I have had the privilege to serve as the chairman of the congregation of Divine Shepherd Lutheran church for the past 2 years. I consider myself less a leader of and more a servant to the members of the congregation. During this time I have come to realize that most members are not familiar with the how the church works on a day to day basis. For many, the primary experience at Divine Shepherd is worship on Sunday, a bible study weekly, or other periodic gatherings, such as LWML or Rusty Restorations. These are where and what most of us consider to be the center of our lives at Divine Shepherd. But, like most organizations, much more is going on behind the scenes. I am going to share with you over the next several newsletters some aspects of how our church functions Monday through Friday.
All congregations of the LCMS are formed with a constitution, articles of incorporation, and by-laws. These documents make the congregation an official organization under the laws of the state in which it resides. They identify the type of corporation we are, which is a 501(c)(3), a non-profit corporation. Non-profit corporations are tax-exempt, but only in a limited scope. For example, we do not pay property taxes; we do not have taxable income; contributions (offerings, donations, and gifts) are generally considered charitable contributions, thus may offer the donor a tax deduction. On the other hand, we do pay sales tax on goods and services we purchase from vendors and service providers. We are subject to many IRS regulations regarding our employees and compensation we offer them. We are deemed to be an employer, and therefore must comply with the laws and regulations governing employers, such as worker’s compensation, unemployment insurance, group health insurance, Social Security, and more. In addition to Federal laws and regulations, we are subject to state, county, and local ordinances as well, such as obtaining building permits, complying with water and sewer regulations, meeting codes regarding handicap parking, and building safety, to name a few. And finally, we have to be sure we do all these things within the framework provided by the LCMS.
The Early Childhood Center (ECC) brings added regulatory oversight. The ECC is the responsibility of the congregation, however, it does operate under its own constitution and by-laws, has its own board of directors, its own director, and staff, and must comply with additional rules and regulations established by the state of South Dakota for Early Childhood Centers. The ECC board of directors does work closely with the church council to make certain that the many rules, regulations, ordinances, and laws that we are subject to, both jointly and independently, are complied with.
The By-Laws of Divine Shepherd creates numerous committees and boards to provide the necessary oversight and direction of the business, ministry, and missions of Divine Shepherd. The Church Council is comprised of the officers of the congregation, and certain board and committee chairpersons. The Executive Committee is comprised of the Chairman, the Treasurer, and the Council Secretary. The Council Secretary is not the church secretary. The council elects a vice-chairman from among other board members to serve as council chairman in the absence of the chairman. The other council positions are the Financial Secretary; Evangelism, Stewardship, Parish Education, Trustees, Youth, and Elders. The council Chairman, the Vice-chairman, and the Head Elder are required to be male. The Pastor is a non-voting member and advisor to the Church Council and Board of Elders. All of these committee positions and their functions are described in the by-laws of Divine Shepherd.
A copy of our Constitution and By-Laws is available to any member of Divine Shepherd. They are available from the church secretary and copies are also in a mail slot in the fellowship hall for the taking. I encourage every member to obtain a copy and review it. Next month I will expand on the by-Laws regarding membership and responsibilities of members of Divine Shepherd.