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Governing Well
15 things every church leader should know about church bylaws.

15 things every church leader should know about church bylaws.

Most churches, whether incorporated or unincorporated, have a governing document that addresses several issues of governance and administration. While the name for this document varies from church to church, it often is called bylaws, and it is this name that will be used in this article as a matter of convenience.

There are several legal issues that are associated with church bylaws. This article will address 15 of them.

1. What are bylaws?

What are church bylaws? The Model Nonprofit Corporations Act (3rd ed. 2008), which has been adopted by several states, defines bylaws as "the code or codes of rules (other than the articles of incorporation) adopted for the regulation and governance of the internal affairs of the nonprofit corporation, regardless of the name or names used to refer to those rules."

One court defined bylaws as follows:

The bylaws of a corporation are the rules of law for its government. The term "bylaw" may be further defined according to its function, which is to prescribe the rights and duties of the members with reference to the internal government of the corporation, the management of its affairs, and the rights and duties existing among the members. Bylaws are self-imposed rules, resulting from an agreement or contract between the corporation and its members to conduct the corporate business in a particular way. Until repealed, bylaws are the continuing rule for the government of the corporation and its officers. Schraft v. Leis, 686 P.2d 865 (Kan. 1984).

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