Once my wife and I were engaged we decided to attend premarital counseling. Years later, my misconceptions about counseling are still prevalent in society. I viewed counseling as unnecessary for healthy relationships. Inaccurate images from television and movies caused me to believe I should only attend counseling if there was a problem. I could not have been more mistaken. My then fiancé and I had a wonderful relationship, but I was unaware of how little I knew about how to protect our relationship and keep it flourishing. Through premarital counseling, I was encouraged to think about aspects of our relationship I had never considered or took for granted. By doing this, my wife and I were able to protect our relationship and prevent many problems before they even started.
Many churches take the same approach to legal services I used to take toward counseling. The problem with the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach is that the law is always changing. By taking a look at the legal health of your church, you may come to realize there are many aspects of the church you haven't considered before. Several areas of church law, which weren't legally relevant ten years ago can create major issues for churches today. Fortunately, with proper preparation, a church can prevent many problems before the church finds itself in a crisis.
As Texas Baptists, we have a responsibility to be good stewards of the blessings God has entrusted to us. This includes being good stewards of our time and resources, but it also includes being good legal stewards of our religious freedoms. We live in a country, which recognizes churches should function autonomously, without interference from the government. In order to take advantage of these freedoms, it is important for churches to be educated about the law and how it affects them.
Think of your church's legal health like you would other aspects of your life. It is important to get regular check-ups from the doctor, cleanings at the dentist and conduct maintenance on your car. If one neglects these routine cares, small problems can grow into large problems. In the same way, it is important for churches to revisit their policies and procedures to make certain the church and its members are free to worship as God intends.
Here's the great news. Texas Baptists recognize how important the legal health of your church is, and we want to help in any way we can. Please contact me at (903) 243-5576 or john.litzler [at] texasbaptists.org with any questions or concerns you have about church bylaws, youth and child safety and protection, church financial issues, church property issues or other areas of the law affecting your church.
John Litzler, with the Christian Life Commission, is dedicated to help pastors, church administrators and lay leaders learn how to improve the legal health of their church.