Last week, I shared three reasons you should create an employee handbook for your church staff. (Click here for a link to that blog.) One of the primary reasons is that the information in this document sets the tone for the staff. On a practical note, the handbook can clearly define basic workplace activities, such as the hours required for various staff to be present on the job. And of course, one of the most interesting details to your employees pertains to salaries and reviews. Every church is different, so stating these details clearly is imperative to have a smoothly functioning team. Today, let’s go a little deeper with what your employee handbook should contain.
4. Drug, Alcohol, and Prohibited Policy. We often think that every staff member would have the good sense to know what to do and what not to do, but your responsibility is to state the obvious so that it prevents legal issues down the road. While it might seem unlikely that a staff member or a pastor would ever use drugs, drink alcohol, or engage in uncouth behavior at the church, it happens. To protect the church, we need to have a clearly defined set of rules. For example: Drug Use is prohibited, and the church reserves the right to do random drug screenings at any time. The church might consider instituting a zero tolerance policy against an activity. For example, we have a zero tolerance policy against the viewing of pornography. There are many examples of this, but ultimately, you have to decide what you want to make sure is clearly stated and approach it from the point of view that if there was an issue with one of these areas, would this be a fireable offense? If it would, you need to clearly define this in your employee handbook.
5. Vacation Policy. One of most often misunderstood areas is vacation time, not just how much a staff member gets, which is highly important to them, but if there are any limitations on when they can take it, and if there is a formal approval process to authorize the time off. Many churches limit the number of Sundays a staff member can take off. If so, this needs to be clearly defined. Are there sick days, mourning days, or is all of this considered part of “vacation days?” Is there an official “comp day policy,” or is this informal? A comp day policy can be very useful because it can keep staff members from getting burned out by forcing them to take some extra time when they have been working non stop, but you must decide early how to account for or award comp days, and that may be two burdensome for some small churches.
6. Social Media Policy. One of the newest areas that churches must address is the use of social media within the church and by the church staff. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the other social sites can be very useful to a church staff member, but they can also be quickly abused. Your social media policy needs to clearly define who “owns” the individual’s social media account. This may sound radical, that someone’s personal Twitter handle might need to be owned by the church, but is it not already? I have experienced the issue of a staff member retweeting something inappropriate or contrary to the beliefs of the church, and then it is viewed as if it was the church making this stand. Regardless of the “ownership” of the social accounts, clearly defined rules need to be established, and guidelines need to be set. To give a few final examples, are staff members going to endorse local candidates for an election, are they going to be required to post about upcoming church events, or the big one, are they going to be prohibited from airing complaints about people, businesses, or other local topics that can turn a member or guest off when it is viewed as being supported by the church?
Your employee handbook is important, and it is invaluable for protecting the relationship between the staff and the church and for protection legally. If you have yet to write a formal handbook, begin today. Check out an earlier post about social media policies HERE. Remember, you are creating a document which needs to be consistently updated, so start, and then revise as you encounter things you, the church administration, and members want to see implemented.
Let me know what is in your current employee handbook that works, and what is so outdated it is funny.