The Hyles Church Manual
by Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
(Chapter 01 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, The Hyles Church Manual)
1. The Church Business Meeting
In Romans 12:11 we are admonished to be “not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.” Since God’s business is the biggest business in all the world, His business should be cared for in a businesslike manner. Nothing less than fervency and care should be taken in the business of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Because of this, many churches feel it is wise to have periodic business meetings. For some, the business meeting is once a year. For others, business meetings are conducted whenever there is special business. I have found it helpful through the years to have a monthly business meeting. Though brief, it is important. It keeps the people informed as to the affairs of the church and gives them an opportunity to speak out concerning such matters.
The Time of the Meeting
Perhaps the best time for such a meeting is after the Wednesday evening service. In the first place, the people are already there and this avoids having to call a special meeting on a special night just to take care of business. Then also, the people are in a spiritual frame of mind after a good service and fellowship around the Word of God. Many churches make a mistake, I think, in giving an entire Wednesday evening service to a business meeting. The people of the church have worked hard all day and, no doubt, have had their minds on carnal and material things. They are in no condition spiritually to do God’s business. After a few great songs about Christ, some time of prayer, and a message from God’s Word, people are in much better condition to transact the business of God.
The Order of Service for a Business Meeting
It is wise to start off with a prayer. This prayer should be a brief and simple one asking God to give wisdom to make the proper decisions and to give love in the transaction of the King’s business. This prayer is followed by the pastor simply saying, “We will now have the reading of the minutes by the church clerk.” The church clerk proceeds to read the minutes of the last business meeting. When the minutes have been read the pastor asks the congregation, “Are there any corrections or additions to the minutes?” If no one speaks, the pastor simply says, “The minutes stand approved as read.” If someone makes a correction to the reading of the minutes, the pastor says, “The minutes stand approved as corrected.”
Following the reading the minutes come the recommendations from the board of deacons. The pastor may say, “We now recognize the chairman of our deacons, or the clerk of our deacons, for the recommendations from the board.: The clerk (or chairman) reads the first recommendation and closes it by saying, “Mr. Moderator, (the pastor) I move this recommendation be adopted.” Then the pastor turns to the congregation and says, “Is there a second to the motion?” This should be done immediately as discussion on a motion should not take place until there has been a second. The clerk, or chairman, or pastor then should explain to the congregation, in detail, the action that is being recommended. The pastor, acting as moderator, should say, “Is there any other discussion?” Time should be allowed for discussion but irrelevant discussion should not be encouraged. Then the pastor says, “All in favor of the motion will signify it by saying, ‘Aye.’ All opposed may say, ‘No,’ and it is so ordered.” In certain very important matters the vote may be taken by the raising of the hand or even by standing, or if the occasion warrants, a secret ballot vote is all that is necessary unless we are voting to borrow money, build a building, or to take some other major step.
The deacon clerk then reads the next recommendation and the above procedure is followed on each recommendation until they have all been read.
Following the deacons’ recommendations we then come to the time of the treasurer’s report. The treasurer’s report may be read but we have found it more helpful to have a mimeographed report. Following is a copy of one page of a typical treasurer’s report.
You will notice that the number of the check, the date the check was written, the budget item from which the check is coming, the person to whom the check is written, the purpose for writing the check, and the amount of the check are all listed. This is very important. Every penny should be accounted for.
We find it helpful to pass out the treasurer’s report at the door following the service. We announce to the people that if anyone has any questions about the expenditures, he may call the church office at any time and we will be happy to explain any or all of the treasurer’s report.
We then ask if there is a motion to adjourn. Between the time of the asking for the motion and the making of the motion, of course, anyone who wishes to bring up something else may feel free to do so. This should not be encouraged but it should be allowed. The motion is made and seconded to adjourn. Then the pastor simply says, “all in favor of the motion to adjourn will signify by standing for the closing prayer.” The standing to pray is the vote to adjournment.
The above order of service is a very simple one. The business meetings is our pastorates have usually lasted from five to thirty minutes, with an average of about fifteen minutes. The people know that nothing is being done under the table and that they have a right to speak on any issue. Because they do know it, normally they do not exercise this right. A right that is taken away is exercised more than a right that is granted.
Bear in mind that the deacons’ recommendations are simply that--just recommendations. The deacons have no authority. All the authority rests with the church body. However, the church body has such confidence in the board of deacons that almost without exception, they readily accept the deacons’ recommendations. This is as it should be. The church has confidence in the leadership of the deacon board and the pastor. Consequently, they are pleased and happy with the recommendations brought before them.
Helpful Rules to Follow
1. The pastor should be the moderator of the business meeting. There are a few things that I insist upon as the pastor. These are things that, if not granted, would prevent me from accepting a pastorate. Among these is the right to be the moderator in the church business meetings. This should be discussed before accepting a pastorate and thoroughly understood with the membership, pulpit committee, and the deacon board.
2. Insist on kindness. The membership of the church should feel that they may speak about any issue. They should not feel that they may speak rudely, or unkindly, about any issue. The moderator should insist that kindness prevail and the right of anyone to speak freely on any subject be protected. People should have the idea that if they oppose something kindly, they will not be ostracized or ridiculed, but they should have a complete understanding that in caring for God’s business a Christian spirit should prevail.
3. The moderator should give all a chance to speak. The smallest member of the church should feel that he has a right to speak concerning any issue. As mentioned before, when a church has this right, normally, fewer people will speak out. As long as one can see hi privileges he need not fight for them, but when he sees his privileges being taken away he will often become obstinate and critical.
4. Do not encourage opposition. While each member feels that he has the right to speak and is offered the chance to speak, opposition should not be encouraged. For example, if it is obvious that the majority of the congregation is for a certain matter, when suddenly someone rises to speak in opposition, he should be allowed to say his peace, if he says it kindly. Then the moderator (the pastor) may say something like, “Thank you, brother, for that word,” or “Is there any other word before we vote?” Statements such as these are dangerous: “Than you, my brother, would anyone else like to speak on this matter?” or “What do the rest of you think of this opposition?” The opposition will rise to speak without any encouragement. It is wise to give the opposition a chance to speak but not to encourage their speaking. After the opposition has been expressed then simply take the vote. Remember through it all the moderator should be kind and gracious even in the face of opposition.
5. When big issues are involved the moderator should foresee the questions and prepare his answers. When the moderator knows there is going to be a big issue he should predict the questions that will need to be answered and prepare the answers. On certain occasions I have taken as many as sixteen pages of notes to a business meeting when I knew questions would be asked me. I have prepared a page of answers for each possible question. This enabled me to answer carefully, thoughtfully, and with premeditation. This eliminated any possibility of my speaking hastily and in the heat of the battle making a mistake in fact or spirit. Then, when the question is asked, the moderator may simply pull from his little file his prepared answer and read it.
6. Write letters of kindness and love to the opposition. Following a business meeting where there have been differences of opinion and where someone obviously opposed the action taken, it certainly would be Christian gesture for the moderator to write a letter of encouragement to the opposition. The following is an example:
Dear Mr. Doe,
I was thinking about you this morning as I reflected upon our business meeting last night, and I thought I would put my thoughts on paper. First let me tell you I thank God for your friendship and what you have meant to me through the years, and though last night we appeared to be on different sides of the fence, I do want you to know that I respect you and admire you as a Christian brother. I also want you to know that as long as you are in the church and I am moderator, and as long as you manifest the fine Christian spirit that you manifested last night, I will certainly fight for your right to speak your piece. You were gracious in your opposition and you have been a blessing to me personally. I thank God for the privilege of being your pastor and trust that He will give us many years of service together. I also Thank God that on most issues you and I agree wholeheartedly, and I rejoice in what you mean to me and to your church. May Gods richest blessings rest upon you.
Signed by the pastor.
7. The moderator should ask the church to table differences when the church is almost equally divided. It has been my policy through the years that the church should be nearly unanimous on matters that do not include convictions. In such things as the building program, the borrowing of money, the buying of songbooks, the painting of the building, the remodeling of the building, the buying of new property, etc., there should certainly be a unanimity of spirit among the church members. Suppose, for example, that the vote was 55% for and 45% against, I would call for a motion rescinding the action taken and tabling the matter until the board of deacons could study it thoroughly and bring back another recommendation. Now, if it is a matter of conviction such as liquor or another moral issue, this should not be done. After a split vote is taken on something that does not involve a conviction the pastor could say something like this: “And the motion is carried. Now may I make a suggestion. The peace and harmony of our church is more important than any building or piece of property. Since the vote has been so close I would like to entertain a motion that we rescind the action just taken and place the matter in the hands of the board of deacons for further study in order that they might bring back, perhaps, amore suitable recommendation at our next business meeting.” In every case this has been done and many church problems have been solved.
8. Have recommendations thoroughly thought out before being brought before the church. Now this is so important. The normal procedure of a recommendation in our church is from the pastor to the deacons to the people. The pastor should thoroughly think through his recommendations to the board of deacons. Then he deacons should thoroughly discuss and think through a course of action before recommending to the church that it be followed. Most church trouble is caused by a lack of thoroughness and proper planning on the part of the pastor and deacons. The discussions, the opposition, the deliberations, etc., should be done in the deacons’ meeting and not on the floor of the church where weak Christians may be present. Bear in mind that the deacon is supposed to be a mature Christian who is well seasoned in the work of the Lord. Consequently, he can disagree more agreeably than the weak Christian. The more discussion on the floor of the deacon board the less discussion there usually is on the floor of the church. When an issue is not thoroughly discussed and thought out by the deacons, it is oftentimes an issue of controversy on the floor of the church.
9. The moderator should never display his temper. There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is the fact that it is the person who hits the second blow that is usually penalized. In an athletic contest the man who hits first is seldom seen, but the man who retaliates is often seen and penalized. Many times people privately criticize, slander and rebuke the pastor but the other people do not see this. The pastor gets his fill of such actions and then goes to the platform and retaliates. The people only see the retaliation; hence, they penalize the pastor instead of the tormentor. The moderator should be very careful to be kind and gracious and the people should be aware of this spirit.
10. Always keep the people informed. An informed membership is a happy membership. An uninformed membership can be an unhappy and rebellious membership. As one has said, “Keep all the cards on top of the table” so the people know exactly what is going on.
11. Do not run ahead of the people. Many pastors prematurely borrow money, buy property, and build buildings. Now it is not so bad for the pastor to run a little bit ahead of the people on the program of the church or some other matter that can be rescinded, but suppose the pastor leads the people to borrow money when they are not ready to borrow money, then when he is called to another field they have to pay his debt. There is a note of a lack of wisdom in this. The pastor may be the kind of leader that will inspire his people to want to borrow, build, and give, abut the people should be ready before a large project is started. Keep the people abreast with you. This is especially needful concerning the deacon board.
12. No business meeting should be held without the pastor. This is another one of those things that is a conviction with me. An understanding should be had with the pastor, deacons, and people that no church business meeting should be conducted in the absence of the pastor. When the people love the pastor and the pastor loves the people, this is usually no problem. They are more than delighted to grant his request.
13. It is wise to have a two weeks’ notice before calling a business meeting of major importance. No secret business meeting should be conducted. In something of major importance such as the calling of a pastor, the building of a building, the borrowing of money, the buying of property, etc., an announcement should be made at least two Sunday mornings before the business meeting is conducted so as to give every member of the church adequate knowledge of what is to be transacted. Not only should the business meeting be announced but the matter to be discussed should be announced also.
14. It is very important that the pastor know parliamentary procedure. The pastor should know how to handle a motion and even an amendment to a motion. Suppose someone makes a motion; the pastor says, “Is there a second?” If there is no second, he then says, “The motion is lost for lack of a second.” If there is a second, he says, “Is there any discussion?” Following the period of discussion the Pastor says, “All in favor say, ‘Aya’ All opposed, ‘No’ and it is so ordered.”
However, suppose that during the time of discussion someone amends the motion. Someone could say, “I amend the motion as made and seconded as follows.” Then the pastor, acting as moderator, should call for the vote on the amendment. He should say, “Is there a second to the amendment?” If there is a second, he then may say, “Is there any discussion about the amendment?” After the discussion about the amendment he then calls for the vote on the amendment of the motion. Following the vote on the amendment of the motion the pastor then returns to the previous motion as amended. He may then say, “All in favor of the motion as amended say ‘Aya’ All opposed, ‘No’ and it is so ordered.
Following is an example of a typical business meeting as conducted in the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana.
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