The 10 Rules of Church Trustees
by Douglas Scaddan
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A Trustee’s Manual
I started writing this manual mainly as something for myself. The ten rules that Trustees have to follow. I saw that the church today was so engrossed in the politics and "corporate" running of the day to day church that they had forgotten the basics that had already been laid out for them in the Bible. So, one afternoon, I sat down and wrote ten rules. To me they are obvious rules. I was a new Trustee in my small church and perhaps I was full of the excitement and fervour that changing the world for Christ had in my mind. Was I ever wrong! My church was full of politics and interpersonal disputes and mislaid priorities. Then, a couple weeks after I had been voted to the Board of Trustees, I was made the Chairman of the Board of Trustees. I was sickened by what I read in the past minutes, the condition of the budget and the priorities by which the Trustees ran the corporate aspect of the church. I took a couple of months and talked to men and women that I trusted and looked up to spiritually, I bounced ideas off them and received feedback. I asked questions and I prayed. LORD HOW I PRAYED!! I read my Bible, I studied it, I became an expert in what the Bible said that new churches were run like. Then, I prayed some more. It was then that I discovered that I was a moron. A church in the first century could not possibly be compared with a church in the twenty-first century with any kind of comparable data, besides, of course, the one link that is the important one, our faith in Christ.
So I sat down one afternoon and wrote the ten rules that are here. This manuscript is by a trustee, for a trustee, or a church in general. If you’re looking for deep and life altering insight into the Bible, go get another book. I am not a scholar, and I don’t try to be one. I say what needs to be said and that’s all. The rules laid out here are, in my mind, logical ones that should have been self evident from the start. They are simple rules, and some will make you say, “Well that makes sense.” Others will make you upset or downright angry. I shall explain each one in detail later, first let me introduce you to the rules.
Everything we do is for the benefit of the Kingdom of God.
The bricks, mortar, carpets, pews, drywall and the light bulbs all belong to God. If He were willing to let His Son die on a cross, do you think He’s going to worry about the drywall?
There is no separation of Ministry and Business. Ministry IS the Business.
Marketing – No one will come to listen to anybody preach if no one knows he or she is talking.
Planning a budget is like forecasting your own success or failure, and should be approached carefully.
Change your community before you try to change the world. Take a good long look at what needs to be done and do it!
If it’s good and right and Biblical, do it! If it doesn’t meet all three of those criteria, then don’t.
The Pastor leads the Ministry. Ministry is the business of the Church. Trustees run the business side of the church, therefore, the Pastor LEADS the Trustees, not commands, leads. (I’ll explain in detail later.)
Bylaws are GUIDELINES! The Bible is the Law!
Thank God for everything. If you can’t find something to thank Him for then listen to your heart.
That’s it. Ten basic rules in a nutshell. If you haven’t thrown this book out the window or are right now trying to find out where I live so you can lynch me I’ll assume you want to read more. In the first chapter we’ll explore what a Trustee board is and then we’ll go into detail to each rule chapter by chapter. I trust and pray that this will be helpful to you, in some way, big or small.
So You Were Dumb Enough to Say Yes, Now What?
Alright, so I’m having some fun with the title of this chapter. Being a Trustee should be a fun and rewarding experience. What I mean is the very word Trustee means that YOU have been trusted with the legal, and financial operations of GOD’s property! See Rule number two. You’ll find that all the Rules are very interactive with each other and as we go through them I’ll point out the interactions that they have with each other. Rule One and Rule Ten are pretty much universal with all the Rules, but they all are related in some way with each other.
As I said before being a Trustee should be fun and rewarding. The day after I found out that I was voted to the Board of Trustees I was talking to a friend of mine who said, “I’m sorry to hear that. Get ready for the biggest test of faith you’ve ever faced!” When I was voted Chairman I was told by the same friend, “You’re in for fight after fight.” It didn’t sound like fun to me.
In most church models a Board of Trustees is made up of 4 – 8 individuals aged 50 – 10 years younger than God. The church Treasurer and the Pastor also sit in as non-voting “advisory” members. For a normal Board meeting you’ll go through bland stuff like approving maintenance expenditures and changes to the contracts for building rentals, money income and spending and a whole lot of boring stuff.
Weak Boards will be run by the Pastor or the Treasurer, or by particularly “loud” Board members, while Boards that have a number of strong minded individuals will get nothing done. Which is why I have these Rules laid out before you, to avoid both problems.
Board meetings are generally run by Robert’s Rules, which was written by a guy a long time ago when it was common for people to carry side arms. If you have a copy of this book, throw it out. If a church Trustee meeting needs a book to tell them how to play nice with each other you have bigger problems then how to run a meeting.
Not that you shouldn’t have an agenda or keep minutes, but if the chair of the Board is ready to start the meeting he shouldn’t have to “Call the Meeting to Order”, “Hey guys let’s get started” should suffice. Remember we’re all brothers and sisters in Christ here. Bob shouldn’t need to be recognized to “Have the floor”, you should all be polite enough to let him talk.
The Chair should, however, maintain constant control of the flow of the meeting. Some topics can get pretty touchy, sadly it’s generally where money is concerned and the chair need to see these changes in the meeting and react appropriately. If a discussion is getting out of hand then call an immediate vote to finish it or table it to another meeting, perhaps a special meeting for that topic alone. These things shouldn’t affect the personal relationships of the people involved.
Every meeting should start and finish with prayer. Rule number three. Pray for each other or pray for the meeting or pray for the community, but pray. Let the Holy Spirit lead you and the meeting, and your decisions, but pray. Pray individually during the meeting and especially before a vote. Pray, then pray again and then pray again. Give the controls to Christ and never, ever take them back during the whole meeting. Surrender all to Him that is worthy. It’s a hard bit of advice to do, but I learned that from the wisest man I know, a Southern Baptist Minister that has started 3 churches and mentored more people to closer relationships to Christ then I can count. If I become half the man of God he is I’ll be a happy man.
Our particular church model has two major groups. The Trustees, which care for the boring legal stuff and the Church Counsel, which takes care of ministry and worship and all the fun stuff. The major problem with this model, (and I don’t think there is a model that doesn’t have some kind of major problem) is that you have two different “Camps”, the “Realists” (Trustees) and the “Dreamers”,( Counsel). There should be a great deal of communication between these two groups if there is to be any kind of real work to be done.
The main thrust of communication once again falls on the chair of the Trustees, who gets to attend both meetings. (Lucky guy eh?) When I first became the chair of our Trustee Board I was told a couple of things. The most frightening being that I was now the most powerful person in the church. I could influence the Trustees and move money, or say yes or no to just about anything that came across the Trustee’s radar.
That was right in our church. Everyone looked to me for decisions. People that I had never talked to before beyond “Hi” and “How are you?” were now approaching me with questions or comments about this or that. I would smile and nod and in the end say something like, “Well is it in the budget?” or “Is it the right thing to do in the eyes of God?”
The main focus should not be with the Trustees, it should lie with the counsel, or whatever you call them in your church. They do the work of God. The dreamers dream and the realists tell the dreamers if it can happen. Keeping in mind, of course, the priorities that Christ would have were He here. The counsel should be the most important group in the whole church, they should be the group that people go to with their questions or ideas. It’s the counsel that’s responsible for outreach and local ministry. It’s the counsel that does the work that the church is actually there for! The Trustees and I? All we do is keep the lights on and do our best to make sure that the building doesn’t fall down.
Rule Number One: Let’s Get Our Priorities Straight
The Bible proves absolutely nothing besides the fact that it was, at one time, written down. If this statement angers you or gets your back up it tells me two things, One, that you view the Bible as the written word of God and that it has a special place in your heart. Two, that you have faith in that written word. This is good, we can now move on to the reading of the Bible with the understanding that we all have faith that it is the written word of God and that it is Truth in word. If you read that first statement and didn’t get at least bothered by it, then I can’t help you in this book and you should go talk to your pastor.
It is faith that is the basic push of the Bible. Faith in the Bible as being true, faith in God, faith that Jesus rose from the grave after dying to set us free from sin and faith that He sent the Holy Spirit to guide us along this treacherous path that we’ve chosen. Jesus even said it Himself. “Whoever has FAITH in me will be saved.” Okay so I paraphrased that from John 3:16.
So Rule number one says that “Everything we do is for the benefit of the Kingdom of God”. Okay, great so let’s define the Kingdom of God for those of us that don’t know. (If you’re on your board of Trustees and you don’t have at least a basic understanding of the Kingdom of God, then you’re on your own)
The Kingdom of God is mentioned in the Bible in a bunch of places from Matthew to John, in a number of different contexts and wordings. For this particular discussion I’ll be working from Luke. So go and get your Bible and read Luke 17:20-21. No really, put this down and go and get your Bible and read it. It’s the book after Mark. I’ll wait.
So you’ve read it right? It says, “Once having been asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, ‘The Kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the Kingdom of God is within you.’”. (Luke 17:20-21, NIV) So there you have it. The Kingdom of God is within you! Another translation for within could be among. Either way you look at it, the Kingdom of God is here and now!!!
Let’s look at another part of that passage. Jesus also says that the Kingdom of God does not come with “careful observation”. What does that mean? It means that the Kingdom of God is not something that makes itself known by stagnant waiting. It is participatory. It’s an active part of us. It requires action on our part. It’s a movement that needs us to make a conscious decision to work on it’s behalf.
So with that in mind we must make decisions, as Trustees, to work on behalf of the Kingdom of God, to make it visible to others. The passage also talks about people not saying “Here it is,”, or “There it is,”. People cannot see the Kingdom of God on their own, they must be led. We, as leaders of the church MUST lead. We must guide people to Christ, or at least our decisions must.
I have done a lot of things in my life that I’m not proud of. The thing that makes me lie awake at night is this. It was at the end of a Sunday morning service and I had to talk to so and so about such and such, it was a Trustee matter and I was looking for that person. I saw the person I was looking for and made a beeline for them. I brushed by a lady and moved on. It registered in my brain that the lady was new, we have a very small church. I never saw her again.
Maybe if I had stopped and said, “Hi.”. Maybe if I had at least smiled, or waved or shook her hand, or stopped and talked. It’s not really the lack of action on my part that bothers me. The thing that bothers me is that I didn’t even think about it until I noticed she wasn’t there the following week. My lack of attitude, controlled my decisions. I didn’t think so I didn’t stop.
What needed to change was simple. My attitude had to be all about the Kingdom of God, in my work, in my marriage, in my actions with my children. Everything had to be for that. By no means am I perfect now, but I have recognized the problem and TOGETHER, Jesus and I, we can fix it.
How does his stuff apply to Trustees? We don’t have anything to do with Ministry? No offence intended but if that’s what you think you’re a moron. Take a gander at Rule #3. We all work for the glory of the Kingdom of God. ALL. That means everyone. That includes Trustees. That’s includes you. NO one is exempt. Get it? If you don’t believe me then listen to what Jesus said in the Great Commission. Pick a book, it’s included in all the Gospels and Acts. This had to be something pretty important, I mean His birth wasn’t included in all the Gospels.
We, as Trustees are to run the church as Jesus ran His ministry. He had a Treasurer, and he obviously had to eat and drink, but anything else was spent on the poor and the people who needed it. Imagine the world, if we actually helped the people around us who needed it. A lot of the time I’m willing to bet that we don’t even see the problems around us. There are people in Canada and the U.S. that go hungry. Children that go to school with empty bellies, shoes a size too small and no coat.
Clean your own backyard before you try to clean someone else’s.
That’s Rule #6.
Don’t try to change the world, that’s Jesus job. Change your life, and by doing that you’ll change the lives of those around you. Use the church to change the lives of those around you that don’t believe. THAT is the Kingdom of God. Showing love to ALL. The Great Commandment and the Great Commission being followed in one place. Can you imagine the kind of church that would be? Can you imagine the lives that would change if that church actually followed what Jesus said instead of making their own decisions? Think about it.
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