7 Topics You Should Include in Your Church Staff’s Employee Handbook


Last week, we mentioned the importance of having an Employee Handbook for your church or organization. An Employee Handbook is a great way to organize and bring clarity to your church’s culture and policies. It's also a key step in successfully on-boarding your new church staff members.  

It can feel like a daunting task to write or update this essential document, so here are seven ideas on topics to include in your church’s employee handbook.

1. Overview: The first section of the Employee Handbook should include as much information about the organization as possible, including the church’s story, vision and values. Tell the church’s story so that the staff can retell it with accuracy and passion.

2. Staff Benefits: This includes but is not limited to health and dental insurance, retirement plans, education assistance, holidays, ministry expense accounts, FMLA, sick hours, maternity or paternity leave, vacation, and sabbatical expectations. Your church should have policies for each of those things. If you don't, it's time to create policies for your church staff. 

3. Work expectations: What does a typical work week look like? When are pastors expected to be on campus and when do they have the freedom to work out in the community at coffee shops? How are Job Descriptions written and Job Reviews conducted? Are flexible working hours possible? What about Emergency Closings & Proceedings? The work expectations section of the Employee Handbook should answer each of these questions.

4. Networking and Social Media: Does your church have a policy on Social Media? If not, you may want to consider making one. Is it appropriate to post pictures of kids or teens on your church'sFacebook page? What about being Facebook friends with students through a Youth Pastor’s personal account? Is there an expectation of accountability and/or sharing of passwords? In previous years, there was no need for thinking through Social Media policies because there was no such thing! Today, however, it’s important for pastors and churches to be involved in Social Media. Each church staff must thoughtfully determine their own.

5. Behavioral Expectations: Behavioral expectations of employees, pastoral accountability, and resolving disagreements are just a few areas that should be addressed in the Employee Handbook. How are employees expected to dress? Who makes the call on whether one is dressed modestly or not? What is the church's stance on alcohol and substance use? What steps will be taken if there are suspicions of misconduct?

6. Compensation: Do employees get paid on the last day of the month or the first day of the month? Address the frequency (once a month or bi-monthly) and manner (direct deposit or live check) of pay. Also address the person that should be notified should there be an unexpected problem with the pay. Set compensation expectations in writing upfront so that the employee isn't worried or nervous about receiving their paycheck and providing for their family. 

7. Hiring and Firing: What is hiring process? What is the firing process? No one wants to address how employees will be terminated but having policies and procedures established before hand will protect both the church and it’s employees. The Handbook should list the steps your church will take in order to address or remedy problems areas or employees and should conclude with a statement regarding employment at your church being “at will.” 

I understand that, for some personalities, the idea of an Employee Handbook feels rigid and corporate. Church is about relationships and not rules, right? Jesus’ disciples never had a handbook, why should we? I get it. However, no matter how laid back you are as a church, there are rules which govern your behavior – whether they are written or not. Why not spend time writing down the cultural expectations so that your entire staff is all on the same page? This is particularly helpful if you're church is in a high growth period, causing your church staff to grow rapidly.

Also, as the staff grows and you begin to answer the same question multiple times, the rigidity will wear off and you will feel compelled to create a document that is easy for all employees to access and get their questions answered, without having to come to you.

For those personalities who love order and compliance, writing an Employee Handbook will most likely be a joy! These employees love “knowing the rules” and may even highlight sections of the Employee Handbook they find most helpful.

What am I missing? Are there any topics you have in your church staff's employee handbook that you don't see here?