Starting a Ministry...Advice Needed

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...please forgive me if this sort of topic has been discussed elsewhere on here. Feel free to re-direct to it if necessary.

There has been a local ministry (interpretive dance) meeting at our church facility, and it is led by a member of our congregation. Up to this point, they have operated on their own, with the only tie to our church being that they meet at our facility. They have now grown to a point where they feel like they could/should look at being under our church "umbrella" much like our current Gems or Cadet programs, for example. This feeling is driven primarily by a need for extra finances and concerns about liability and safety (they have looked into going 501c, but feel that they are not yet ready to go down that road.)

So, how do we proceed in a way that is legal, efficient, and safe?

Liability - what would need to happen so that our current insurance policy would cover this ministry? I know this may seem like "...just call your insurance company" but are there any extra concerns we should be aware of?

Donations - what would need to happen so that individuals could give to this ministry and be legally tax deductible? Could they give towards our church, and we simply redirect the funds to the ministry?

Child protection - we are familiar with this as all of our current programs are compliant. However, this particular ministry has a much greater percentage of non-members and community participating, so are there any extra concerns we need to be aware of?

Leadership - another leader and various instructors of this ministry are not members of our congregation. What concerns (aside from getting them compliant for our own child protection policy) would there be?

Thank you for any thoughts, always appreciated!

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Hi Dave, 

Great questions - and I'm sure many of us who have started organizations and attempted to come alongside them can identify with your questions. 

I work for Safe Church Ministry part-time - and also am planting a church as a bi-vocational pastor. Also, on the side I have been leading a non-profit recreational sport as it sets up official bylaws and attains a sustainable board of directors and a 501c status. 

From my perspective there are two routes you could go: 1. The ministry stays under the umbrella of the church; or 2. The ministry creates its own board of directors and starts an official non-profit through creating articles of incorporation with the state - as well as at the federal level - if they are mostly a ministry to children they would qualify as a 501c3. 

 

There are pros and cons to either route. The second would put a great amount of extra work into creating its own corporation. After going through the process with two different organizations, I will say that it can be done, but there are a fair level of complications that inevitably come up. 

In my own opinion, it could be an incredible blessing if your church corporation would be willing to come alongside of this new ministry and provide all of the backend stuff when it comes to liability, donations, child protection and assisting those associated with the leadership. It could be a fair amount of work, but if you have a few people in your congregation who have a passion to see this dance ministry be a blessing in your community it could be a tremendous way to share the kingdom. 

Partnership, open communication, and meeting them where they have needs will be necessary - hopefully they might be able integrate more with your congregation throughout the process!

That is just my opinion as a church planter and community organizer. 

 

Lastly, to answer some of your questions. I am not an expert, but here are some thoughts: 

Liability: Be in direct conversation with your insurance provider and make sure there are proper coverages and protections for everything that is happening within this ministry. If your council agrees to partner at this level with this ministry - explain to your insurance provider that your congregation is assisting with liability protection. 

Leadership: Again, if you council agrees to partner with this ministry over the next few years, be sure to ask for a level of structure from them and how they would then be accountable to the church's council. Would there be a specific committee for this ministry that would have a level of authority from the church's council? If so, this committee then could be the governing body for the ministry - as opposed to them having to form their own board of directors (and deal with incorporating, insurance coverage, finances, and all the active ministry stuff as well). 

Child Protection: It would be a fair request then to ask the ministry to form a specific policy for their ministry to be approved by the committee that they are accountable to. This may be modeled off from the church's existing child protection policy - be sure to visit this yearly to make sure that it is a policy that is executable. 

Donations: The committee could also be that in between governing body who could discuss how donations and the budget would function - it could then fit into a line item of the church budget and donations to the ministry could have special designations for that line item. 

I hope I acknowledged some of your questions - and note that these are just things to consider from my own experience, and should not be taken as "expert" advice, but I hope this is helpful.
 

Rev. Eric Kas (BIO) - 

[email protected]

CRCNA - Safe Church Associate 

616.224.0717 (office)

 

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Dave: You should really pay a few dollars and sit down with an attorney whose practice includes working with both for-profit and not-for-profit entities.  Your prospective scenario is full of nuance. 

You'd be surprised how much an hour with a good attorney could help cut through the murk and allow you to make an informed, intelligent decision, and once made, also help implement that decision well.

Thank you Eric and Doug, appreciated. Yes, it has always looked like a trip to an attorney would probably be needed, but I wanted to make sure that there wasn't a simpler way to "endorse" a ministry and have it active "under" our church sooner, so long as the ministry meets the policies and guidelines of our other ministries. Any other comments are welcome, and thanks again!