404-687-4577 mtm@ctsnet.edu

Covenants & Closure Agreement

Click on this link to see a video of the retreat session, “Resolving Disputes”, at the Healthy Transitions Wellness Retreat for Ministers and Spouses at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. The session is led by Ted Stuckenschneider, J.D., and David Kinman, J.D., where they explain your legal rights and the use of the different documents we provide at the bottom of this page.

Prevention: Covenant, Closure Agreement, and Dispute Resolution

In the midst of a conflict between the minister and the congregation, the focus often turns to options.

“What are my options?”

You can choose to do nothing. Even if you have legal rights which have been violated, you always have the choice of taking no action; leaving as gracefully as possible. You can choose to Negotiate; seek help in the transition out to ease the impact or to resolve the problems. You can Mediate; work through a third person to settle the differences. You can Arbitrate, that is, use an agreed upon third party to proclaim the rights and obligations of both parties with the decision being binding. Or you can Litigate, provided there are clear violations of contract or constitutionally protected rights. Since most cases are settled, the probabilities are high that the case will be resolved long before the trial.

The preferred remedy is Prevention. Many conflicts grow out of confusion concerning expectations and responsibilities with no procedures for clergy evaluations and no grievance policies. It is logical to assume many conflicts might be prevented through a model covenant which clarifies responsibilities, sets expectations, defines procedures for clergy evaluations, delineates procedures for times of conflict, and defines settlement procedures when conflict cannot be resolved. The covenant would be adopted by the minister and the congregation as the tenure begins.

Though the two model covenants below (Covenant and The Call) are designed for senior or solo ministers, they may be customized to meet specific needs, including church staff minister positions.

A model closure agreement is available for ministers and churches that have not adopted a covenant. The document below calls for fairness and has served as the basis of numerous negotiations. It can also be customized for church staff minister positions.


Permission is granted by Ministering to Ministers for these documents to be reproduced for your use.