By the time the Baptist State Convention (BSC) hears about a dissolving church, it’s usually too late.
But Brian Davis, BSC
executive leader for administration/convention relations, wants churches to
know that the BSC staff is available at any stage in the process.
“While we are not a central
contact, I’m glad that we are finding out through a variety of different ways,”
he said. “Churches have to think this thing through.”
Churches have several things
to consider when dissolving, including property, other assets, endowments,
cemetery, equipment, etc.
The first point of contact
is usually the association, said Davis. Sometimes the church will contact the
attorney that helped the church incorporate.
Davis encourages churches to
include a dissolution article in the bylaws of the church.
Otherwise, the church will
have to follow state guidelines and may lose control of the process.
Davis said various persons
at the Convention can help a church in deciding whether to dissolve or choose
other options. David Moore helps with pastoral ministries and Mark Gray can
help with a possible restart of a church.
Sometimes a church will
consider a way to help a new church get started while it contemplates the
future, Davis said.
He said churches need legal counsel when dissolving a
church because there are so many things to consider.
Davis sees this as a
possible trend for associations as well. He mentioned the merger of
Central Triad and Piedmont Baptist associations.
The Convention is willing to
help set up a meeting with legal counsel and to guide them in thinking and
praying through the process.
“It’s a decision that needs
to be bathed in prayer,” he said. “I think associations are already at the
point of struggling.
“It’s not going to be if
they merge but how they do it.”
One of the problems Davis
sees is that some churches look at ministry as business.
Churches need to
consider where resources go.
“A lot of it comes back to
church health — one that is growing spiritually,” said Davis, who mentioned the
Church Health Institutes the Convention is leading around the state. “Every
church needs to be growing spiritually and have a culture of discipleship.”
For some it is “imperative
that they reach out and get some help,” he said.
Incorporation used to be a
question on the Annual Church Profile (ACP), but fewer churches fill out the
forms or provide incomplete information.
Davis said the ACP is
important for the Convention staff to assign help in areas where it’s needed.
“There’s a lot of
statistical information people don’t realize” that the Convention needs, Davis
said. “We don’t have all the answer s but are available to help find answers.”
Setting up endowment
Bill Overby, director
of development at the North Carolina Baptist Foundation, said they’ve only
seen one church in the last 7-8 years that left a scholarship endowment along
with the rest of its assets to another local church. That scholarship endowment
has since been fully turned over to the Foundation to manage and it awards
funds for students at many of the Baptist colleges in North Carolina.
“It took a long time to get
it right, but now kids are getting scholarships because of it,” Overby said.
Overby said dissolving
churches tend to give resources locally, either to other churches or to
“Imagination is your only
limit,” he said, indicating money could be used for statewide ministries. The
funds can be divided up among several organizations too. At least 51 percent
must go to a Baptist entity if it is managed by the Foundation. If a church is
considered a non-profit organization, it must give funds to another non-profit.
“It opens a window for a lot
of different things that might be attractive,” Overby said.
“We don’t want to focus on
the churches that have to go out of business, but it’s even worse when you’re a
He encourages churches “to
be a legacy church and continue to finance ministry as a legacy.” Overby said a
rural Durham homeowners association even has an endowment set up through
another foundation. That money is given to a couple of different Baptist
efforts, including disaster recovery.
The dissolution process gets
even more complicated if there’s a “boneyard” or church cemetery, said Michael
Ester, associational missionary for Liberty Baptist Association (related story).
A cemetery requires
perpetual care. An option churches have is to set up an endowment for the
upkeep of the cemetery.
Hal Bilbo, associational
missionary with Stanly Baptist Association, said the former Palmerville Baptist
Church is in the process of setting up an endowment (related story).
The church closed last
Easter but is still putting funds towards this endowment. The former members
have raised $83,000 towards a $100,000 endowment to provide for the cemetery
For the BSC, visit www.ncbaptist.org or call (800)
395-5102. Visit North Carolina Baptist Foundation at
www.ncbaptistfoundation.org or call (800) 521-7334.