When it comes to leading a church, we don't immediately think of employee handbooks, meeting agendas or policy and procedure documentation. That makes sense — after all, we gather as congregations to grow in our faith and to share it with others.

However, since we do have staff members and resources to steward, we need to pay careful attention to how we do things. That's where documentation and standard processes come into play.

If you're wondering why you should spend time developing and documenting policies and procedures, here are a few benefits of going through that effort:

1. Provide clarity

  • What day each week do full-time staff members have off since they work on Sundays?
  • Do we rent out the church facilities to members, nonmembers or various groups?
  • Do we offer marriage counseling and, if so, how does a couple sign up?
  • How do staff members get approval to purchase items they need for their work?

These questions and many more should be addressed within the church's policies and procedures. Instead of having to answer these scenarios as they come up (and potentially having different people provide different answers), documented policies and procedures answer those questions in advance.

2. Offer protection

Childcare, background checks, employee hiring/firing and financial delegation of authority are a few processes that can create a great deal of harm to individuals and possibly legal trouble for the church if not handled properly. By agreeing on how to handle these situations ahead of time, documenting the procedure and training those who are responsible for carrying out these policies, you're protecting your church (and those who attend it).

3. Saves time

While the initial time spent creating these documents is significant, this effort will save you time in the long run. Instead of answering many of the same questions with each new employee, you have them read the employee handbook first (and then offer to answer their questions as needed).

The person who fields incoming calls or emails can refer to this documentation when answering requests for weddings, counseling, benevolence, facility usage and more.

Getting started

If you don’t have these documents in place (or if they could use an update), here's how to get started:

  • Step 1: Review what documentation you do have, and identify what to update and whether you need to develop any additional documentation.
  • Step 2: Research what other churches have done for their documentation either online or by contacting counterparts at other churches and asking for examples.
  • Step 3: Assign a staff member to draft or update each policy or procedure. Unless you're able to hire a contractor to do this for you, spreading the workload out to staff members who have expertise in a certain process can help you get the job done in a reasonable time frame.
  • Step 4: Consider having your church's legal counsel review the documents to ensure you're following any applicable laws or regulations.
  • Step 5: Distribute the documentation to staff members and review significant changes in the next staff meeting.
  • Step 6: Develop a schedule to review and update each policy or procedure (at least annually).

While documenting policies and procedures doesn't feel like ministry, this effort truly does support the ministry of your church.