Many organizations create code-of-ethics and conduct statements as a way to communicate established boundaries and set expectations for employee behaviors. This document also serves as a tool to help guide decision making and actions that demonstrate self regulation.
Code-of-ethics and conduct statements are typically developed at the board or leadership level and filtered throughout the organization through training and the new employee orientation process.
Church employees are not exempt from unethical behaviors and can also benefit from having a written guide for ethical conduct in the workplace.
Common agreed to values and principles outlined in the statement are things like conflict-of-interest, confidentiality, respectfulness of others, good stewardship, legal compliance, etc.
Providing a written code-of-ethics and conduct document, that employees sign when hired, is the first step in helping employees understand decision making and behavior expectations.
“The most important persuasion tool you have in your entire arsenal is integrity.”
Organizations define desired behaviors and use driving principles to guide decision making. The actions of church leaders reflect the organizations’ desired behaviors and values and what employees observe leaders doing is what they learn to be acceptable. Leadership needs to walk-the-talk to reinforce these behaviors.
Depending on the industry, code-of-ethics and conduct statements can be very short or many pages long. The more an industry is regulated (ie; financial services) the more in-depth the statements become. The key is to develop a document that reflects the desired integrity of the organization, in a format that employees can interpret and understand.
Example Code-of-Ethics and Conduct
Comply With Legal Requirements
The day-to-day operations of the church will comply with all governing laws and regulations by writing policies and procedures to ensure legal compliance. Annual audits will be performed to ensure consistency in practice and compliance with regulations.
Food for thought: Are there questionable internal practices that you worry others will uncover and challenge?
Church leaders and employees have a duty to act in the best interest of the church at all times. What this means is there is a duty-of-loyalty that supersedes anything that could result in personal gain by avoiding conflict-of-interests, or anything that may appear to be a conflict.
Food for thought: Do you conduct church business with vendors you have a personal financial interest in?
Church employees will maintain the highest standard of confidentiality and will share sensitive information only with those who have a need to know. This includes information about the internal operations of the church as well as information about church members and volunteers.
Food for thought: Do you discuss personal issues (gossip) about members with others who have no need to know?
Be a Good Steward of God’s Resources
God supplies church resources – people, time and money. Church leaders and employees should be reminded to be good stewards of those resources.
Food for thought: Do you spend church resources only on those things that support its Mission?
Treat Everyone with Dignity and Respect
There should be no respecter of persons in the body of Christ and employees should be respectful and treat everyone the same – regardless of rank or socioeconomic position.
Food for thought: Do the big givers in your church get preferential treatment?
Church staff should continually be looking for ways to improve operational processes and systems that affect the church experience for volunteers, visitors, congregants and employees.
Food for thought: Do you take the time to consider how internal processes impact your key customers – members, volunteers and employees?
Church leaders and employees should take measures to proactively communicate any information that would benefit others and improve the church or work experience.
Food for thought: Do you hoard information that should be shared with others because it makes you feel empowered?
Compliance with Policy
Church employees will comply with all policies as set forth by the ministry.
Food for thought: Do all employees comply with all church policies?
This code is a basic guide for how the church will conduct its business. Employees are expected to use wisdom, good judgement and common sense when dealing with others and making decisions.
These are just some examples of things that could be written in a church code-of-ethics and conduct statement. Employees that demonstrate desired behaviors should be acknowledged and employees who do not should be confronted and corrected.
Setting desired behavior expectations, and holding employees accountable, is the first step in creating a church culture that fosters high standards of ethical conduct.
The reputation of an organization is built on the consistency of ethical behaviors demonstrated by its leaders and employees. For a church, this reputation is what attracts and retains members, volunteers and employees.
To access and editable code of ethics document click here.
photo by: tonydc
Article originally posted January, 2012, updated November 2014.