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August 13, 2012

Removing a Church Board Member

What to do when someone must be removed from office.


Imagine a member of your church’s board has engaged in behavior that violates the church’s understanding of Scripture. In doing so, they’ve probably also violated the qualifications for serving on the board. In cases like this, the congregation or board may determine that the individual must be removed from office. What do you do next?

Start by reviewing your church’s bylaws to see if there is any provision dealing with the removal of a board member. If there is such a provision, it must be followed.

If the church bylaws do not address this issue, then check state nonprofit corporation law if the church is incorporated. It may contain a procedure that will guide you in the removal of the board member.

If your church is incorporated under your state nonprofit corporation law, your bylaws will almost always take precedence over the nonprofit law. So, by addressing a matter in your church bylaws, you eliminate the application of your state nonprofit corporation law in most cases.

Church bylaws often contain vague language when describing the grounds for removing a board member. An example would be unscriptural conduct. Obviously, there may be strong disagreement about whether particular behavior is unscriptural or not. It’s important to refer to a group or body that has the ultimate authority to conclusively determine such issues. For example, if your church bylaws permit board members to be removed for unscriptural conduct, or on the basis of some other vague standard, then be sure to specify that the church board, or some other specific body, such as the church membership, shall have the final authority in determining whether or not such a standard has been violated. This will reduce the risk of litigation and of a civil court becoming involved in a church’s decision to remove a board member.

Has your church ever removed a board member? How did you handle it?

This excerpt is taken from the eBook, Essential Guide to Liabilities and Duties for Church Boards on YourChurchResources.com. For more information on church boards, see our other eBooks in this series, including Essential Guide to Managing Risk for Church Boards, Essential Guide to Money for Church Boards, and Essential Guide to Employment Issues for Church Boards.

Related Tags: board, church discipline, church law, firing, law, Richard Hammar


We would take an affirmation vote for our elders. It was not about getting 51% of the vote to pass. The sheet we use (www.kluth.org/ELDER-AFFIRMATION-SHEET.pdf) has a list of Biblical qualifications and if anyone in the congregation knew anything that would Biblically unqualify the elder candidate they were to identify it on the sheet along with the "voter's" name and contact info. We then would research/investigate the claim/charge with the person who made it to find out how valid it was. If it appeared to be true, we then would approach the elder candidate with what we learned and give him an opportunity to explain/clarify/verify. One man who was a leader in a Christian organization had 2 people that said he had been involved in an adulterous relationship with a woman at his work. We were able to verify this and he confirmed it happened but that it was over. We then allowed him to resign as an elder for personal reasons and encouraged his involvement with some counseling and accountability. Prior to my being the pastor, we had no such system and no way to identify and remove anyone that was living an unbiblical lifestyle.

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