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Our Bylaws are out of date and a mess. Are there examples, samples, or guides for CRCNA Bylaws (not articles of incorporation)?


Sheri, thanks for all the helpful posts that you've provided on various CRC web pages. I'm a member of a Michigan CRC congregation. We're in the process of creating both Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws. Under Synod Resources it appears that we can get a running start by filling out the fields in the Michigan Articles of Incorporation Filing Form pdf file, and then append the Attachment to the Articles of Incorporation Filing Form MS-Word document, which can be modified by anyone having MS-Word on their PC (very helpful!).  So I think we have a clear path ahead for Articles of Incorporation.  But what about Bylaws?  The sample on the CRC website is quite long; we've seen another actual set of Bylaws that is both sides of one sheet of paper (three paragraphs).  Is the CRC sample available in MS-Word format?  That would help a lot!  Thanks.

Hi Ken, thanks for this. I checked with Sheri and these Bylaws are not available in Word format but she is checking with some other churches to see if they have Bylaws that we could turn into a sample that would be available in Word. Stay tuned!  

We have just adopted new Bylaws. Our Bylaws sit at the mid-level of policy, between the Articles of Association, which establish us a a congregation and a legal entity in Michigan, and the nuts and bolts of policy, handbooks and the like. Our model depends on a distinction between governance and ministry, as outlined by Dan Hotchkiss in his book Governance and Ministry. It is not a strict "Board" model for council, as Hotchkiss mainly describes, but aligning our elders and deacons with the ministry teams on the one hand, and keeping governance functions (finance, facilities, HR, Safe Church, administration) along with holding up the vision of the congregation with council, we have found a way to work efficiently and purposefully with all three of these distinct bodies. I would be pleased to share this work, but  I do not see a place to upload a document here.

I am looking for clarity of text included in our recently adopted bylaws.  We sought legal counsel in the state of Michigan to formulate bylaws for our congregation for the very first time.  We have had Articles of Incorporation filed with the State of Michigan since 1902 but never did have any documents that functioned as Bylaws.

With that as our background, what we adopted included a statement "Trustees shall be elected by a plurality of votes cast at any election". The votes cast on every other item requiring a vote requires a majority (Budget, salaries, building projects, etc..)

A question has been raised about the wisdom requiring a plurality of votes for trustees/council members instead of majority.  As with most congregations, we do elect several candidates for each office (elders or deacons) and to require a majority requires that several ballots be cast to arrive at majority.

Any thoughts for providing clarity in the election of elders/deacons?  A plurality of votes or majority?





John, if I understand you correctly, your council is accustomed to asking for a majority vote from the congregation when there is a simple yes/no decision at hand (budget, salaries, building projects, etc.). However, in the case of office bearer elections the situation is more complicated because the congregation is asked to select a number of candidates from a larger field of candidates. You're asking, then, if council might place into office those who simply gain the highest plurality of votes from the congregation (eg. 35% or 45% of the congregation’s votes). 

I'd like to move from the general to the specific as I think about this with you. In general, councils are wise to place in office those whose God-given gifts for ministry are recognized by the congregation and affirmed by the congregation’s leadership, the council. The church order operationalizes this principle when it says that the council is obligated to “seek the cooperation of the congregation” in the selection of office bearers (CO article 37). Beyond that limited guidance church councils are able to do whatever they think best. 

If the council senses that having a plurality of the congregation’s vote is enough support for particular candidates (and sufficient "cooperation") then it may decide to require only a plurality rather than a majority (50% + 1) of the congregation’s vote. This would enable the council to simplify office bearer elections by reducing the potential number of votes required. However, a plurality of less than 50% might also result in less congregational confidence in a particular candidate’s call to ministry, especially if the plurality number is low. Of course, if the congregation has been able to provide an initial affirmation of all candidates’ readiness for ministry, perhaps by approving the slate of nominees, then this concern is mitigated.

Another question for you to consider: Which approach, if taken this time, would be more likely to generate deeper confidence in the process now and broader participation next time?

If you would like to think more about this then please feel free to connect with me or my colleagues here at Pastor Church Resources ([email protected]). 


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