Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Church boards are the governing body that ensures the church operates with integrity while pursuing its mission.
The primary role of a church board is governance.
Responsible Governance. The importance of an active, informed governing body cannot be overemphasized. Left unchecked, even minor board neglect can eventually intrude upon the accountability and effectiveness of the ministry. In contrast, the active, informed board will hold to the mission, protect the integrity of ministry objectives, and ensure consistent adherence to board policies.ECFA Standard 2
Effective church boards manage with policies that define what and how a board operates within the scope of its Bylaws.
These board policies help ensure a well-functioning and effective operation of the church.
Why Your Church Needs A Board Policy Manual
A Policy Manual is the documentation of a commitment to practice. The development of policies takes time and effort but serves the purpose of memorializing operational intentions.
What Should You Include In Board Policy Manual?
1. Policy Manual Introduction
Begin the policy manual with an introduction. This section of the manual is written for new board members to help get them up to speed on the contents and intention of the document.
This portion of the manual will explain why the manual exists, what the manual is (as well as is not), how the document will be maintained and who is responsible for each section of the manual.
For instance, the board manual exists to serve as a guiding resource for board governance. This document will be maintained by the board secretary. Board member A will be responsible for section II, board member B will be responsible for section III and IV, etc.
2. Mission, Vision, and Values
The next section of the manual will define the church’s mission, vision, and values.
This includes organizational priorities and goals for the next 12 months or longer.
These goals are submitted by the senior pastor and church leadership. This section is what the pastor is evaluated on.
For instance, the mission, vision, and values are: ABC Community Church exists to Know, Love, and Serve God. The Vision of the church is to be a biblically functional community of believers so Christ’s redemptive purposes can be accomplished in the world. Our guiding principles are integrity, excellence, Biblical perspective, compassion, accountability, and teamwork.
20XX key objectives/goals:
- Increase volunteer involvement by 10%;
- Establish monthly outreach to the community;
- Develop discipleship program for young adults (18-25);
- Develop a plan for expansion of online reach.
3. Board Structure and Process
This section will include the board member’s job description. It also defines the board size, qualification for membership, term, board election/selection process, and rules for removal.
Also included are descriptions and the number of advisory, task force, and board committees.
This includes the scope of responsibilities, how to select members, expectations of members, and how these committees interact with church employees.
For instance, ABC church will maintain 5 church board members. Members will serve a term of 3 years and will be screened through a selection process designated by the board. Board subcommittees will be assigned by the board and provide clear expectations for their functioning role.
4. Pastor/Board Relationship
The board and Senior Pastor have a special relationship. The governing board is there to support the pastor and provide the necessary resources to fulfill the church mission.
This section describes:
- Expectations for the senior pastor – for instance, the senior pastor will fulfill his job description and facilitate the fulfillment of annual church goals.
- How the board will communicate with the senior pastor – The board will communicate to senior pastor through ongoing meetings, phone calls and email communications.
- The process for evaluating the senior pastor – The senior pastor will be evaluated annualy by conducting a self assessment and through the formal evaluation set forth by the board.
- Expectations for the employment and treatment of church employees – Church employees are a valuable asset. Employees will be treated fairly and a compensation strategy will determine fair pay practices.
- Succession plan for senior pastor – A succession plan with work to identify and develop church leadership and have a plan in place in the event of an unexpected departure of the senior pastor.
5. Senior Pastor Decision Making Authority
Unnecessary bureaucracy slows progress. This section defines the decision-making authority of the Senior Pastor and Church leadership.
This includes parameters for budgeting, spending, and church programs.
These guidelines are intended to provide the Senior Pastor and the leadership team the freedom to make decisions within the parameters of the guidance.
6. New Board Member Orientation Process
New board members require proper training so that they can fulfill their board responsibilities.
These newly elected members benefit by going through proper board orientation and board training.
Part of this orientation process defines board expectations and the time commitment to fulfill board obligations.
For instance, new board members need to understand that there are required monthly board meetings and other committee meetings that may take as much as 10 hours a month of their time.
7. Auditing Practices
Church audits help to ensure integrity in church operations and safeguard against embezzlement.
This section of the manual defines how often audits will be initiated, the scope of audits, and the defined process for creating best practices in all areas of financial transactions.
8. Code of Ethics and Conduct
Board members need to be loyal to the mission of the church and not use their authority for private gain.
This is achieved by a Code of Ethics and Conduct Policy that defines expectations for board member behaviors in the areas of:
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 are 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 interest 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?
Board members 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 are required to be good stewards of church resources.
This is done by exercising good time management skills, creating an annual operating budget, and holding leadership accountable for adhering to spending guidelines.
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 board members 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 leaders 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. Wisdom, good judgment, and common sense when dealing with others and making decisions.
9. Board Meeting Expectations
Board meetings are imperative for the successful completion of board responsibilities. These governing members are expected to:
- Show up for meetings;
- Exercise independent judgment;
- Ask clarification questions;
- Adopt meeting control procedures;
- Document all board actions;
- Maintain board meeting minutes.
10. Board Self Evaluation
High-functioning boards have a process in place to self-manage. Self-management is accomplished through a self-evaluation process that ensures the board is fulfilling its obligation.
Church Boards Have A Special Role
Governing boards are the backbone of an effective church and provide the guidance and resources to help ministries fulfill their mission.
Create a board policy manual to document how the board functions and its intent to provide a church with the needed support to fulfill its mission. This guiding document will help to ensure your church has the support and resources to do what God has called it to do!
Does your board have a policy manual?
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