Helpful Information

Clearances need to be updated every 5 years



  • FBI CRIMINAL HISTORY REPORT (Fingerprint-based background check) ($23.85 Fee)


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Records Retention for Local Churches:

Complete list:

Total years (to keep) Archives
Accounts Payable Records (Expenses, Accounting, Bookkeeping, Paid invoices, Finance, Purchasing) 7 NO
Accounts Receivable Records (Membership contributions, offering records) 7 NO
Administrative Reports (Charge Conf reports, Administrative Board reports, Council on Ministries report
or administrative council reports Permanent YES
Annual Fiscal Reports (Closing of the Books Records, Financial Reports, Balance Reconciliation Records,
State Accounts Reports Permanent YES
Audit Records Permanent YES
Bank Deposit Books and Bank Statements 7 NO
Bank Deposit Slips 3 NO
Bequest and Estate papers (wills, gift agreements, bequests) Permanent YES
Budget Records (Annual Budget) Permanent YES
Bulletins (from Sunday worship, special local church occasion) Permanent YES
Committee Records (Local church committee records) Permanent YES
Directories Permanent YES
Membership Records (membership register, baptisms, marriages, transfers) Permanent YES
Newsletters Permanent YES
Personnel Records Permanent YES
Property Files (deeds, title papers, repair history, permits, lease agreements) Permanent AS NECESSARY

Descriptions of Duties/Responsibilities for Church Leaders:

Incorporation of Local Churches

Why a Church Should Incorporate

The answer to this question comes from three sources. All three sources indicate that it is important and essential for local churches to incorporate.
These three sources are:

  1. The General Legal Council of the General United Methodist Church. (The General Legal Council is a part of the General Council on Finance and Administration.) The job of the Legal Council is to advise the UM Church and its entities of many legal issues. Their job is to protect the United Methodist Church in the largest sense as well as provide legal and other advice to UM Churches. In all of the training they do for Bishops, District Superintendents, and Directors of Connectional Ministries, they stress the need for local congregations to be insured.

  2. In matters of insurance and potential legal claims against local churches and their elected leaders and members, it is important for local churches to be incorporated.

  3. The Chancellor for the Susquehanna Conference whose job it is to advise and protect the Annual Conference also stresses this importance.

“Incorporation should protect and exempt individual officers and members, jointly and severally, of the local church, from legal liability for and on account of the debts and other obligations of every kind and description of the local church.” The incorporation forms a separate legal entity from the officers, directors and its incorporators. This comes directly from the website of GCFA.

What this means is that incorporation forms a hedge of protection around the officers, directors and especially the members. For example… Someone sues your local church because of a serious injury or issue like sexual molestation or abuse. If it goes to Civil Court, where 2 separate damages can be assessed, the jury cannot know how much insurance the church has. If the law suit was significant (and there have been law suits against churches with verdicts as high as several million dollars), the judgment finds the church at fault. The verdict finds a total judgment of three million dollars against the local church. Where will they go for the money?

For a church that is not incorporated there is the potential that the courts, to get the total settlement could attach the churches assets. If there is not three million dollars worth of assets, technically without incorporation, the next group to be assessed could be the officers. If there is still not enough money, legally they could go to the members. If the church is incorporated, technically the officers and the members and their personal assets are protected.

This threat does exist and courts and attorneys are more and more willing to go after congregations for settlement. At one time, it was unheard of for churches to be sued. Now, anyone, and everyone, for any reason and no reason can be sued. It does not make sense for a congregation not to incorporate and protect the assets of its members.

Incorporation is not difficult, nor should it be outrageously expensive. A UM Church must be incorporated as a non-profit, religious organization, based on the laws of the UM Church and the UM Discipline. All the steps needed and all the sample forms are provided on the GCFA website. An attorney can simply access the website, download the forms, and follow the procedures. There are some motions that must be made at Church Conference, at Trustees meetings and at Administrative Council/Board meetings. These procedures are clearly spelled out on the website.

The GCFA website is: Click on “Services” (top), then “Legal Services”, “Additional Legal Resources”. Click on “Legal Manual, GCFA” Section 2 - Local Church. The section about incorporation is on page 14 OR Click here:

All the steps needed and all the sample forms are provided on the GCFA website. An attorney can simply access the website, download the forms, and follow the procedures. There are some motions that must be made at Church Conference, at Trustees meetings and at Administrative Council/Board meetings. These procedures are clearly spelled out on the website.

All local churches should be incorporated separately.

To find out if your church is incorporated, go to Dept of State - Search Business Entity -


Ministry Resource Packet Online:
(The Ministry Resource Packet is a resource for pastors and laity from the Susquehanna Conference Connecting Ministries Office)

Simplified Accountable Structure (Introduction)

Welcoming Overview

How does your church welcome people? Is the welcome little more than the initial encounter, or does the lifestyle of your church bring new people into Christian community, disciple them and send them out?

The churches of “Open Hearts, Open Doors, and Open Minds” are moving from “Open” as an adjective to “Open” as a verb. They understand that Welcoming people on Sundays has everything to do with how we make people feel. And they understand that welcoming ministries — both inside and outside church walls — are part of vital congregations.

A welcoming and hospitable climate begins at the curb, continues into the heart of the congregation, and moves outside church walls into the community. The ministry of welcoming is the responsibility of the entire church family, and a way of ministering to people, seven days a week, in all walks of life.

The Welcoming Ministry Online Course prepares individuals to discern what it means to be a welcoming congregation, how to incorporate welcoming ministries into every part of church life, both inside and outside the church walls, and stay up-to-date with experiences, resources and tools from United Methodist Agencies and members focused on welcoming ministry and radical hospitality.


  1. Comfort Checklist (PDF, 146 KB).

  2. Friendliness Audit (PDF, 122 KB).

  3. Guidelines for Greeters (PDF, 121 KB).

  4. Guidelines for Ushers (PDF, 121 KB).

  5. Ideas That Show We Care (PDF, 192 KB).

  6. Inviting Practice Sheet(PDF, 140 KB).

  7. Mystery Guest Audit (PDF, 212 KB).

  8. Walk-through Assessment (PDF, 139 KB).

  9. What Is Your Welcoming Quotient? (PDF, 172 KB).

  10. Welcoming Tips (PDF, 141 KB).


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