Once you have identified the big picture of where you want to go, you have to look at the small print directions that will get you there. That is what is happening as Foursquare processes proposed changes to the movement’s bylaws that will help turn the Reimagine Foursquare vision into reality.
Recommended revisions to some of the legal ways in which Foursquare operates have been posted online by the bylaw committee for further discussion and review.
Deliberations began following Foursquare Connection 2014 in Dallas, when attendees at the annual gathering enthusiastically embraced the need for organizational and operational changes to ensure Foursquare is best aligned for fruitful ministry in the years to come.
Some of the shifts resulting from the inclusive Reimagine process—which featured a series of nationwide Town Hall meetings as well as research and deliberation by several task forces—have already been implemented. But others require formal revisions to existing policies and procedures.
Some of the key proposed changes presented for review by the bylaws committee center on churches, personnel and property.
The committee recommends that membership of the Foursquare Association—established in 2007 to provide a framework for other churches wanting to benefit from relationship with Foursquare, or even consider joining the movement, to connect—be streamlined.
Community membership of the association, for churches remaining independent of Foursquare, would be dropped. Instead, the association would have three designations: (1) charter churches (fully functioning local Foursquare congregations); (2) district churches (currently referred to as “pioneer” churches); and (3) covenant churches (those joining Foursquare from outside that embrace Foursquare governance and leadership but which choose to retain their property independently).
The proposed changes to the association will continue to allow for individual ministers to become members. This enables Foursquare-licensed individuals serving in ministry settings outside the movement to retain their ministerial credentials, and also to be eligible to attend convention. Non-Foursquare ministers would also be allowed to join the association and attend convention in a non-voting capacity.
Proposed changes to licensing involve doing away with district licensing—available to those who develop their ministry and leadership gifts with on-the-job-training in a local church setting, rather than formally—and turning that function over to the national church office, which handles all other licensing and credentialing issues.
Additionally, it is proposed that Foursquare’s ministerial credential be renamed a national license, as its historical designation as an international license—based on the legal name of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel—has caused some confusion as Foursquare has grown in other parts of the world.
The proposals include the first steps toward allowing Foursquare churches to own their own property, rather than having the title held by the national church, as is currently the case. Revised provisions allow for churches joining Foursquare to become fully part of the movement while keeping their property in a separate legal entity. Discussions about further bylaw revisions that would allow existing Foursquare churches to follow a similar arrangement are continuing.
Other recommended property revisions streamline lease arrangements, such as allowing for congregations to renew rental arrangements that have previously been approved by the national board without having to go through all the steps again.
All the recommendations can be studied in detail online. Here the Foursquare bylaws are presented in full edit form, with the various revisions highlighted in track-change format. The document also features a helpful summary of the changes at the end.
Encouraging comment and feedback on the draft document, bylaw committee chairman and former Foursquare general counsel El Clark notes that while some of the proposals are significant, the changes are not as widespread as might seem at first sight.
“At first blush, it looks like a lot of changes, but what’s really the case is that if you make a change in one place, that same change ripples through the document,” El explains. “So it’s not necessarily multiple changes, but just multiple places where that change needs to be reckoned into the draft.”
Sterling Brackett, Foursquare corporate secretary and a member of the bylaw committee, says that the draft proposals mean “we are beginning to move forward with the Reimagine process.” He adds: “There are some adjustments that are beginning, there will be others that will be coming along a little later, but we can celebrate the fact that we are beginning down the Reimagine pathway, which should be an exciting proposition for us as a church.”
Comments on the proposals are being welcomed by the bylaw committee via email through March, when the committee will make other revisions before submitting its report to the cabinet. Any additional changes will be posted online for further comments.
Once the board has confirmed the bylaw amendment proposals are ready for final consideration, they will be released to the convention body for voting at Foursquare Connection 2015.
Themed “Sent,” the annual gathering will be held in Anaheim, Calif., May 25–28, 2015. Credentialed ministers and voting delegates are encouraged to attend so they can vote on the important changes being proposed.