Q&A: Can Church Board Meet Without the Pastor?

The answer depends on the wording of your church’s governing documents.

Can a church board meet without informing the senior pastor and transact business on behalf of the church that is not an emergency? Assume that the pastor is available, and that the church bylaws specify that the pastor is the president of the corporation and chairperson of the board.
The answer to this question will depend on the wording of your church’s governing documents (i.e., constitution, bylaws). If your governing documents do not address this issue, then you should refer to the state nonprofit corporation law under which your church is incorporated. To illustrate, the nonprofit corporation law of one state specifies: “Notice of the place, if any, and time of each meeting of the directors shall be given to each director either by personal delivery or by mail, by overnight delivery service, or by means of authorized communications equipment at least two days before the meeting. That notice need not specify the purposes of the meeting.” This is a fairly common provision in state nonprofit corporation laws. According to this language, a group of board members could not hold a secret meeting without giving notice to the pastor. This assumes that (1) the church is incorporated under a state nonprofit corporation law containing such a provision, and (2) the pastor is a member of the board. Any action taken at such a meeting would be nullity.
Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

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