Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Ethical behavior in business seems to have become an option rather than an assumption, as demonstrated by all too familiar news headlines.
Many organizations create code of ethics and conduct statements 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.
Who Creates a Code of Ethics and Conduct Statement?
Code-of-ethics and conduct statements are typically developed at the board or leadership level.
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 include 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 the organization’s expectations for behaviors and decision-making.
Organizations define desired behaviors and use driving principles to guide decision-making.
The observed actions of church leaders reflect the organizations’ desired behaviors and values.
And, what employees observe leaders doing is what they learn to be acceptable.
For instance, if a church leader participates in the gossip of other members, employees may feel like that is acceptable behavior and do the same.
Leadership needs to walk the talk to reinforce these behavior expectations.
Depending on the industry, code-of-ethics and conduct statements can be very short or many pages long.
The more an industry is regulated (i.e., 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 Statement
1. Core Values
As defined in the Mission, Vision, and Values Statement, the Core Values will be the driving behaviors for how the ministry operates and interacts with members, volunteers, and employees.
Food for thought: Can all employees and volunteers recite the mission, vision, and values statement?
2. Comply with Legal Requirements
Nonprofit organizations are subject to, and must comply with, numerous regulations in order to maintain their 501(c)(3) status.
The church’s day-to-day operations will comply with all governing laws and regulations by writing policies and procedures to ensure legal compliance.
For instance, churches need to be aware of and adhere to Music Copyright Laws.
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 must always act in the church’s best interest.
This means a duty of loyalty 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 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 confidential information about church members and volunteers.
Food for thought: Do you discuss personal issues (gossip) about members with others who do not need to know?
5. 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?
6. Personal Use of Ministry Resources
Church resources are purchased with the sacrificial donations of its members and are to be used for the sole purpose of achieving the church’s mission.
Employees and volunteers should refrain from using ministry facilities, equipment, machinery, or technology, for personal use at any time or for any reason.
Food for thought: Do volunteers or employees borrow church vehicles for personal use?
7. 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?
8. Streamlined Processes
Church staff should continually look for ways to improve operational processes and systems that affect the church experience for members, volunteers, and employees.
Food for thought: Do you take the time to consider how internal processes impact your key customers – members, volunteers, and employees?
9. Proactive Communication
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 important?
10. 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 judgment, and common sense when dealing with others and making decisions.
Customize This for Your Church
These are just some examples of things that could be written in a church code-of-ethics and conduct statement.
Take the time to think through those desired behaviors and construct a Code of Ethics and Conduct statement specific to your church.
Employees who demonstrate desired behaviors should be acknowledged, and those 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.
Why Does This Matter?
An organization’s reputation 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.
What standards of behavior does your church commit to?
If you are a member, you can access an editable copy of a code of ethics document by logging in here.
If you are not a member but would like to access an editable code of ethics document, click here.