For many, churches and other places of worship are a refuge. They offer a sense of family and community and often provide valuable services and assistance to those in need. To provide stability, safety and consistency to their staff, volunteers and members, churches need clear policies and procedures in place that address issues relevant to their congregations.
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Each church has different needs, so the exact policies and procedures will vary by congregation. In general, though, a church policies and procedures manual will include sections to address how the church is governed, how finances are handled and policies to prevent harassment and abuse.
What Are Church Policies and Procedures?
A church policies and procedures manual is an extension of the bylaws of the church. Unlike bylaws, which tend to include formal or legal language, policies and procedures should be written in plain, understandable language.
A church policy manual should be approved by a committee that includes staff and volunteers of the church. Church staff and volunteers should be given a copy, and some congregations post their policies and procedures on their website for easy access by all congregation members.
Church Policies for Leaders
A church’s leadership structure depends on its denomination and the size of the congregation. Many have one or more ministers who lead the congregation spiritually and one or more governing bodies that lead the congregation regarding practical matters such as facility use, program management and financial matters.
Regardless of the structure, there should be clear policies and procedures in place for how the church decides on its leadership. Areas to address may include:
- How leaders are hired or recruited
- How a decision is made regarding who is hired or chosen for a leadership role
- What is expected of each leadership role
- How leaders are evaluated
- How paid staff members are compensated, including benefits
There should also be a clear path for congregation members to report any issues they have with a staff member or volunteer, such as sexual harassment. Any allegations should be taken seriously and reported to the appropriate authorities, and your policies should reflect that process. Staff members or volunteers who are interacting with children or youth should be carefully screened and trained in child abuse prevention.
Church Policies on Finance
Finances can be a contentious point for any congregation, so there should be clear procedures in place for how funds can be spent, when funds can be spent and who can authorize spending. Many congregations have a designated treasurer to handle accounting and reporting. If the congregation has a benevolent fund (a fund to help those in need), there should be a clear church policy for benevolence as well.
Depending on your church’s finances, you may also need to consider how to invest funds for the long term and what to do with larger gifts, such as bequests from an estate. There should also be procedures in place for auditing the church’s finances to prevent fraud.
Church Policies on Facilities
Many churches rent out their facilities to community groups, to individuals for weddings and for other purposes. A church policy for facility use should address issues such as:
- Smoking and alcohol use
- How much will be charged for rent
- How keys will be distributed and returned
- Cleaning up after events
For example, do groups need to leave things as they found them? Do they need to take out the trash and recycling? Be clear about who can rent space from your church and what fees will be charged if they don’t follow your guidelines for cleanliness and appropriate use of the space.
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