It is always a sad day when you have to go about shutting down a church plant. While there are some paperwork and technical details involved, the primary role and responsibility of the leadership during this time is to care for the people in the congregation.
As I’ve had to learn through this process, here are some things I put on my checklist:
Shepherd the Flock
Taking care of the people comes in various forms during this season:
- Communicating to the congregation in person and/or in writing about the end of weekly services and church operations
- Perhaps arranging for a celebration event for what was accomplished through the plant (as appropriate)
- Helping the people through the inevitable grieving process
- Helping congregants get plugged in to other local churches so that they don’t give up on Christ’s Church entirely
The church’s original Articles of Incorporation will have a Dissolution Clause that spells out exactly where remaining assets should go. It will always be a 501c3 nonprofit organization, as it is illegal to distribute charitable funds from a church (which is a 501c3) to benefit its members, directors or trustees, officers, or other private persons.
Several things you’ll need to do in distributing the church’s assets:
- Inventory all of the church’s equipment/assets
- Cancel any contracts or subscriptions
- Pay or provide for all bills & obligations to be paid (including payroll)
- Create a plan for the distribution of assets; this may need to be submitted to a government entity before the Articles of Dissolution are filed (below)
- Distribute the assets and close all bank accounts
File Official Paperwork
Somewhat overlapping with the timing of the work above, several things need to be done to officially shut down the corporation:
- Hold a Board Meeting or Congregational Meeting (according to Bylaws) and call for an official vote to dissolve the corporation
- Record the roll-call vote in meeting minutes and file them in the corporate records book
- Record to which 5013c nonprofit organization(s) each asset was distributed
- File Articles of Dissolution with your State
- Notify the IRS and various State entities about the dissolution
NOTE: I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. It is merely the personal experience of someone occasionally tasked with shutting down church plants.