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  • How can I Legally Prepare My Church for Growth?

    Every minister’s goal is to show people salvation. Seeing more people realize their faith and developing stronger relationships are signs they are succeeding in their ministry. That may also mean the church is growing. Like any business, a growing church presents challenges that the leader of the organization needs to tackle.

    There are many important items to juggle when preparing for a church’s growth. Getting the guidance of a trusted nonprofit attorney can help by keeping a focus on the ministry while the legal representative works diligently to ensure the church prepares for the growth ahead.

    Much of the growth a church faces will require substantial financial investment. With more congregants, many church leaders think that the money will flow in. That is not always the reality, especially as a church grows and creates more costs for itself.

    Scaling up requires more than simply doing the same tasks but larger. Preparing for the growth and expansion of a church requires a clear plan and determination to reach the goal. Partnering with an experienced nonprofit attorney can help church leaders prepare for and navigate the complexities ahead. Some helpful ways to expand a church are listed below.

    Training

    One of the most important factors of scaling up a church centers on structure. When people within the organization understand their roles, they perform more effectively. This is true for both paid staff and volunteers.

    Many churches rely heavily on their volunteers. As a smaller congregation, few volunteers may be required, and a single staff member may lead them. As a church continues to grow, volunteer leaders may need to rise and start leading other volunteers. By creating structure for training the staff, volunteer leaders, and other volunteers, a church can be sure that each piece of the puzzle understands how they fit into the bigger picture.

    Structure

    Along with a clear training program, reviewing and implementing systems and processes are vital to the growth of any ministry. Just like for-profit organizations, nonprofits need to have structure or the individual staff and volunteers may end up doing work that does not further the goals of the church.

    Change to structure must also be front of mind. As a congregation grows, there will inevitably be changes required. Consider some of the following common adjustments:

    • Adding weekly church services.
    • Adding children’s services.
    • More usher volunteers.
    • Communicating changes to the congregation.
    • Additional paid staff.

    Thinking about the modifications that church leaders need to make will help move the growth forward at a faster pace without losing the soul of the congregation. With the right systems and processes in place, a church can grow exponentially while still holding true to its values and mission.

    Property

    Part of the additional staff that may need to be hired include maintenance workers. As a church grows, they may outgrow their present location and require more maintenance. Extra work may be required on:

    • Cleaning pews and floors.
    • Cleaning communion items.
    • Security.
    • Sidewalks and parking lots.

    Even if an expanding church stays in their current location, they may need to make updates and improvements to the property. Some of these might be cosmetic to make the church look nicer, but others might be for safety, like repairing cracks in sidewalks. Reviewing and understanding what property changes need to be made will help prepare church leaders for what comes next.

    Budget

    As any church grows, so too does the budget. Making the repairs and improvements discussed above is just one of the many ways a church’s budget expands along with a growing congregation.

    Church leaders may expect that an increase in congregants will translate into an increase in tithes. That may be true, but it may also take time. The church has immediate budgetary needs, but an increase in tithes may take weeks or months to funnel into the budget.

    It is good practice for church leaders to meet with their accounting team to ensure they have enough cash on hand to make necessary adjustments right away. By preparing for the outgoing expenses, church leaders can prioritize what needs to be done first so they do not stretch the church budget too thin.

    Ministry Expansion

    Having more people in the congregation is the ongoing goal of the ministry. As the ministry expands, keeping sight of that goal helps church leaders continue in their service to the congregation.

    As the ministry expands and welcomes more people into the congregation, that may require additional services, including:

    • More frequent church services.
    • Starting or adding a dedicated children’s service.
    • Expanding Bible study classes.
    • Mission trips.
    • Community volunteering.
    • Online church services.

    Understanding the goal of expansion will help church leaders know what actions to take next. With the increase in electronic use today, considering a livestream or offering dedicated online services may help grow the congregation faster.

    Legal Entity

    Churches are nonprofits, but running them is very similar to running for-profit corporations; however, there are nuances to nonprofit organizations. Protecting the church requires a keen eye from a nonprofit attorney who can provide assistance in many ways. The attorney for a church may provide guidance, support, and service through:

    • Filing and updating articles of incorporation.
    • Drafting bylaws.
    • Selecting board members.
    • Protecting church assets.
    • Ensuring employment law compliance.
    • Zoning restrictions and updates.
    • Tax law exemptions.

    A church law attorney helps church leaders align their religious beliefs with business practices. Having a trusted legal advisor to call on with questions and concerns can help a growing church reach their goals faster while ensuring it takes the proper legal steps to protect its assets, and most importantly, the congregation.

    Avoid Legal Mistakes with a Church Attorney

    While most churches form a legal structure when they first open, some do not; this can be a costly mistake. Understanding the legal structure of a church and the implications that it has on the church’s operations is important to securing the congregation’s future.

    The most common and costly mistakes churches make include:

    • Not incorporating.
    • Vague bylaws.
    • No documentation of processes, procedures, or religious practices.
    • Not hiring a nonprofit tax expert.

    If a church is operating and is not incorporated, they are risking everything. It is the responsibility of church leaders to take immediate action to rectify the problem. However, some church leaders do not want to undertake any legal steps; they simply want to preach. That is a noble endeavor, but ignoring the legal implications could cause a congregation to lose its home.

    Church Law Attorneys at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC Help Clients Expand Their Churches

    Failing to grow a church could be attributed to a lack of direction from the church leaders. To expand a ministry, ministers must ask hard questions. Church leaders must take it upon themselves to balance the noble work of religious ministry with the needs of operating the nonprofit corporation. With the right legal help, church leaders can get the support they need to help them achieve their goals. The church law attorneys at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC know you care deeply about your congregation, and we can help you focus on expanding your ministry. Contact us online or call us at 757-LAW-0000 for an initial consultation. Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, and Eastern Shore. We also serve our clients throughout the United States through our network of associated attorneys.