Congregation Governance Toolkit

Welcome! This page contains resources to help Congregations to plan risk, administration and compliance activities throughout the year with ease, helping to free up time to focus on more mission and ministry related activities. Scroll down for a calendar of events and activities for the year, as well as links to Synod resources and webpages.

This toolkit is accompanied by a quarterly newsletter from the Synod containing reminders of upcoming risk, administration and compliance activities, as well as other related news and updates. If you are not already receiving this newsletter, sign up here!

For more information, hear from Bel Ritchie, Synod Risk Manager, in the video below:

Key Activities

Activities for the current quarter: July to September

 

Essential tasks and reporting: 

Suggested activities:

To help you prepare for the rest of the year, check out the key activities for each quarter below:

Essential tasks and reporting: 

Congregation Guide

People

Single Touch Payroll (STP) relates to the reporting of all payroll data to the Australian Tax Office (ATO) within set timeframes. This is mandatory and an entity can be fined if it is not doing this. At the end of the financial year, employee payment information must be finalised with the ATO. This is done by making an STP declaration by 14 July. This allows employees to access their income statement from the ATO so they can complete their tax return. For more information and instructions see ATO STP Finalisation. 

It is a Government requirement that all employees who are paid $450 gross or more per calendar month are paid superannuation. The minimum amount paid is based on a percentage (gradually increasing over time) of the employee’s salary and the current minimum amount can be found here: Super Guarantee Percentage  

Payments are to be made at least 4 times a year by the quarterly due dates into a complying Superannuation fund and are to be made electronically (no cheques) through the Government’s SuperStream system. SuperStream ensures fast and accurate transfer of funds and data of super payments. For further details, please visit the Government website Super for Employers.

Superannuation payments are also required to be paid to Ministers. As this may be a slightly different process with different requirements, please refer to the Ministry Handbook for full details to ensure compliance is met. 

Penalties may apply if superannuation requirements are not adhered to. 

There are certain processes for the Church to follow in engaging volunteers. Volunteers need to be appropriately vetted and recorded on the volunteer register before they are allowed to volunteer in the Church. These processes are in place to protect the volunteer, the Church and anyone that a volunteer may come in contact with. For further information on managing volunteers, including what to do if a volunteer is injured, please visit the Engaging Volunteers page. 

You can also find out more about managing volunteers via this recent Risk Bite - Managing Volunteers.

The Synod of NSW and the ACT is committed to providing a safe environment for both children and adults to develop relationships as part of a faith community and to grow in their faith and understanding of God. The Synod Safe Church Unit has been created for this purpose. To access Safe Church information and resources, see the Safe Church Unit webpage. To access the quarterly safe church update (which is issued with the Congregation Governance Toolkit email) see the Safe Church Noticeboard.

A Working with Children Check is mandatory for any individual in NSW involved in child-related work. The ACT Working with Vulnerable People (WWVP) Check and registration are mandatory for any individual in the ACT involved in regulated activities with vulnerable persons.

Refer to the Synod Guidelines for obtaining a Working with Children Check in NSW and a Working with Vulnerable People Check  for further information about who requires these checks and the procedure for obtaining a check.

All ordained ministers or individuals engaged as religious leaders or spiritual officers must undergo these checks and clearances even though they may not be involved directly with children or vulnerable people.

For more information, refer to the Safe Church Unit.

To enable effective communications between Synod, Presbyteries and Congregations, it is critical that any changes to positions within your Congregation, are advised to Synod and your Presbytery as soon as possible. To assist with this, the following form can be used: Update your Personal/Presbytery/Congregation/Church Council details Alternatively, an email can be sent to sec@nswact.uca.org.au with all the relevant details. 

To assist congregations with appointing council members and leadership roles, the following templates for nomination can be used:

If a minister or staff member is injured or experiences a work-related illness, it should be reported as soon as possible, regardless of the seriousness. Please email Emma at UCASynod.RTW@willistowerswatson.com to report the details. This will satisfy legislated reporting requirements and you will have access to support for the workers compensation and injury management process if needed.

Please see the Workers Compensation Policies & Procedures page for more information.

The Ministry Handbook for Ordained Ministry has been produced to assist both Ministers and those overseeing their placement. This is an in-depth guide on all aspects of a minister’s placement, including leave entitlements, stipend, allowances, housing, terms of placement and a number of other matters. Download the Ministry Handbook here. 

The Synod also provides a Lay Specified Ministry of Pastor Handbook as a guide and reference for matters relating to pastors, which can be accessed here. 

As per the Regulations of the Uniting Church in Australia, there are minimum frequency requirements for meetings to be held: 

Congregational Meeting – minimum of two per year 

Church Council – minimum of one per quarter 

For further information, including membership and voting rights for these meetings, please refer to the Constitution and Regulations: https://nswact.uca.org.au/media/8936/constitutionandregulations-2018-updated-august-2019.pdf 

Covid19 safe practices are still needed, so it's recommended for places of worship to have a Covid-19 Safety Plan in place. For up-to-date Guidance Notes, what to do if you have a case on site, and details for those with hall users and other activities, see the Covid-19 Guidance for Churches. 

We all have a responsibility to care for each other and keep each other safe. The Synod has new resources including a step by step WHS Toolkit to help congregations to fulfil their responsibilities for safety, which can be found on the Church Safety page. 

The Synod People and Culture team are available to assist Congregations, Presbyteries and other agencies of the Church with employment advice and generating legally compliant employment paperwork.

We have recently updated the process for requesting a letter of offer and have introduced a digital request form to replace the ‘annexure 18 letter of offer request form’. If you are recruiting a new employee or lay worker you can find this form and other helpful information such as remuneration guidelines, template position descriptions and processes in the Human Resources, Forms and Resources section of the website.

Quick links

Contact

People and Culture

Email: people@nswact.uca.org.au

Phone: 02 9159 9659

Running a playgroup is a wonderful way to serve and connect with your local community. To support you in this ministry we have a number of templates and guides on safety and to assist with record-keeping. These include

Please also refer to the Child Safe Ministry Guide for more detailed information on safety in children’s programs.

Property

All Church properties in the NSW and ACT Synod are owned by either The Uniting Church in Australia Property Trust (NSW) or The Uniting Church in Australia (ACT) Property Trust. As a Congregation cannot own property, they are given beneficial use of the property to enable them to worship, witness and serve in their local community. With being the responsible body for the property comes certain responsibilities that need to be met by the congregation, including maintenance, fire certificates, hazard inspections and risk assessments, and payment of any utilities and insurances. 

As a Congregation is not the legal owner of the property, it is not able to enter into any contract involving the property. If you plan to do anything with property, including buying, selling, leasing or developing, please contact Synod Property Services through property@nswact.uca.org.au For further information, please see Property Services.

According to the Regulations, Church councils are “…responsible for the care and maintenance of property” that they have been given beneficial stewardship over. Synod Property Services are able to assist, and provide an Annual Property Maintenance Checklist to assist congregation to identify and address maintenance needs. 

Each year, congregations will receive the Annual Insurance Questionnaire for completion and return to Synod. It is mandatory for this to be completed and correct insurance cover depends on its accuracy. The questionnaire is sent out early in the second half of the year (July/August) for 31 October insurance renewal. For more information on insurance including how to make a claim, how to notify a change in assets and for access to all insurance-related forms, please see the Synod Insurance page. 

As Congregations are not incorporated, they are not able to apply for Government grants in their own right. However, Synod (through the Property Trust) enables a congregation to apply for Government and other external grants, giving them access to funds that they would not normally be able to access. For further details, please go to: https://nswact.uca.org.au/shared-resources/property/funding-application-process/ 

All Uniting Church buildings need to meet the Fire Safety Standard. This is done through engaging a fire safety practitioner to provide an annual fire safety statement. For more information see ‘Keeping your church fire safe'.

Copyright applies to many of the activities and resources congregations might use. Although most copyright needs are covered by holding a CCLI license, there may be other requirements such as for playing a movie or using other resources such as Sunday School sheets. 

 As we want to be above reproach in respecting other people’s property, we should also take care to respect the ‘moral rights’ of people to have their work attributed to them (by doing things like adding the name of the person to a copy or displayed lyrics on a screen). 

 To assist congregations with these arrangements, a Copyright for Churches page is available. 

Regulation 4.4.1 makes church councils responsible for property care and maintenance. To ensure that there are funds available for ongoing upkeep, the Property Team advises that the budgeted sinking fund be 5% of the value of the property, if possible. This will help ensure that properties remain safe, welcoming, and effective for ministry.

Finance

Each Congregation is classed as a charity and should be registered with the ACNC. With this comes certain legal requirements: 

Responsible Persons should be updated with the Australian Business Register (ABR). These can be updated online using myGovID and RAM access (see BAS and GST below).  

Failure to meet ACNC requirements, can result in your congregation being de-registered as a charity and losing the benefits associated with that status. Fines may also be imposed. Further details can be found here: https://www.acnc.gov.au/for-charities/manage-your-charity/obligations-acnc 

Most Congregations are classified as a Basic Religious Charity (BRC). There are six requirements to being a BRC and are outlined in the link here: Basic Religious Charities | Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (acnc.gov.au). Significantly a BRC has several exemptions due to this status, which include reduced reporting requirements and not having to comply with the Governance Standards (the AIS must still be completed). 

To assist congregations to meet ACNC requirements, this checklist can be used which applies to the majority of congregations.

If you send funds or have operations outside of Australia, then you will also have to abide by ACNC External Conduct Standards. The Standards require charities to take reasonable steps to keep records to show how they ensure appropriate standards of behaviour, governance, and oversight are met. They are intended to promote transparency, provide confidence that resources reach legitimate beneficiaries, and seek to protect vulnerable people overseas. Working with a partner organisation which is set up to meet these requirements, like UnitingWorld is a good way to manage this issue. 

To learn more call or email UnitingWorld on 1800 998 122 or info@unitingworld.org.au.

Most congregations are required to submit a BAS each quarter to the ATO to satisfy their GST and PAYG obligations (also FBT instalments if applicable). These are due on the 21st after the end of each quarter. The government has established an online process for submitting these BAS via the ATO Business portal: Australian Taxation Office Business Portal - Welcome (ato.gov.au). This requires a MyGovID and RAM access (see below). For more information on Business Activity Statements please see the ATO BAS page

Fringe Benefit Tax (FBT) may be applicable if fringe benefits are ‘paid to an employee. Lodgement of an FBT return will then be needed to the ATO by 21 May each year. For more information, see Appendix 1 or Fringe benefits tax (FBT) | Australian Taxation Office (ato.gov.au)

It is a requirement for congregations to submit an Annual Financial Return to Synod each year by 31 October. For the template to complete the return, please go to the Annual Financial Returns page.Please email completed returns to: fmsg@nswact.uca.org.au 

Uniting Financial Services 

UFS provides a broad range of transactional, investment and lending services to Uniting Church Congregations and entities. 

UFS is a Board of the Uniting Church Synod of NSW and the ACT whose role is to provide Treasury and Investment solutions, guidance and advice to the Synod and its entities. All Church entities should have their transactional services, investments and loans with UFS (under the Synod Compulsory Deposits and Compulsory Lending policies). 

With an 80-plus year track record, UFS provides an income to the Synod for ministry and mission work. UFS staff understand the specific needs of our Church partners, Ministers, employees, and volunteers who work tirelessly towards the Church’s mission and share the values of the Church community around integrity, respect, collaboration, and compassion. 

Minister Expense Facilities, Sale Proceeds Investments and Corporate Cards are just some of the products available through UFS. For information about the other products and services they can provide, please visit the website www.unitingfinancial.com.au  

How to contact UFS:

By phone: 1300 133 673 

Via email: contactus@unitingfinancial.com.au 

Via secure mail: Through Uniting Online messaging 

In person: Currently via appointment-only due to COVID