Central Baptist Church of Southington Connecticut


Dissolution of the Church

  • Jim Townsley
  • Apr 18, 2018

The great need of the hour is to start new churches in needy areas with the goal being that every new church plant be successful. But not all new churches survive more than a few years. The plan is for every new church to grow and be a lighthouse for many decades but the reality is that all churches do not survive.

The death of a church is always tragic and it results in a light going out in a community with scars left behind in many lives. Sometimes the Lord’s name is so badly damaged in the community that starting another church may be increasingly difficult. It is never the intent to close a church but it can and does happen.

The death of a church is similar to the death in a family. Like a death in the family there are proper procedures that must be followed to appropriately bring closure to the situation. There are necessary steps to legally start a church and there are necessary steps to legally close a church. No one ever expects the church to fail but as a matter of necessity the constitution must contain guidelines on how to dissolve the church in the event the worst occurs.

One of the first legal procedures of the new church is to establish it as a non-profit corporation. This protects any individual from lawsuits and liability. The corporation filing usually requires the signature of three people. It is important to get legal advice to properly file these papers. When the church constitution is prepared it should contain a dissolution clause. This clause basically states that in the event of the church closing all proceeds of cash and property will go to a nonprofit organization and no individuals. If the church closes the corporation should be properly dissolved and all proceeds should be passed on to a qualifying church or corporation. If property is involved the deed should be updated to identify the new owner of the property.

It is never justified for a pastor to take proceeds from the church finances or property thinking he is due money for his time of service.  It is illegal and immoral to do so. It is never a good idea for the church to owe the pastor money because many awkward conflicts can occur that may damage the ministry. A pastor’s ethics must be above reproach.

The constitution of the church is an important document and when forming it the founders must insure that it is made in such a way as it can be followed. Too many churches have constitutions that they do not and in some cases cannot follow. When drafting this document determine that it will stand up in a court of law. It is possible that one day it will be used in court. Usually at the end of the constitution a clause is necessary that basically states, “Upon the dissolution of the corporation, assets shall be distributed for one or more exempt purposes within the meaning of section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, or corresponding section of any future purpose. Any such assets not so disposed of shall be disposed of by the Court of Common Pleas of the county in which the principal office of the corporation is then located, exclusively for such purposes or to such organization or organizations, as said Court shall determine, which are organized and operated exclusively for such purposes.” The great business of the church is to start churches, however the organization of the church must be drafted carefully to include among other things, directions giving the church a protocol to follow in the event of the church closing.