A lot of the legal responsibilities for a church fall to the Trustees. I also think that the Trustees are usually the most experienced and best equipped to deal with legal issues. Here’s specifically the duties they should be prepared for:
PROPERTY TRANSACTIONS: Buying, selling, and leasing church property is complicate because who is the Owner of the church? No one is the owner, but the church has to follow the process to be able to show that they have the authority to do what they are trying to do.
LEGAL DOCUMENTS: Deeds, corporate documents, and the like all become permanent records. It’s nice when the church has a plan for these whether it’s a fireproof safe or a safety deposit box at the bank.
CONTRACT REVIEW: Protecting your church from a bad contract is a valuable service. A contract with unfavorable or ambiguous terms will scar a church.
When someone dies and leaves a pile of cash to the church, what could go wrong? Here’s what can go wrong: the gift can make people act crazy. The craziest part is when people start speaking for the deceased. Not just a wife speaking about what her departed husband would have wanted. Not just a grown child speaking for what their mother would have wanted. You start seeing casual acquaintances who all of a sudden know exactly every single opinion the deceased would have ever had relating to their money.
Does this craziness honor the dead…or the LORD? Of course it doesn’t! Here’s what honors them:
Keeping their wishes in writing: This is the only reliable way of knowing what the deceased wanted.
Not hoarding the money: I’m guessing they gave the money so that it would be spent in a way that will somehow change lives. Leaving money untouched year after year in a bank account doesn’t change lives.
Growing their gift: You can’t grow a gift through a CD, savings account, or money market. Not versus inflation anyway. For large gifts, think about investing.
Remembering them publicly: One of the most powerful testimonies is a life well lived. When we use their gift, help people remember the person and the life they lived.
I hate spending money. On the topic of insurance, my tendency would be to by the cheapest coverage I can get away with because I know insurance isn’t a charity. They are in the business to make money. Being too cheap on insurance is dumb. Guess what. Spending too much on insurance is also dumb.
Compare insurance to a shield. If I’m going out to battle against an enemy that is shooting arrows, I had better not have gone cheap and bought a shield the size of a dinner plate. I might get lucky for a while but eventually my luck will run out. Also, it wouldn’t work well to buy 100lb metal shield because it’ll make it really difficult to fight the battle AND protect yourself. When your church is under covered, eventually a disaster will hit that isn’t covered. It’s only a matter of time. When you’re church is over covered, money that should be going to ministry is instead going towards somebody else’s bonus check.
Insurance is there transfer the risk from the church to the insurance company for large and unexpected expenses that could destroy your church’s finances. What are risks that are in the realm of possibility that could wreck the church’s finances? A chip in the church van’s windshield probably won’t wreck you. The driver of the church van accidentally running over someone, that would wreck you. Keep that in mind as you discern the insurance needs of your church.
When my kids were little, they used to watch a lot of Bob the Builder and eventually Handy Manny. The more stuff broke down, the happier Bob seemed to be. Do you know why Bob was so happy? He lived in a world where you didn’t have pay for anything! In the real world…and especially in the church…there is more that needs to fixed than we can afford to take care of. And if we have the money, do we have the volunteers and other labor?
Part of why the job can be overwhelming is that we often just fly by the seat of our pants and just fix the squeakiest wheels. Instead of having others plan our work for us, why not plan your own work. Come up with your own To-Do list and set your own priorities. This should also give some comfort to those squeaky wheels knowing that they’re on your list…and what’s on your list eventually gets done.