In the church world, “getting it done” is highly valued. Not only is Sunday coming, but there are always things to do, people to meet with and ministry opportunities. When a church experiences rapid growth, hiring church staff is imperative. One step is often missed – what are you hiring them into, and how do they know the rules of the church?
Does every church need an employee handbook? I’ll answer this question first, and the answer is “no.” While it is a great idea to have one for the first employee, the reality is if you are a bi-vocational pastor who is starting a church or the only employee of the church, creating an employee handbook is probably not a wise use of time. So, when do I need to create an employee handbook? Well, this answer may surprise you. It’s not when you hire your first employee, or your second – I think the base number is three staff members.
Why three is the magic number: Three staff members means that you, as the pastor or church leader, cannot directly watch over everything that is being done. Also, at that point, the likelihood is great that your staff will grow even more.
Why do you need an employee handbook? I believe that there are six main reasons, and I will cover the first three reasons today.
1. Sets the Tone for the Church Staff. Most employee handbooks will attempt to give a business philosophy, which I agree with, but in the church world, your business philosophy is not about how you will make money, but rather, how you will serve and minister to your congregation, your community, and your city. It should define your mission statement, your goals, and your highly valued core principles. The mission statement is generally something you have already created, but the goals and the valued core principles are something that may be thoughts needing to be reduced to writing – they are how you will accomplish your mission statement.
2. Clearly Defines Basic Workplace Activities. Hours – when are the the staff members expected to be present? This can look different for various roles. A receptionist is expected to be at the church at 8:00 am but is also free to leave right at 5:00 pm, regardless of the ministry that is going on in the evening. Contrast that to a pastoral position where coming in at 10:00 am may be acceptable because of the need to stay until 7:00 or 8:00 pm that night. Even if you are allowing flexibility in work hours, a standard must be set, and everyone needs to know what it is.
3. Salaries and Reviews. One very important thing to every staff member is their compensation package. How much and how often are you paying them? What benefits are offered, and is there any delay period before benefits start (i.e. 90 days until health insurance starts, or one year until eligibility begins for the church 403b plan). The next concern is, how often will there be an opportunity for a review of the staff member’s performance? Is the first review after 90 days and then annually or every six months? What that looks like for the staff member is very important. Clearly establish dates, and stick to them.
Your employee handbook is important, and it is invaluable for protecting the relationship between the staff and the church and for protection legally. Check back on Monday for three more important reasons you should provide an employee handbook for your church staff.