by Scott Selman
From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.
Luke 12:48 (NRSV)
The local church board of trustees is an important part of the local church. Its responsibilities are varied and subject to the direction of the charge conference. Local church property is discussed at length in ¶¶ 2524-2551 of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church. Presented below are the basics – how the board is organized and its general responsibilities.
According to the Book of Discipline, the board of trustees shall consist of no less than three persons and no more than nine persons. It is recommended that at least one-third of the members be laywomen and at least one-third of the members be laymen. Trustees shall be of legal age and at least two-thirds of the board shall be members of The United Methodist Church. Thus, a provision exists for including non-members on the board due to special expertise or other circumstances.
The membership of the board is divided into three classes, with each class consisting of an equal number of members, as near as possible. Board members normally serve for a period of three years and may be elected to self-succeed. The board elects from its membership a chairperson, a vice chairperson, a secretary, and a treasurer, if needed. The chairperson must be a member of the local church.
The general responsibilities of the local church board of trustees include:
- Supervise, oversee, and care for all real property owned by the local church and all property and equipment acquired by the local church or its constituent units, provided that the rights of any local church organization granted elsewhere in the the Book of Discipline shall not be violated. The use of such property shall not interfere with religious services or other proper meetings or purposes recognized by The United Methodist Church.
- Hold title to all property currently owned or subsequently acquired by the local church, or by its constituent units, in trust for the use and benefit of the local church and of The United Methodist Church. Title shall be in the name of the board of trustees for unincorporated churches and in the name of the non-profit corporation for incorporated churches. Every instrument of conveyance of real estate shall contain the appropriate trust clause as set forth in ¶2503 in the Book of Discipline.
- Maintain up-to-date articles of incorporation and bylaws, if applicable. (The charge conference may direct the trustees to incorporate the local church, and the bylaws of incorporated churches should include a provision that the local church board of trustees shall serve as the board of directors of the non-profit corporation.)
- Execute any contracts, deeds, bills of sale, mortgages or other necessary written instruments for the sale, transfer, lease, or mortgage of real property as the board of trustees of an unincorporated local church or the board of directors of an incorporated local church, subject to a charge conference resolution authorizing such action.
- Review annually the adequacy of the property, liability, and crime insurance coverage on church-owned property, buildings, and equipment and the adequacy of personnel insurance. The results of this review should be included in the board’s report to charge conference.
- Develop budget requests for property maintenance and repair, acquisition of new property (including vehicles and equipment), debt service, and insurance.
- Develop guidelines for authorizing the use of church facilities by outside organizations.
- Participate in an annual review of church-owned parsonages to ensure proper maintenance.
- Receive and administer all bequests made to the local church and all local church trust funds, unless the authority to receive and administer such funds has been delegated by charge conference or designated by the donor to a permanent endowment fund committee or local church foundation. Trust funds should be invested in a socially responsible manner in accordance with applicable laws.
- Obtain an annual accessibility audit of the buildings, grounds, and facilities of the local church to determine any barriers that impede the full participation of people with disabilities.
- Prepare a written annual report to the charge conference. The report shall include the information as required in ¶2549 in the Book of Discipline.
Additional information about the work of the local church board of trustees is available in the Book of Discipline, the Trustees booklet by Frank Dunnewind included in Guidelines for Leading Your Congregation, and The United Methodist Church Legal Manual.