Biblical wisdom means being aware of current legal liability issues and implementing biblically valid risk management policies and practices. There are a number of things that a church can do to dramatically reduce its exposure to destructive conflict, avoid legal liability, and actually promote peacemaking within the church. These steps include:

  1. Follow the Golden Rule: The wisest and most practical legal advice you could ever receive will not cost you a dime. You can find it in Matthew 7:12: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
  2. Adopt biblical Relational Commitments so that you can live out your convictions of biblical church government and mutual accountability without government interference.
  3. Obtain informed consent to your Relational Commitments from both members and attenders. (When members and attenders have expressly consented to your policies and practices, it is extremely difficult for them to bring a lawsuit against you when you actually exercise those policies).
  4. Use conciliation clauses in church documents and contracts; these legally enforceable clauses require that subsequent conflicts or lawsuits be resolved through biblical mediation or arbitration rather than civil litigation (see 1 Cor. 6:1-8).
  5. Adopt and follow a carefully designed policy for screening youth workers and reporting suspected child abuse.
  6. Use consent to counseling forms that inform counselees of your policies on confidentiality and church discipline, and create a binding commitment to resolve disputes within the church rather than a civil court.
  7. Build the biblical principles above into your church’s bylaws.

As your church puts these and other related risk management steps into practice, you can secure three priceless benefits:

  • You will prevent many conflicts by reducing the likelihood that people will be surprised, offended or harmed by a practice or activity of your church.
  • You will reduce your church’s exposure to legal liability by preventing major conflicts and threatening lawsuits from developing.
  • You will protect your leaders from being intimidated by the threat of being sued as they carry out their God-given responsibilities to shepherd their flocks.

Implementing this strategy will take a significant investment of time and energy. What many churches fail to realize, however, is that they are already investing heavily in the conflicts that plague their personal, family, and congregational lives.

By devoting time and energy to teaching your people to be peacemakers, your church can prevent hundreds of hours from being squandered on conflict. In the long run, the relationships and time you redeem can be devoted to extending Christ’s kingdom.

Please note the Limitation of Legal Discussion.


Posted on

January 29, 2015