In our previous article published on October 1 (Part 1), we listed church documents that should be reviewed and, as needed, updated annually. In this follow-up article, we discuss other important documents that require less frequent review, but whose importance should not be underestimated. In some instances below, the records are a continuation to earlier years of items we referred to in the previous article.
The following documents should be located and stored in a secure place. If any are kept in a bank safe deposit box, there should be a record of who has the key and access. There may be other documents that your church considers important but are not listed here.
- Minutes of meetings of the church council or other governing body. And committee reports as available.
- Financial records, including annual report, monthly and/or quarterly income and expense reports for older years.
- Employment contracts or any document evidencing terms of employment (such as a call letter for a pastor) for all personnel.
- Other employment records, such as reference checks, performance reviews (including disciplinary actions), and Form I-9 immigration forms. Some of these may include confidential information access to which should be limited to certain church leaders.
- If the church endowment contains accounts or amounts that are subject to use restrictions by donors, copies of the donor instruments (such as a will or letter from a donor and, if available, contact information for the legally responsible party) should be retained. If monies are use-restricted by decision of the church council, a copy of those minutes.
- Tax records including payroll tax forms, housing allowance designations for your pastors, contribution reports evidencing tax-deductible contributions for contributors’ tax reporting purposes, and any other returns or forms filed with federal, state, or local tax authorities. Also, the tax-exempt status letter from the IRS or state tax department.
- If the church is incorporated under state law, a copy of the incorporation documents.
- The real estate deed to your church property or properties, including the parsonage, plus any title insurance policy covering the property.
We recognize there are many demands on the time and attention of church leaders, especially during these unprecedented times. However, reviewing and updating essential church records and documents periodically is an extremely important part of responsible church management. We strongly urge that doing so be given a high place on your church’s priority list, not only for the sake of your church’s present, but also its future leaders.
Jonathan Guest is a member of First Congregational Church of Natick (Mass.), has served UCC churches in New York and Massachusetts as a pastor, and was formerly a partner in large Boston law firms specializing in corporate transactions for business and non-profit entities. He holds divinity degrees from Harvard and law degrees from Cornell and Boston University. Jonathan has provided legal counsel to several UCC churches in transition.
David Cleaver-Bartholomew is the Transitional Associate Conference Minister for Stewardship and Financial Development. He has experience as a local church pastor and in the areas of financial stewardship, accounting, and taxation.
Rev. Dr. David Cleaver-Bartholomew is the Director of Stewardship and Donor Relations for the SNEUCC. Contact David for: Proportional Giving How to calculate proportional giving for 2021 Annual Giving/Stewardship Campaign General advice and ...
Jonathan Guest is a member of First Congregational Church of Natick (Mass.), served UCC churches in New York and Massachusetts as a pastor, and was formerly a partner in large Boston law firms specializing in corporate transactions for business and ...