What to Avoid When Writing Church Policies

No one likes rules, but without them, life descends into chaos.

No one likes to be told what to do either, but without submission to authority, we experience confusion and misalignment. A better approach to the necessity of authority is mutual voluntary submission, the essence of a great team.

Either way, great leaders must also learn to follow, even if it sometimes feels like an inconvenience, or possibly slows us down.

Let’s be honest; wherever leaders are growing an organization, and people have strong opinions about subjective issues, conflict will arise and slow the organization down.

Policies get written to align the team and help solve those problems.

The truth is that we need policies. Staff policies, finance policies, security policies, and the list goes on.

We may not like policies but we need these guidelines, fences, and boundaries that not only help us move together as an aligned team but protect us from wasting time, effort, and energy.

Most of your policies will impact primarily staff and a few key leaders, but your congregation is a mirror of your staff.

The best organizational policies help make life and leadership better and make subjective issues clear. They also save time from repeating the same conversation over and over, and they reflect common sense.

Ultimately, a good policy serves the team; the team does not serve the policy.

Good policies should not slow you down, except perhaps momentarily, they actually help you run faster because they streamline decision-making.

Three big mistakes churches tend to make when it comes to policy:

Mistake No. 1 – Making a policy as a substitute for leadership.

Lead by influence, not by policy.

Policies are meant to aid your organizational effectiveness. These “rules” must help the organization make progress and move forward toward the vision.

Policies are meant to aid your organizational effectiveness. These “rules” must help the organization make progress and move forward toward the vision.

Leadership is required to establish the culture, reinforce behaviors, and inspire good attitudes, not policies.

Don’t solve problems by writing polices.

It’s not wise to write a policy when an honest conversation will take care of the situation.

More often than not, an undesirable behavior can be handled much more effectively by having a tough conversation with grace and love. When you attempt to solve problems through policies, you erode your leadership.

Mistake No. 2 – Ignoring the policies you made.

Never write a policy that you don’t intend to enforce.

If the policy isn’t helpful enough to hold people accountable, then don’t write it. The quickest way to erode a good and helpful policy is to write it and then act as if it doesn’t exist.

Take your time to think it through, get feedback, test it out, and when it’s ready, don’t apologize for it.

If the policy is good for one, it’s good for all.

We all love exceptions—I know I do. My human tendency is to read some policies and think, “This doesn’t mean me” … and move on. But that’s not good leadership.

It’s true that not every policy affects me, or maybe you, as much as others do, but that’s not the same thing as dismissing it. We must always respect and support the policies that we write.

Mistake No. 3 – Writing policies on stone tablets.

Policies should be living and breathing documents.

If a church policy served you well five years ago, but is no longer relevant, then dump it. At 12Stone Church, we have grown large enough that we need to have more policies than we want. Over time some can become out of date, so it takes constant work to keep them fresh, relevant, and helpful to the team.

Write your policies in teams with wide input.

The best policies are not written in a vacuum.

Someone may serve as a point person to see it through to completion, but it’s smart to form small teams that gather insight and input from many. I’m not suggesting that committees should make decisions, but it’s wise to get a level of buy-in from the key leaders before you put the policy in place.

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This article originally appeared on DanReiland.com and is reposted here by permission.

Dan Reiland
Dan Reilandhttp://danreiland.com

Dan Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and the author of several books including Confident Leader! Become One, Stay One (Thomas Nelson).