Many people assume that churches only function at the helm of their pastor or elder. But in truth, churches also work the same way as other memberships communities, in which they have a church membership vote that allows them to have a voice in relevant matters, such as budget and activities. They may even have church leader elections to elect a council or board and apply common electoral mechanisms like ballot voting and church board vote of no confidence.
For legitimate voting to take place, it’s crucial that the church must have first established a strong legal foundation for membership, as this will affect how churchgoers participate in voting and the way your church operates.
You should include the proper language in your church’s articles of incorporation and bylaws, establishing membership requirements (including grounds and procedures for dismissal) and voting privileges. You must match these articles with your church’s mission, taking extra care to make sure that it’s laid out to protect it.
Churches do have elections, which often take place for proper church administration. Church membership elects a council or board to manage their administrative affairs, and to ensure that the activities of the community, as well as its members, uphold the church’s mission.
Church membership votes on various administrative affairs of the community, including leadership appointments, budget, and membership concerns. Some churches also require a vote for certain pastoral activities. That said, the electoral power of church membership is also limited; they can’t vote on non-pastoral hires, the sermon schedule, and the Sunday School curriculum, for example.
Here are some of the matters that are often put to vote in churches:
Officer elections are often done by churches to uphold accountability in their leadership. For many churches, the pastors or elders do an initial meeting wherein they nominate candidates. Then, the church membership or the congregation is given time to discuss the matter before voting in another meeting later on.
As most churches are funded by churchgoers, it’s only justified that they have the right to vote on how the money is spent, as well. While church members don’t necessarily have to sign off on any purchase, they’re often put to the vote when the budget concerns large purchases. Similar to officer elections, these votes may be done during two sessions; first, with a private ballot by church leadership, then another vote by the membership.
Aside from pastors and elders, church members may also vote on leadership in certain church committees. This allows for better management and direction and helps steer all church activities in a unified direction.
Church membership, on some occasions, may also be put to vote regarding doctrinal changes. However, these might mainly only concern parish leadership and pastoral councils, with laypeople only allowed to provide insights and opinions—and not actually vote.
Church bylaws often outline requirements for membership and grounds for dismissal, and these may include an electoral process to go through either. Church membership may also vote on disciple decisions should a pastor, elder, or fellow member violate any church rules or regulations.
Voting is encouraged in most congregations as it grants church members a voice in the church’s affairs and decision-making. Here are some reasons why it’s necessary for all church communities:
Providing church members the right to vote allows them to be more involved in church affairs and feel like they are part of a community that values their voice. This makes way for a more engaged community.
Voting is a great way to keep accountability among leadership. Being elected into a position shows that people trust you to lead them in the right direction and have faith in your ability to do so—and with that, that they are ready to hold you accountable for your responsibilities.
Church members vote on multiple aspects of the church based on the direction they know and believe the community should take based on its mission and vision. Engaging more people to put weight on the church’s decision-making ensures that it stays on the right path, one that benefits the church and its congregation.
Like most votes, church voting has been traditionally done as ballot box votes, with the option of sending postal votes from those who can’t be physically present on voting day. But platforms like ElectionBuddy have made it easier for people to exercise their voting rights. With ElectionBuddy, church members can vote on matters in a way that’s convenient to them. Find out how you can use ElectionBuddy at your next church vote today!