Church Employee Handbook

If you're wondering if putting together a Church Employee Handbook is a good idea I can tell you from personal experience that it paid big dividends for me. A number of years ago I volunteered as the Personnel Director for our local church. Upon arriving into the position one of my very first questions was how do I know what employee policies or rules are in place. To my surprise there were no written employee policies or rules. As someone that has been in a leadership position for close to forty years I knew that this was a formula for disaster.

Just some of the initial questions I had to figure out before even beginning the process of putting together a church employee handbook were things like, vacation days, paid holidays, what constituted a full time employee, who was eligible for vacation or sick time, who was eligible for health insurance, how did we manage our payroll, how did we determine raises, how did we manage our hiring practices, etc. As you can quickly see by just a few of the normal day to day process it was critical that we establish how we would manage these elements of an employee handbook.

I can hear you saying to yourself that is unbelievable in a church setting!

Although everyone within a church environment believes that no one would ever present a law suit for wrongful treatment of some kind, don't kid yourself. If your church has paid employee's you better produce a church employee handbook to protect it! Just as a quick example we had a Nursery Worker that was observed lying down and potentially sleeping on the job! I can hear you saying to yourself that is unbelievable in a church setting! Guess what? Anytime you have employees you have the potential for something going wrong. Thankfully, with help I had developed a progressive discipline policy that covered this as grounds for immediate termination.

Provided we treated everyone the same going forward having a progressive discipline policy built into our church employee handbook made it crystal clear what actions we would take based on the seriousness of the behavior. It also would make it easy for anyone coming into the voluntary position as to how behavioral issued would be handled. Now sleeping on the church premises as an employee is unacceptable, however, as a church member during services it may be quite common! Just kidding! No offense intended to any pastors reading this.

In a church environment often we rely too heavily on the idea that people will act appropriately.

As we touched on earlier what specifically defines a part time worker from a full time employee? Now for the most part state law will dictate this for you. However, as we think about the benefits, if any, that your church might offer it will come into play. Of course every benefit will cost money; therefore, everything from offering vacation/sick pay to holidays needs to be considered. So depending on your situation you may want to consider defining who receives benefits by position, rather than by full time or part time. Make sure that this is permissible in your state prior to adding it into your church employee handbook.

Another topic would be to make sure that you cover in your church employee handbook all the required elements especially those that pertain to Equal Employment Opportunity. Again, check with the current state and federal law, but at the time of this writing our church required certain positions to be of the same religious belief our church. So as an example, we required our child care attendants to be under that same belief; however, our janitorial person did not require it. Because we were a religious organization under the law we were protected from discrimination law suits. Again, check the state and federal laws prior to adding this to your employment handbook.

In a church environment often we rely too heavily on the idea that people will act appropriately. As a general rule I truly believe that is correct; however, it is important to have employee policies and rules that you are guided by so that everyone plays by those rules. Having no rules almost always sets yourselves up for people doing what they feel is right. As we know, what is right to one individual is not always right to someone else. That includes Pastors also. Now I am not saying that they would be doing something illegal by any stretch, but general things like deciding when someone deserves a raise. Treating everyone equal protects everyone, especially the church body!

So as you put your church employee handbook together you may want to consider a great inexpensive resource to assist you in doing so. For around $35 you can use a great employee handbook software program to assist you. Although I have not used this software personally I do believe it will be helpful if you do not have extensive experience in producing an employee handbook.

Good Luck and May God Bless You!

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