What’s your policy?

Caution - HandThe last thing any pastor wants to have happen is to have a situation where an person or representative of an organization walks into the church and asks for a service or use of the facility in a manner inconsistent with our beliefs and practice. The typical response to such a situation is likely to be, “I am sorry, that is against our policy”. The next, very predictable, statement is, “Can I see a copy of your written policy?”

My wife and I came into our current church as ‘interim’ pastors in 2007. One of the first items of business was to assess the status of the church from several different angles and one of those was to examine the church policies in place. To our surprise we found that there were NO written church policies. In the secular climate at the time we knew, and were urged to by our District and Zone leadership, to put known church policy documents and statements down on paper, discuss them, refine them and have the church board approve them.

Having policies is a great thing. It takes pressure off the pastoral leadership, places it back where it belongs with the church board and church as a whole, keeps things consistent for all involved and enables the church to focus on other important matters. But having policies and not writing them down and approving them is inexcusable and a recipe for disaster! This is perhaps especially crucial for the small church where a single incident may literally destroy the fellowship.

Here are some of things you might want to consider for policies for your church:

  • Sexual Abuse Prevention Policy
  • Acceptable Church Use Policy
  • Wedding Policy

Some of the specifics we include in our own policies are a requirement for ALL people working with children (including pastoral staff) to go through Abuse Prevention training, as well as having a background check. Two adults and/or open doors are required in childcare situations. Smoking is prohibited in the church, and any activity contrary to the letter and spirit of the beliefs and practices of the church is also prohibited. The Church Board retains final authority to approve outside events in the facility. Premarital counseling is required of anyone wishing to be married in the church.

What to do if you don’t know where to start? First, pick a subject area and simply start writing. Second, consult with other churches in your area or your denomination and ask them for copies of their statements. Third, consult with your church insurance agency for ideas and for training resources.  Insurance agencies often offer training videos and curriculum to their clients free of charge.

If you are currently pastoring in a small church, please consider what a single lawsuit or legal action can do to your ministry and put some written and approved policies in place before you need them! In this case, a little foresight can go a long way.

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”     

Matthew 10:16 (NIV)

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