for a variety of reasons. The most important is to protect individual members from personal liability associated with the negligent actions of fellow members.

Incorporated ministries also enjoy other benefits:

  • Incorporation can help an organization clarify its purpose, procedures, and vision.
  • Only incorporated ministries may apply for and receive grants through federal or faith-based organizations and foundations.
  • Incorporated groups may be eligible to receive special mailing rates and other discounts from vendors.

Complete incorporation at the state level

Incorporation takes place at the state level, often through the Secretary of State’s office. When incorporating, first contact an attorney who is familiar with not-for-profit laws in your state. The attorney will prepare a document known as Articles of Incorporation and help you establish your corporation’s unique name, a statement of organizational purpose, and operational bylaws.

According to Michael Allison, vice president and chief counsel at Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, church bylaws should include the following elements:

  • Statement of purpose.
  • Structural organization (the relationship between members, pastors, and leaders).
  • Election process for church leaders.
  • Guidelines for church membership meetings.
  • Definitions distinguishing leadership and membership decisions.
  • Committee roles and responsibilities.
  • Process required for amending the bylaws.

Once you establish your church’s bylaws, use the bylaws as a guide by which your ministry operates. Doing otherwise can create legal problems, especially if church leaders reach major decisions in a manner inconsistent with your bylaws.

Review bylaws regularly

Your ministry should appoint a task force to evaluate its bylaws at least every two years. This group should operate strictly within the established rules for changing bylaws and should consult an attorney before finalizing official changes. Many states also require incorporated ministries to submit annual paperwork, such as an annual report to the Secretary of State’s office.

April 18, 2018
Collect Online Donations? This New Scam Targets You
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There’s a new scam in town, and ministries and other organizations collecting donations are the primary target. If your ministry collects tithes or donations, you could be targeted by scammers practicing donation overpayment fraud.

Tags: donations, finances, fraud, cyber security
February 21, 2018
Remembering Billy Graham
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Tags: Billy Graham
February 9, 2018
Flu Is Widespread: Protect Your Congregation
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For the first time in its 13 years of influenza monitoring, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that every state in the continental U.S. is seeing widespread flu activity. Get tips on how to keep your congregation healthy this flu season.

Tags: health safety, risk, protect, health, flu
June 19, 2017
Off-Site Youth Activities
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Snow skiing. Camping. Whitewater rafting. A youth group trip can give students an exciting diversion from their weekly routines, as well as an opportunity to strengthen healthy friendships. Off-site activities may challenge your students to step outside of their comfort zones a bit, but this can bring about a positive result.

 

Tags: youth, insurance, safety
June 7, 2017
Insurance Protection Should Accompany Every Mission Trip
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If you are in the process of planning a mission trip for your church group, make sure to think carefully about insurance, safety, and security as you hammer out the details. Extra preparation could minimize headaches when your group arrives on the mission field.

Tags: mission insurance, foreign travel, liability, coverage
May 24, 2017
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Has your church or school ever been asked to loan one of your vans or buses to another? Before you decide to loan your ministry vehicles to another organization, seriously consider the potential risks associated with such a decision.

Tags: auto insurance, loaning vehicles
March 29, 2017
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Tags: claims, coverage, insurance, property
March 15, 2017
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Have you thought through potential dangers that may confront your ministry? Taking steps to consider and address these risks provides important protection from injuries, lawsuits, fires, and dozens of other hazards that may affect your ministry, especially your employees and those you serve.

Tags: protect, safety, security, security team, protecting staff members, risk management
February 22, 2017
Health Care Reimbursement Option Now Available
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Small businesses—including churches and related ministries—can once again pay premiums for their employees’ health insurance. Previously known as an Employer Payment Plan (EPP) or Health Reimbursement Account (HRA), these arrangements violated the Affordable Care Act (ACA). However, due to a recently passed law, ministries that are not part of a group health plan now have another option to help employees with health care costs.

Tags: church staff, health insurance
February 15, 2017
IRS Warns of Dangerous W-2 Email Scam
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Ministries beware: An email scheme, designed to coincide with tax season, asks payroll and human resource professionals to disclose employees’ personal information. Think you wouldn’t fall for such a scam? You might, if the email looks as if it came from someone in your ministry.

Tags: IRS regulations, paying employees, cyber security, church staff, security, damages, digital
February 1, 2017
Dual Tax Status: What Does It Mean for Your Pastor?
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Under federal law, most ministers have dual tax status. Dual tax status means a minister is an employee of the church for federal income tax purposes, and self-employed for Social Security and Medicare taxes. Here’s what you need to know.

Tags: church payroll, finance, IRS regulations, paying employees, tax code
January 18, 2017
Protect Your Board Against Lawsuits
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Lawsuits against churches and ministries are on the rise, making their board members especially vulnerable. Sometimes, courts have found directors and officers personally liable when their actions have resulted in financial damages.

Tags: protect, directors and officers, protecting staff members
January 4, 2017
Incorporation Can Protect Church Members
Incorporation Can Protect Church Members

Incorporation takes the weight of responsibility off the shoulders of individuals and instead, places it on the organization. In contrast, a court may find all members of an unincorporated church legally responsible for negligent or criminal actions committed by one church member.

Tags: protect, directors and officers, protecting staff members
December 7, 2016
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Large or small, churches and ministries are often easy prey for would-be thieves, especially as church holidays, like Christmas, approach and weekly offerings increase as more people return to worship and other ministry activities. Ministry leaders can boost their ability to keep thieves away from their contributions and property by taking just a few precautions—not only during the holidays, but also throughout the year.

Tags: damages, insurance, claims, liability, protect, risk, safety, church offerings, financial gifts
November 30, 2016
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Churches seldom look more beautiful than when they're decorated for the holidays. Candles, lights, and greenery add splendor to the celebration of Christ's birth. Unfortunately, they also contribute to a number of fires each December. As you haul out the decorations, remember to balance beauty with safety.

 

Tags: damages, insurance, claims, liability, protect, risk, safety, fire prevention
November 16, 2016
Always Looking for Church Nursery Volunteers?
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Having a hard time finding people to serve in the church nursery? Do new volunteers stop serving, shortly after they begin?  There could be a number of reasons for that.

Tags: safety, risk, protect, liability, youth, volunteers
November 9, 2016
Take Steps to Prevent the Flu
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Do you remember the last time you caught the flu? You probably sneezed and coughed and ached all over, resting your stuffy head by a box of tissues and wishing you had the energy to do more than lie there. Well, it’s time to watch out. The flu virus is preparing to pounce again.  

Tags: damages, insurance, claims, health safety, risk
October 26, 2016
Safety Makes for an Enjoyable Hayride
Safety Makes for an Enjoyable Hayride

Every fall, thousands of churches across the nation sponsor hayrides. Unfortunately, these events sometimes lead to serious injuries, even deaths. By following these suggestions, you can minimize the risks involved in sponsoring hayrides and make your hayride a safe and enjoyable experience.

Tags: church payroll, finance, IRS regulations, paying employees, tax code, liability, outdoor activities, protect, risk, safety
September 14, 2016
New Overtime Ruling Takes Effect in December
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Last May, the United States Department of Labor announced a new standard for determining who qualifies as an exempt employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The new ruling says that if an employee earns less than $47,476 per year ($913 per week), then in most cases the employee needs to be classified as non-exempt. This change will take effect December 1, 2016.

Tags: damages, insurance, claims, church payroll, church staff, paying employees, Fair Labor Standards Act
September 7, 2016
Ministries Can Take Steps to Protect their Beliefs
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Issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) laws have received a great deal of media and government attention since the 2015 Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage. As a result, many ministry leaders have questions about what the law requires and how they can accommodate LGBTQ* individuals without compromising their religious beliefs

Tags: liability, insurance, protect, religious freedom