Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
One of the important documents every ministry should have on its shelf is a church employee policy manual.
Churches that have the resources to pay employees should strive to create environments that attract the best and the brightest.
These ministries that value their employees take the time to create policies, procedures, and compensation strategies that create a healthy work environment.
Part of that process is writing down those policies, procedures, and benefits so that employees can understand what is expected of them and what they can expect as an employee of the ministry. This is often referred to as a church employee policy manual or handbook.
The goal of this manual is to create a resource to communicate the benefits, processes, and expectations of employees.
8 Tips For Creating A Church Employee Policy Manual
1. Create A Manual Outline
Start by making a list of all of the topics you want to cover in the manual. Then create categories and subcategories similar to a table of contents.
This outline will be the bones of the handbook and your guide for writing it.
See the example outline below.
2. Round-Up What You Already Have
Chances are you have already done some of the work.
Gather all of your current policies, forms, and documents.
Review them, make sure they comply with local laws, and then create a format so all pages look the same.
3. Review With Leadership
Spend some time reviewing these documents with your leadership team.
You want to make sure that everyone who has management responsibility is on the same page. This will ensure consistency in practice.
For example, if one department is OK with employees being late for work, it may not sit well with other departments that enforce a policy for designated office hours.
4. Seek Legal Review
It is unfortunate that we live in a litigious society (even churches), but it is a reality that we need to navigate.
Take what you have put together and have a legal review.
There is definitely a price tag that comes with having an attorney review your manual. However, that small investment may save big time if you inadvertently create internal practices that don’t comply with the law.
You do this to minimize your legal risk. So, if you are going to go through the work of creating a manual, do it right so you don’t need to be concerned with being compliant with labor laws.
5. Review With Employees
Employees don’t know what they don’t know, so make sure you communicate with all staff.
The goal is to help them understand what benefits are available, what you can expect from them, and what they expect from you.
Use your employee orientation process to review the manual and have them sign off, acknowledging that they have read and understood the contents of the manual. Keep a copy in their employee file.
Use all staff meetings and employee forums to share updates, changes, or additions to the manual.
6. Update The Manual Once A Year
Commit to doing an annual review and updating the manual. This will do two things:
1. Remind you what is in writing.
2. Ensure the manual remains compliant with changing laws.
7. Employee Review Annually
Let’s face it: when we don’t think about something, we tend to forget about it. Spend an hour a year reviewing the manual and resetting expectations with employees.
This will reinforce your commitment to policies and procedures and help staff understand their responsibility in complying with what is written in the manual.
8. Commit to Compliance
There are not too many things worse than having a policy that is not enforced – when the occasional legal challenge comes your way.
If you have policies that you are not going to enforce, remove them from the handbook.
For instance, if you have a policy on tardiness that some employees comply with and others don’t, then you are setting the stage for a difficult legal challenge if tardiness happens to be one of the reasons you use to justify an employee termination.
What Should Be Included In A Church Employee Handbook
We have created a handbook outline to get you started. Keep in mind this is merely a guide to get you and your team thinking about the sections and structure you want to create in your manual.
Take each point and flush it out to reflect your church’s approach to each area. Discard the sections you don’t need and add those that may not be on this list.
Use this as a guide and again, seek legal counsel to make sure you don’t expose your church.
Church Employee Policy Manual Content Outline
Here is a list of possible sections for an employee manual to get you started:
- Contract Employees
- Regular Full-time
- Regular Part-time
3. Employee Benefits
a. Paid Time Off
- Jury Duty
- Sick Leave
- Voting Time
- Family and Medical Leave-of-Absence
- Non-Family Medical Leave-of-Absence
- Maternity Leave
- Military Leave-of-Absence
- Sabbatical Leave
- Worker’s Compensation
c. Health Insurance Benefits
- Dental Insurance
- Life Insurance
- Medical Insurance
- Employer Match
4. Employment Policies
- Background Checks
- Communications and Information
- Computer Software
- Code of Ethics and Conduct
- Contact With Media
- Direct Deposit
- Electronic Mail
- Employee Assistance and Counseling
- Employee and Leadership Competencies
- Equal Employment Opportunity
- Exit Interview
- Expense Reimbursement
- Immigration Law Compliance
- Internet Use
- Introductory Period
- Job Description
- Merit Increase Process
- Minister’s Housing Allowance
- Overtime Pay
- Pay Day
- Payroll Deductions
- Personal Information
- Personnel Records
- Progressive Discipline
- Performance Appraisals
- Rest Periods and Meal Breaks
- Social Media
- Social Security
- Time Reporting
- Work Week and Scheduling
5. Employee Conduct
- Conflict Resolution
- Dress Code Policy
- Grievance Resolutions
- Office Attire
- Performance Management
- Selling and Solicitation
- Sexual Misconduct
- Standards of Conduct
- Substance Abuse
- Tuition Reimbursement
- Violence in the Workplace Prevention
I know this may be an overwhelming list if you are just getting started, but keep in mind putting together a manual like this takes time.
Create a process, gather a team, and take one section at a time, write the content, and slowly piece it together.
You may find that it comes together much more quickly than you think.
If you are interested, many of the HR forms and policies included in our package are a good starting point for a handbook – and we continue to add to our library.
Finally, an employee manual can be a friend or a foe. Keep it up to date, particularly in this time of constant change, and make sure you have a legal consultation to review it.