The Beauty of Bylaws (How to Transition From One Pastor to the Next)

Posted on June 3, 2019

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I’ve always said, half jokingly, that no one cares about the bylaws of a church until a pastor does something dumb or decides to step down in good standing. Luckily, I had some wonderful mentors that told me that a solid set of bylaws will keep the church healthy through seasons of health and turmoil. We’ve seen that over and again at Center City Church.

Turns out we’ve had a lot of questions lately about the bylaws because I announced last week that Dara and I will be stepping down on June 30, 2019 and that our board has unanimously selected a primary candidate to step into the role of lead pastor at Center City Church.

A bit of back story first…

Center City Church was started in partnership with cfa church in Concord, NC. Pastor Rick Ross (this is back in 2010 when he was the lead pastor at cfa) took us under his wing and their church incubated us for five years. Their board was our board, they invested heavily into the financial stability of our church, and they oversaw all of our finances. When it came time to become an autonomous church, they blessed us and sent us out.

During the process of exploring the best practices of nonprofit organizations and churches across the country, one of the members of our church reached out to me and offered to help. Hope Duckworth was a gift from God to this process (and to me, personally). Her expertise as a lawyer and her shared passion for our church led to a four-month season of reading thousands of pages of bylaws and helping me to achieve my stated goal: a transparent and accountable organization that was strong and healthy.

Hope poured what seemed like countless billable hours into helping me create our bylaws… all for the purpose of making sure that Center City Church was strong and healthy.

When I made the announcement that Dara and I would be moving on to a new adventure in following the call of God on our lives (which we have yet to figure out what is next, by the way), the bylaws became our guide on how to navigate this season with wisdom. So, for everyone really interested in church governance (hooray!!), here you go… Section 9.3 (a) and (b) from Center City Church’s bylaws…


 

Section 9.3 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. The Initial Directors shall appoint the first President. After that, the President shall be elected according to this Section.

(a) If the current President is in good standing at the church, then the existing President, in coordination with the Board of Directors, shall select a candidate, or several candidates, who meet the qualifications laid out in these Bylaws. If the current President has resigned or been removed, then the Board of Directors shall select a candidate, or several candidates, who meet the qualifications laid out in these Bylaws. Any candidate for President must be a minister licensed in the Christian faith and espousing the Church’s Statement of Faith.

(b) The Elders, and the Board of Directors or any committee of the Board formed for that purpose, shall review each candidate’s qualifications and vote on whether the candidate(s) may be given the opportunity to speak. If the Elders and the Board of Directors approve the candidate(s) according to the meeting, notice, and voting provisions applicable to each, then the candidate(s) shall speak at a regularly scheduled weekly service. An electronic replay of each speech shall be made available for seven days following any such speech, and the Members shall have seven days from the time of speaking to provide written comments to the Elders and the Board of Directors. At the end of those seven days, the Members shall hold a Special Meeting at which they shall vote to recommend or deny the candidate(s). The Elders shall also hold a special meeting at which they shall vote to recommend or deny the candidate(s). The vote of the Members and the Elders are to be given significant weight in the Board of Director’s decision whether to confirm or reject a candidate. Approval of a new President requires a 2/3 majority vote by the Board at a Special Meeting held in accordance with these Bylaws.


 

Translating the above, our bylaws have a very clear process of what happens if the pastor is leaving in good standing. I would like to think that we are stepping down in great standing, but that’s just a technicality. When this is the case, the current president (legal term for the lead pastor) is able to work with the board to select a primary lead pastor candidate or candidates. In this case, Jon Hernandez clearly rose to the top of our list as we started to explore what could be next for Center City Church. He was unanimously selected by our board as the primary candidate to be presented to the church.

There are several more steps that happen along the way, including the candidate preaching at Center City Church (which will happen on June 9th), and then the recording of his message being made available for seven consecutive days for anyone that was not able to see the message. A reception with Jon and his family will happen after the service for folks to ask further questions. Jon will also meet with the elders, personally, to have a time of prayer and sharing his heart and vision for Center City Church.

A congregational vote of affirmation is then held one week later (June 16) along with another vote from the elders. The results of these votes are then passed on to the Board of Directors to take into consideration. This gives all members and elders a chance to speak into this process before the final decision is made. The Board of Directors have the final vote to officially approve the lead pastor candidate as the next pastor at Center City Church.

Our Board of Directors includes three pastors that have been in ministry for 25+ years each. Our board chair, Doug Witherup, is the lead pastor at cfa church in Concord, NC. Mike Field is the lead pastor at Charlotte’s Hope Church in Charlotte, NC. Jim Kelly oversees church planting initiatives for the North Carolina District of the Assemblies of God, as well as national church planting initiatives for the Church Multiplication Network. Each of these men are respected immensely by many and have faithfully served Center City Church in this role since we became an autonomous church. They work hand in hand with our elders throughout different seasons of the life of our church and have proven to be an amazing gift from God as they have helped our entire team to walk with wisdom and clarity through various seasons of our church’s life.

Our elders (Sherry Evans, Phil Hanna, and Lisa Hanna) remain available if anyone has questions along the way. You can email our team at hello@centercitychurch.net if you want to reach out to our elders, personally, and we will get you their information.

Bylaws are beautiful. They provide clarity, transparency, and accountability to times like this, and I’m grateful for Hope’s investment into our church to ensure that we remain healthy and strong through seasons of change as we explore what God has for the future of our church family.

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