This is the last post in this series and also the final one of 2012. So let me take the opportunity to wish you a very happy Christmas. I love this time of year when we celebrate Jesus’ birth and do hope there will be time for you to reflect on the amazing truth that he was prepared to come to earth and take the form of a servant, ultimately conquering death for you and me. I also hope you will have time to relax and be refreshed with family and friends.
I am a great advocate of working with other interested bodies. Why duplicate services if this can be avoided? Partnerships may be with other churches or agencies, including secular ones, who have specialist skills and knowledge. How should this be structured?
Consider first how God has spoken to you about a particular ministry. Maybe he has done so through individual church members with gifting and passion who want to start a ministry or through a direct word. However this has come it is your vision and commission, and thus vital that you do not abdicate your responsibility in any partnership relationship. Particularly, make sure you retain the spiritual oversight.
I chair a support group for our work with women who have unplanned pregnancies or who have had terminations. That ministry, Alternatives, is part of the vision of CCK but draws counsellors from several churches in the city. Indeed, on the support group there are two ministers from other churches who have a passion for this work. Recently, as I prepared the paperwork to register a new charitable company, I discussed with them the stance we take in CCK to retain the spiritual oversight through our local church elders; did they find that difficult? Their response was that if we chose to run it any other way they would resign! They saw the strength in churches supporting one another but the vital place of one church holding the spiritual reins.
So, trustee bodies of a ‘social’ charity that is linked to a church should not try to be ‘representative’ of all interested parties. We need to have the best and strongest structure on which to build our ministries and I believe this happens when one church takes the lead.
Let me now summarise what we have covered in this series before concluding with some observations about registering a charity.
1. Think carefully before registering a charity for ministry with poor or disadvantaged people. Is it really needed?
2. Ensure that the charity is outward looking. Do not give the charity high profile within the church; emphasise the ministry. The ‘charity’ profile is for those outside the church, particularly potential donors.
3. Ensure the objects of the charity are as wide as possible to reduce the risk of being limited at a later date.
4. Would an umbrella charity serve you better than a tightly focussed one?
5. Is a Trust or a Charitable Company most suitable for your needs?
6. Who should be appointed as trustees?
7. Ensure that it is possible to delegate decision making to a body of specialists if deemed helpful.
8. Appoint Support Groups with specialists for the particular ministry who are accountable to the trustees.
Registering a Charity
So, there you have my thoughts! I hope I have stimulated you to consider some of the key issues of having a special ‘social’ charity within the church. As stated earlier, I am not a lawyer and observations in this series should be taken only to provoke thought and help you consider the relevant issues. If you go ahead it is wise to register a charity through a charity lawyer or through a body such as Stewardship. Trying to ‘do it yourself’ in order to save money will almost certainly cause you difficulties at a later stage.
May God give you wisdom in this matter and the grace to carry out your ministries with great effectiveness.
Once again, Happy Christmas!