Churches base their foundation on the principles laid out in the Bible. The bylaws of a church lay out the purpose of the church, its structure and the responsibilities of members and leaders. Bylaws spell out business aspects, such as how a church hires and fires pastors, as well as spiritual aspects, such as how to maintain a church under the ministry and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Purpose Statement and Statement of Faith
Almost every church has a purpose statement. Each church develops the purpose statement for its bylaws based on the particular focus of the overall denominational purpose statement, as well as the mission of the individual church. The purpose statement puts in writing how the church plans to carry out its mission to share the love of Christ. The bylaws also include a Statement of Faith about what the church believes and practices regarding the Trinity, Christ's sacrifice, salvation, grace and other key Biblical concepts.
Standard bylaws for churches clarify the structure of the church. The church might reach out to a particular demographic. Or, the church might focus on missions and garner support from partner churches, organizations and individuals.
Church bylaws address membership within the church body. The church bylaws provide the steps to membership, showing who may join and how this is accomplished. Bylaws put into print the responsibilities of members, as well as accountability for conduct and choices within and outside the walls of the church. Bylaws also clarify steps taken to remove a member not in good standing, or how a member may switch membership to another church body.
Standard church bylaws cover the steps that lead to discipline of members, pastors or other staff. Discipline is based on Titus 3:10-11, Galatians 1:8-9 and other passages. The ultimate purpose of church discipline is not to inflict punishment, but to restore a brother or sister to fellowship. The bylaw process starts with finding out the truth of an accusation before speaking to the offending individual and seeking to draw the person back to Christ.
Form of Government
Not all churches have the same form of government, but standard bylaws cover the particular form of government chosen by the leadership or church members. A church may be democratic with a congregation-led system, more autocratic with an elder-led system, or adhere to any number of variations. Most churches do include in their form of governing responsibilities for pastors, elders, deacons and the congregation.
Elders and Deacons
Standard church bylaws cover the job descriptions of elders and deacons. Some churches have both, with elders in more leadership roles and deacons in more administrative roles. In some church structures, deacons are the primary overseers, charged with the spiritual welfare of the church. Church bylaws differentiate the roles and responsibilities of both elders and deacons.
The calling, responsibilities, accountability, retiring and firing of pastors are all laid out in standard church bylaws. The role of pastor is based on I Timothy 3:1-7. The bylaws cover who is eligible to become a pastor of the church, credentials required and other steps the search committee must take to find the candidate best suited to a particular congregation.
- “Bylaws of the Hope Evangelical Free Church of Kearney, NE”; Hope EFC; 2009
- New Life Church: Bylaws of New Life Church
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images