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Church Officers: Part A: Who Are They Really?

Robert Grant

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.


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