Zenas’ Brief – September 2023
What is a trustee?
We start with the simple understanding that the church has 2 natures. There is ecclesiastical or ministerial which centers on the mission and spiritual life and growth of the church. This is the responsibility of the pastor, elders, deacons, and other ministry leaders and workers. The secular or corporate nature centers on property, insurance, security, policy, fiscal, legal, and other business matters that support, protect, and enable the ministries of the church. This is the responsibility of the corporate officers (Moderator, Secretary, and Treasurer) and the trustees.
If a church is incorporated, Utah and Idaho state laws require that the church corporation have a board of directors or trustees and provide that all corporate powers be exercised by or under the authority of this board. The church, through its articles of incorporation, bylaws, and policies, may and should specify such things as election, roles, duties, and procedures for its trustees.
The role of the trustees comes with significant responsibilities. They must act (1) in good faith, with the care of an ordinarily prudent person; and (2) in a manner the trustee reasonably believes to be in the best interests of the corporation.
It is said that “good churches have good boards and boards are good when they have a good pastor who helps them be good.” Some attributes of a good board are that it has the philosophy that the board and pastor serve separate but complementary roles and need to function as partners; supports the pastor and staff and the mission of the church. Baptist churches are typically congregational in nature. Therefore, the trustees are accountable to the membership of the church and subject to actions taken by the church members and to the bylaws and policies of the church.
Some specific duties and responsibilities of the trustees will include the oversight of the maintenance, acquisition, security, use, safety of church property; review and sign all contracts, deeds, and legal documents; review, oversee, and make recommendations regarding insurance, policies, risk management, business practices, and any claims made against or on behalf of the church.
In smaller churches, there may be a tendency for the pastor to assume some of these duties and responsibilities and even to be regarded and act as the CEO and chairman of the board. That should be done cautiously and with the intent that it not be a permanent arrangement as those are corporate in nature.
Your Legal Team will gladly provide training, information, and guidance regarding your trustees.