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.

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

Key Activities

Activities for the current quarter: Q4 2021 (October to December)

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

Essential tasks and reporting: 

 

Suggested activities: 

Essential tasks and reporting: 

Suggested activities:

Congregation Guide

People

This 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. If you are unsure if you are meeting your obligations, please contact the Synod Payroll Bureau Services through payroll@nswact.uca.org.au.

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 or email Synod Payroll Bureau Services payroll@nswact.uca.org.au 

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. 

It is imperative that Ministers and employees are receiving their correct entitlements. This is a complex area with many different awards and there can be severe consequences if the incorrect award is used. If you need assistance, email people@nswact.uca.org.au.

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 and forms, please go to: https://nswact.uca.org.au/shared-resources/industrial-relations-employment/engaging-volunteers/ 

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 your congregation has any employees, you are required to take out Workers Compensation Insurance to protect them. This is not applicable to Ministers in Placement as they are covered through the Ministers Support Fund. For further details, and how to apply for a policy for an employee, please go to: https://nswact.uca.org.au/shared-resources/work-health-safety-services/workers-compensation-policies-forms/ 

The Ministry Handbook has been produced to assist both Ministers and those overseeing their placement. This is an in-depth guide on all aspects associated with a minister’s placement, including leave entitlements, stipend, allowances, housing, terms of placement and a number of other matters. Download the Ministry Handbook here:   https://nswact.uca.org.au/about-us/secretariat/ministry-handbook/ 

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 

Have you reviewed your Covid-19 plan to ensure that it is up to date? Please refer to the Covid Safe Road Map for the latest guidance notes and information. Places of worship need to have a Covid-19 Safety Plan in place, and ensure that it’s followed. For up-to-date Guidance Notes on restrictions, what to do if you have a case onsite, and details for those with hall users and other activities, see the Covid-19 Guidance for Churches.

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 stewardship (or beneficial use) of the property to enable them to worship, witness and serve in their local community. With the beneficial stewardship of 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 go to: https://nswact.uca.org.au/shared-resources/property/ 

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: https://nswact.uca.org.au/media/9837/2021-annual-property-maintenence-checklist-revisedjan-2021.pdf 

Each year, every Congregation and Church entity will receive the Annual Insurance Questionnaire for completion and return to Synod. It is mandatory for this to be completed and it is imperative that it is completed accurately to ensure you receive the correct cover of insurance. The questionnaire is sent out early in the second half of the year (July/August) for 31 October 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 go to: https://nswact.uca.org.au/shared-resources/insurance/ 

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/ 

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, ensure  and provide confidence that resources or service reach legitimate beneficiaries, and seek to protect vulnerable people overseas. Working with a partner organisation which is set up to meet these requirements is a good way to manage this issue. 

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). 

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 all Congregations to submit an Annual Financial Return to Synod each year. An un-audited copy is due 31st August and an audited copy is due 31st October. For the template to complete the return, please go to: https://nswact.uca.org.au/shared-resources/finance/annual-financial-returns-afr/ Completed returns are to be emailed to: fmsg@nswact.uca.org.au  

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