Create Reversionary Clauses in Your Church Deed

Leaving a Legacy: Reversionary Clauses

Chris Crain (Adapted from Bob Dean, DBA)

Churches go through transitions and life cycles.  In his book, To Dream Again, Robert Dale describes a church life cycle as a bell curve (vision, growth, plateau, decline, death).

Churches cease to exist every year for a variety of reasons. A church building, for example, is at risk when the congregation becomes very small. A group of new members could join and quickly become the majority. The new majority could vote to change the church to another denomination or sell the building. Unfortunately, some former Baptist church buildings, situated in neighborhoods that need churches, are now restaurants or retail stores.

Churches can take steps to make sure that the work of Christ continues even if their congregation does not. One important step is including a reversionary clause in your church’s deed.

What is a reversionary clause? It is the provision in a deed transfer where the property transferred is reverted to the grantor if a deed condition becomes violated. Simply stated, the reversionary clause states that if the church ceases to be a church, then the church building reverts to the local Baptist association so that a Gospel witness can continue in the community.

Sample Reversionary Clause: In the event (Church Name) ceases to be a cooperating church with St. Clair Baptist Association, Inc. (SCBA), as defined by the by-laws of SCBA, as may be hereinafter amended, then title to the Property shall automatically revert to and become revested in SCBA without the necessity of any further action on the part of SCBA.

Why is the requirement that the church be a cooperating church in SCBA? Would it be enough only to require that it be a Baptist church? Experience has taught us that a requirement that it be a “Baptist church” leaves a legal loophole that churches of other denominations to take the building even though they know it violates the spirit of the reversionary clause.

Would placing a reversionary clause in the bylaws of the church work? Bylaws can be amended by a congregation. A new majority in the church can amend the bylaws and remove the reversionary clause.

What is the purpose of the reversionary clause? When a church believes that there will continue to be a need for a church to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and to ministry to this community even if the current congregation ceases to exist. They are choosing to leave a legacy that makes it possible for a church with the Baptist faith to continue to preach the gospel and minister to the community.