09.1 - Record Retention

by Scott Selman

I say this for your own benefit, not to put any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and unhindered devotion to the Lord.
1 Corinthians 7:35 (NRSV)

Record retention is an important consideration in church administration. A good way to minimize the burden of keeping unnecessary records is to adopt a written record retention policy. A record retention policy should be followed consistently and will help the church be better stewards of its physical space, eliminate possible fire hazards, and reduce the need for offsite storage.

How long records should be kept is a function of both legal and practical considerations.  Legal considerations may include liability issues, possible litigation, contractual obligations, and tax matters. Practical considerations may focus on the availability of storage space and include other issues such as security, access, and temperature and moisture conditions. In addition, local churches may find it helpful to have a safe deposit box at a local bank.    

The recommendations in the table below are grouped according to property records, financial records, personnel records, and administrative records. These recommendations are provided to assist local churches in developing an appropriate record retention policy, but are not intended to establish a uniform standard for record retention. Record retention policies should be dated, periodically reviewed, and retained on a permanent basis.

    Retention Period
Property Records:    

Deeds   Permanent
Surveys   Permanent
Appraisals   Permanent, update as needed
Architectural drawings and specifications   Permanent
Inspection Records   Permanent, update as needed
Equipment and furniture inventory   Permanent, update as needed
Equipment warranties, instructions, and mantenance records   Time of ownership
Insurance policies, claims records and correspondence   Permanent
Board of Trustees minutes   Permanent
Financial Records:    

Annual Financial statements, audit reports and management letters   Permanent
Bank statements and reconcilliations   7 years
Deposit recoreds and cancelled checks   7 years
Monthly general ledgers and subsidiary ledgers   7 years
Final year-end general ledger and subsidiary ledgers   Permanent
Vendor invoice and correspondence files   7 years
Pledge cards and contribution records   7 years
Investment records   7 years
Conveyance documents for restricted gifts, grants, endowments, and trusts   Permanent
Loan files (mortgages, short-term loans and lines of credit)   7 years after payoff
Lease agreements and contracts   7 years after termination
Tax records and government reports   Permanent
Finance committee minutes   Permanent
Personnel Records:    

Individual employee files (resumes, applications, evaluations, etc.)   7 years after termination
Time cards and time-off records   7 years
Housing allowance records   7 years
Pension contribution records   7 years
W-2s and 1099s   7 years
941s, W-3s and 1096s   7 years
Position descriptions   Permanent, update as needed
Employee benefits records   Permanent
Staff-parish relations committee minutes   7 years
Administrative Records:    

Articles of incorporation, bylaws, and amendments   Permanent
Organizational charts   Permanent, update as needed
Church membership list   Permanent, update as needed
Rosters or membership lists for local church groups   7 years
General business correspondence   3 years
Church publications, including Sunday bulletins   Permanent
Church council minutes   Permanent

Local churches should clearly mark all non-permanent records with a destruction date, and a shredder is the best way to destroy any records that will not be retained.

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