Prune Your Church’s Governing Documents Carefully.

Are you thinking about making changes to your constitution or bylaws? These documents are frequently the most comprehensive written statement about how a church plans to work out the gospel in its local context. If you are drafting changes, I encourage you to sit down with a lawyer who understands the law, and your churches’ mission, and make them thoughtfully.

And having seen scores of examples, it is easy to spot churches that have had problems. At some point, someone has heard about (or thought they dealt with) the devil’s own deacon chairman, or committee leader, or choir director, or elder. And that someone quickly drafts a change, so that it never happens again.

It’s a little like reading rings in a stump. Drought leaves an indelible record in the trunk, and bad business meetings shows up in the bylaws. Sometimes the changes are artful pruning. But more commonly, it looks like careless “topping” of a tree, a practice that causes decay, damage and disfiguring.

An arborist might say “don’t prune trees unless you know what a tree is supposed to look like.” Likewise, don’t use bylaws to react to bad situations in the past. Plant and shape your bylaws with a clear picture of the church.