Last time we saw the importance of having a good relationship between the elders of the church and the trustees of the charity under which it operates. When considering registering a charity – a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) is probably now the preferred option – there are three very important features to consider.
1. What are the objectives of the charity?
2. What is the geographical sphere in which the charity will operate?
3. Who should be the trustees? Since we have been thinking about the trustee/elder dynamic I shall first address the third point.
Who should be a Trustee?
In some ways it might be thought that, in an ideal world, the trustees and elders should be the same people to avoid the ‘double-headed monster’ syndrome we discussed last time. For a small church this may well be possible. Legally, provided that any trustees (or family relation) paid by the church are in the minority on the trustee body, such an overlap can take place. (This does make the assumption that the legal instrument for the charity has been written in a way that does not preclude this.) However, for any discussions concerning finances that affect the trustees (eg setting salaries) they must absent themselves.
In a small church there may be no elder (or relation) paid by the church (strictly speaking they would be employed by the charity) so the congruity of the two bodies can take place. Organisationally this can be convenient and allow decisions to be made quickly.
However, as a church grows there can be real benefits in the two bodies being distinct, though some common membership is very helpful in facilitating communication between the two bodies. There are four reasons for this.
- This distinctiveness brings the added value of extra skill sets to help the elders.
- The trustees may be able to take some of the load of implementation if, for instance, they can handle some specialist area such as contract negotiation on a building project.
- Trustees can be added ‘ears and eyes’. They are often in touch with the church members in ways that the elders can never achieve, despite the elders’ desire to do so. Having a lower profile than the elders, trustees may find it easier to sense the temperature of church opinion as members may be less ‘guarded’ in their presence.
- Following on from 3, trustees are also the first test of a good eldership decision – if the trustees don’t ‘buy it’ then the rest of the church almost certainly won’t either.
When considering specific people who could become trustees there are three criteria to consider: 1. Spiritual maturity, 2. Skills, 3. Team dynamics. (Potential trustees should be proposed by the elders who will be aware of their spiritual maturity etc).
Although trusteeship is a functional role it carries significant responsibility. If a trustee is more disposed to being rule-based than Spirit-led he or she can hinder rather than help the progress of the church by pressing the interpretation of charitable law and procedures too far (not that I am advocating breaking the law!). On occasion I have met churches where the trustee body has tried to take too great an authority, such as treating the elders as ‘hirelings’. This at best is unhelpful and at worst can lead to a breakdown in trust and relationship.
Our trustees at CCK took the role very seriously and prayerfully. It is important for trustees to be able to operate in their own faith, not just to be there to bring their skill set.
Professional skills should be considered to complement those of the elders and other trustees. Typically it is helpful to have people who are professionally trained in such disciplines as the law, finance, building matters, human resources, and so on. I was greatly privileged to have some highly qualified colleagues who offered their expertise graciously and willingly; a joy to serve with.
Trustees work as a team so there needs to be the easy give-and-take of a team while not submerging anyone who may be less extrovert. It is for the chair to determine the dynamics of a team meeting and ensure that all members contribute to the discussion without any one member dominating the meeting. In another blog I have given guidelines on chairing meetings where I have addressed this issue more fully,
In the next posting I will consider the Objectives and the Geographical Sphere of Operation.
A further word on finance
Following the last posting someone has kindly suggested that these two links are helpful on the subjects of Trading and VAT. Thank you David!