Handbook for Board of Managers serving through St Johns Papatoetoe.
Presented by Rev Timothy Rose
Welcome back to this series of episodes introducing you to your role as a Manager. In this episode we will look at how the board of managers works within the congregation under the authority of Session.
Relationships with Congregational Ministries
There are four areas the Handbook covers about this relationship:
- Stewardship of finance and property
- Legacy and planned gifts
- The building and furnishings
- Offerings as an act of worship.
The duties of the board of managers have special regard to the temporal and financial affairs of the congregation.
We may think of “temporal and financial affairs” to be distinct from “spiritual affairs,” but we need to be careful with that comparison. Caring for church property and overseeing a congregation’s finances can be a very spiritual activity. The Samaritan’s help for the man who had been beaten and robbed (Luke 10:30–35) can certainly be described as spiritual work. So, too, other physical matters—like caring for church property—can be spiritual. The way we care for God’s house may be a reflection of what we think of God. And the primary task of the board of managers is caring for the church’s property—the church itself and the grounds around it, as well as the manse and the church hall, if there is either, and of course, the finances of the church. This is the board’s ministry of stewardship.
The session is responsible for all aspects of stewardship and mission, both spiritual and material, within the congregation. It is the board of managers duty to co-operate closely with the session, which is responsible for all aspects of stewardship.
One congregation faced a financial difficulty and the session decided to have a Retire-the-Debt campaign. A widow of one of the elders said, “That’s not the session’s job. The managers look after the money end of things.”
That’s only partly true. The session ensures that the needs of the church are kept in front of the congregation and encourages generous financial support of the mission and ministries of the congregation; the managers’ part is to ensure that the offerings are properly managed, the minister paid, the property looked after, and obligations beyond the congregation met. The managers ensure that presbytery and General Assembly assessments are promptly paid.
Relationships with Ministers
There are strong feelings around the role of the minister in relation to the board, just as there are varieties of practice. Ministerial style is one consideration, as well as whether the board needs some guidance, especially when new members are elected.
While it may not be necessary for the minister to attend every meeting, in no case should a board ask the minister not to attend. The minister is, by virtue of the position, a member of all session and congregational committees, with voice but no vote. The minister’s attendance is, however, not required.
Relationships with Trusts
The relationship between managers and trusts are important. A congregation may appoint trustees who must be professing members of the church. Trustees carry out the instructions of decisions made by the congregation. If they believe a certain action should be followed, they take it to the session and ask for a congregational meeting. (It is the session’s responsibility to call such a meeting, but others can ask for it.)
A routine decision, like reinvesting the principal and interest from a term deposit into another such certificate, would not normally require a congregational meeting. Changing it to another form of investment, such as stocks, bonds or mutual funds, does.
Congregations should prepare and approve a Trust Deed that clearly outlines the responsibilities and the role and parameters of the trustees.
Congregations may grant trustees greater authority and responsibility, but they still remain accountable to the congregation and under the authority of session.
Areas of responsibility that sometimes prompt a congregation to set up trusts are:
- Real property (real estate, land and the buildings). In the majority of cases, trustees will carry out congregational decisions concerning the real property. Any transactions related to real property—mortgages, transfer of title or selling—must be approved by the presbytery.
- Personal property (church furnishings; investments; money received from bequests; income from investments; offerings). In any decisions relating to these matters, the board of managers, not the trustees, acts on the wishes of the congregation.
- Trust funds and endowments for planned gifts (major bequests; annuities; life insurance, etc). Without clear policies and guidelines, planned gifts can become a source of conflict in the church.
Relationships with Nominating Committee
A nominating committee may be elected at a congregation’s annual meeting, or the committee may be named by session. The nominating committee will recruit candidates for the board. Candidates need to give permission for their names to be put forward.
While elections to the offices are desirable, some congregations try to avoid anything that looks like a popularity contest, and some people will not let their names stand in an election. Congregations generally discover what works best for them.
Associate members as well as full members may serve on the board of managers. Care needs to be taken, though, that associates understand and respect the government and theology of the church. Some think that spouses should not serve on the board or session because of the temptation to vote together on all matters. The arrangement may also limit representation from other people in the congregation. On the other hand, many spouses can disagree quite amicably both at home and at church, and—again in smaller congregations especially—there may not otherwise be enough people willing to hold office.
That’s all for n
All board members should have a copy of this resource. Annual training for all board members is a valuable way to help them understand their particular ministry in the congregation. It will also help to prevent bad habits from forming.
That’s all for now. Until next time, “let all things be done decently and in order.” (1 Corinthians 14:40).