General CBF

Who needs an employee guidebook anyway?

The following post is from Allison Tennyson, CBF human resources director.

The truth is we all do, but I’ve heard the comments on numerous occasions:

* Our church doesn’t need a guidebook because we trust our ministers.
* We’re a church so we don’t need an employee guidebook.
* Our ministers are serving God.  They’re not your “typical” employees who would need something like a guidebook.

However, we all know that the day to day can bring its own challenges.  People have different opinions and bring their own thoughts and needs to the scenarios we encounter as we serve.  So what do we do when conflicts arise over work expectations, time out of the office, and the like?  And who determines what the correct expectation of the church is for its ministers?

I have come to understand not just the need for, but the good in having appropriate policies and procedures, in having an employee guidebook.  The help that comes from putting these items on paper is significant and can be invaluable in preventing unnecessary conflict which can come from differing expectations.

For example, what is your expectation of the ministers on your church staff?  Does the church expect the ministers to be at the church where people know where they are and are able to reach them there?  Does the church expect its ministers to be in the community reaching out to people, greeting members and ministering in that manner?  Does the church expect a mix of both?  If so, what ballpark percentage is seen as adequate?  As you can see, these expectations can vary significantly from church to church and person to person.  If the expectations are indicated in writing; however, there can be easy understanding as to the church’s intention for how ministry is done and what is expected of its staff.

Churches have constitutions and by-laws that are set to establish how the church functions and what the expectations of the church should be.  An employee guidebook acts in the same manner for the staff of the church.

It can be hard for a local church that does not have written policies to even start the process.  After all, these are people answering God’s call to serve and it can be perceived as insulting if people feel the implementation of a guidebook is an indication of a lack of trust.

Let me pose it in a different manner though.  The guidebook actually exists to help provide a framework through which the ministry can flow and be protected.

* Written guidelines allow everyone the opportunity to understand and agree to a standard set of expectations.
* Written guidelines ensure that the ministry remains compliant with any applicable laws.
* Written guidelines allow the ministry to ensure that all its staff members are treated equitably.

An employee guidebook allows us to establish common ground up front so we can focus our attention where we all really want it to be.

If your church has questions about creating or implementing an employee guidebook, please contact Allison Tennyson at

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