Church Policies that Matter. No more of, “If my memory serves me right…”

Memories often drop out of service or differ with that of the longest serving board member or the “church mother” who has worked in the office over 28 years. You better get this right for the sake of unity and consistency of practice.

That means no more of the “ma-and-pa church” no matter what your size. It means official adoption by the main oversight board—you do have just one! – and official acceptance of the printed minutes, and placement in a known policy book.

This is not your grandmother’s church where it’s not that important how you educate or do retreats or spend money or anyone can host the kids’ overnighter, or you can joke about firing someone.

So, let’s start by saying what some of the policies are, ones that should be kept in the master file and the official policy manual. Could be boring but very important!

Aware of needs,
Knute, with Jeff and Jim

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What are some major policies a church should have on file?

Jeff Bogue

  • Child protection policy, building use policy, membership policy, staff policies, any areas of insurance or legalities.
  • Marriage policy (what weddings will you do and not do).

Jim Brown

  • A child-protection and background check procedure.
  • An elder term and selection process.
  • A pastoral search and selection policy.
  • Marriage and wedding procedures.
  • A rental agreement policy.
  • A gender policy.

Knute Larson

  • For sure, a number of them in the areas of financial and moral. Financial: how money is handled, spent, checks or credit cards used, spending over budget, transferring to another fund, personal reimbursements.

Moral: counseling issues, meeting without someone else there, comments to others, who to file a complaint with and why with people who will listen, what to do with a complaint, what the significant “boundaries” are for staff and volunteers representing the church.

  • Then we must also have adopted before any request, who can be married at the church or by the pastors, what your position is on divorce and remarriage, who can become official members, what the requirements are to join the church.
  • Legal issues can arise if someone thinks they were singled out to be excluded or accused and there was no policy guiding the decision.
  • It seems important to note that we do not make policies for the “so honest and upright” people who are serving, as one board member described them to me, but for the ones who succeed them 😊. Truly.

Why is this so important?

Jeff Bogue

  • Protection: The strongest legal protection you have is what you have written down and what your board has officially approved.
  • Clarity: This brings clarity for your staff and church leaders as they interact with people.

Jim Brown

  • You must have these in place for legal protection and liability issues.
  • It allows for consistent across-the-board interaction among the staff and easily printed responses for anyone who asks.
  • It’s the wise thing to do as you lead your church.
  • Communication is critical in time of crisis.

 Knute Larson

  • So people know the policy is not directed to them or about them. It’s been on the books. If someone or a couple asked to be married at the church and you say, “Well, let us think about that,” a negative answer becomes personal. No, it’s a strong policy that you cannot break.
  • Because standard operating procedures and policies on file and on paper trump memories. And churches must do things correctly and above criticism if possible.

Who is responsible to make policies and know which ones are there?

 Jeff Bogue

  • The boss, the staff, the leaders or overseers.
  • Ultimately, all the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the senior pastor, then the staff who have been assigned to develop the policies, and finally the oversight board (their input, agreement, and adoption of the policies).

Jim Brown

  • Leadership team and senior pastor must lead the way in putting these policies in place.
  • All paid staff must know where to locate the policies so they can serve their volunteer teams!

Knute Larson

  • The board of oversight, whatever you call it, should be single in number and should have as one of its duties, one side of the “soccer field approach” to the board, to make policies and guidelines used throughout the church. And there should only be one such policy-making board, of which the lead pastor is a voting member.
  • Certainly, all staff should also know which policies and guidelines are there.
  • Go ahead and say that “the Bible is our policy book,” but you know this will not tell your church who can handle money or what avoiding the appearance of evil means in our culture.
  • Surely the pastor is responsible for all this procedure, though others are clearly involved.
  • We would be glad to send some sample policies other churches have embraced.

Pastorpedia is a resource provided to you by Momentum Ministry Partners. Please contact us at info@buildmomentum.org or 574.267.6622 if we may be of any help to you or your ministry!

Jeff Bogue, Lead Pastor of Grace Church, and also, President of Momentum Ministry Partners; Jim Brown, Lead Pastor of Grace Community Church in Goshen, Indiana; and Knute Larson, a coach of pastors, who previously led The Chapel in Akron for 26 years. Pastorpedia is brought to you by Momentum Ministry Partners. Visit our website for more resources and to learn more about how we aim to partner with the local church.

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