Tackling policies and procedures aren't exactly tasks people are excited to handle. However, having documented and up-to-date policies and procedures can save a church time, money, and even legal issues.

What happens way too often is a committee approves a set of policies, then those documents are filed away somewhere never to be seen again. The only time anyone cares is if an issue arises that’s connected to one of those policies.

Instead of letting these documents become dust collectors, it’s best to allocate time throughout the year to review and update each one.

Here’s how to get started:

Step No. 1: Schedule reviews

How many policies does your church have at this time? While there could be some merit in reviewing all policies at once to see if there are any conflicts, it’s not usually necessary. If the choice is between reviewing all policies at some point during the year (one by one) or not at all, that’s an easy decision.

Let’s say you have 20 policies as a church. Schedule time to review two per month and give yourself November and December off (you’ll be busy with Christmas preparations during those months anyway). Reviewing two policies per month shouldn’t take much time.

Step No. 2: Decide how to handle reviews

  • Will the Executive Pastor or Church Business Administrator be solely responsible for reviewing all policies?
  • If a policy is departmental or ministry-area specific, will the leader of that area review it first and then send it up for the Executive Pastor or another senior leader to review?
  • Do you have committees of elders or others who should play a role in these reviews?

Determine how to proceed, keeping reviews as simple as possible while still conducting a through process.

Step No. 3: Start reviewing

Whoever is the initial reviewer for a policy should consider the following elements:

  • How has our church changed since the last time this policy was updated? Do any of those changes impact how we should handle what’s covered within this policy?
  • Have any laws or regulations changed that we need to reflect within this policy?
  • Is this policy still necessary?
  • Does this policy conflict with any other policies?
  • What questions have we received about this policy from staff, volunteers, or attendees that we need to clarify in the updated version?

Update the document based on these and any other applicable factors. Next, ask a new staff member or new volunteer to read the policy document and let you know if anything is unclear. Also, ask a long-time staff member and an experienced volunteer to review it as well.

Getting input from both ends of that spectrum can provide you with valuable insights regarding what parts of the policy need clarification. Update the document as needed based on their feedback. Finally, send the document up to the next level of review.

Step No. 4: Approve the updated policy

Take the updated policy through the appropriate final review and approval process. Consider whether you need legal counsel to review the updated policy and proceed with that as necessary.

Step No. 5: Educate and Enforce

An updated policy doesn’t do much good if no one impacted by it knows it exists. Once an updated policy receives approval, discuss it during a staff meeting, address the changes with volunteers who’re affected, and post in the appropriate location on your church network or even the church website (if applicable).

If people aren’t following the updated policy, remind them of their responsibilities and make sure they understand this policy exists to protect them, people who attend the church, and the church’s reputation. For example, ignoring a policy that states each childcare room must have at least two vetted adults in it at all times could present the opportunity for someone to hurt a child.

While updating policy and procedure documentation isn’t something we tend to associate with ministry, this process can impact your church’s effectiveness and reputation. It’s critical to keep these documents current and to ensure people follow them consistently.