Attorney Sally Wagenmaker is a partner in a Chicago-based law firm serving churches and nonprofits. Wagenmaker is the current president of the Christian Legal Society (CLS), and she led efforts to add a “Pastors’ Forum” to the CLS national conference taking place this October 31 to November 3 in Chicago.
Editor Matthew Branaugh recently interviewed Wagenmaker about legal issues confronting churches and pastors, the addition of the Pastors’ Forum, and the ways churches can secure legal representation when needs arise and resources are limited. In Part 2 of this two-part interview she shares insights on common misconceptions about outside legal help.
Church leaders often express worry about dealing with legal issues—that the complexities and costs are so overwhelming that they end up doing very little in response. What are some practical ways these leaders can overcome this, given the scarcities of time and resources they face?
First, include legal expenses as part of a church budget. By doing so, a church will be better prepared and equipped to absorb legal costs when they arise. And they likely will arise as an expected part of doing ministry in a complex world.
Second, identify what can be handled by volunteers and what should be outsourced to paid professionals.
Perhaps the church’s employee handbook could first be developed by a volunteer who is experienced with human resources issues, and then outsourced to a paid attorney for review. Or perhaps the church’s real estate purchase could be handled by a volunteer attorney in the congregation, with the follow-up specialized property tax exemption work done by a paid attorney who focuses on that legal area.