Important Documents – Does Your Church Know Where They’re Kept? (Part I)

Important Documents – Does Your Church Know Where They’re Kept? (Part I)

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by Jonathan Guest and David Cleaver-Bartholomew
 
For many churches these are challenging and stressful times.  Church members are concerned about worship, programs, and caring for one another as well as their “neighbor.”  Busy with pastoral responsibilities and keeping the faith community together, church leaders may not have the time or energy to maintain essential church records and documents.  Without regular review, important “institutional memory” may also be lost as volunteers rotate through key positions. 
 
Neglecting this important part of church management may present problems, especially if important action must be taken quickly.  So, what belongs in that “cabinet” containing important documents?  The following list may be helpful as your church reviews its records.  Not everything needs to be attended to and assembled all at once.  Ideally, however, the items below should be reviewed and/or updated on at least an annual basis. (Part II of this article will discuss items that may call for less regular review.)
 
  1. A copy of the current constitution and/or bylaws with all amendments that are in effect.
  1. Internal financial records, such as the annual report (e.g., the one presented to annual meeting for budget approval purposes), monthly and/or quarterly income and expense records for the two most recent years.
  1. An up-to-date list of all church members, including addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses. This list should clearly identify who is the current Moderator/President, Treasurer, Clerk, and other officers, and their terms of office.
  1. Documents related to all church personnel (both W-2 employees and Form 1099 independent contractors), such as payroll tax forms, housing allowance designations for the pastors, as well as records relating to premium payments for life, disability and health insurance policies, and contributions to pension plans.
  1. Copies of any tax returns or forms filed with federal, state, or local tax authorities.
  1. A copy of all other insurance policies, as currently in effect, such as property and accident liability, workers’ compensation, and any policy covering a parsonage, and records of payment of premiums. 
  1. A list of all bank accounts, including which church members are signatories on the accounts, plus a couple of recent statements.  If the church uses a bank deposit box for valuable documents, a record of who has access and/or the key.  If bank records are accessed electronically (via on-line banking software), the usernames and passwords should be retained and how to access them known.
  1. If the church has an endowment, the name of the outside investment adviser (if any), and recent account statements. 
  1. A list of all internet/online accounts and websites complete with usernames and passwords.
  1. The church’s personnel manual as well as the accounting policies and procedures manual.
Part II of this article, which will be published next week, will discuss documents that should be maintained but are less likely to require annual review.
 
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 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 for the SNEC.  He has experience as a local church pastor and in the areas of financial stewardship, accounting, and taxation.
 
 

Authors

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David Cleaver-Bartholomew

Rev. Dr. David Cleaver-Bartholomew is the Transitional Associate Conference Minister for Stewardship and Financial Development for the SNEUCC.

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Jonathan Guest

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 ...

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