As I begin to engage again in a transition time with a church, besides the spiritual ministries of prayer, preaching, and pastoral care, the most important administrative thing that I like to give attention to is the Board Policy Manual.  This is the chief organizing tool for me of how the church functions.  It helps me ensure that I, as the Pastor, and the Board are reading off the same page.  It is an important means of unifying the Board as it seeks to go about the task of leadership in a systematic fashion.  The Board Policy Manual, in my view, is an essential aspect of effective pastoral leadership because it outlines the purpose, vision, and tasks of a church.

I like to have eight clear categories set up in a 2 inch three-ring binder identified in a way that corresponds to dividers and tabs for each section. Board members keep their materials organized in the Manual and bring it to each meeting of the Board as a common reference guide.  It can be organized under a variety of headings, but here are some of the ones I like to use:

  • Constitution, Bylaws, Policies  This is the first and most important category because it outlines the means by which the Church is governed. Every Board member should be very familiar with these documents that establish the rules of government and organization in the church.
  • Board Governance  This is the section that defines how the Board governs itself. It consists of a Job Description for the Elders, the nature of the relationship between the Pastor and the Board, a list of best practices for the Board, types of meetings, nature of the Agendas of their meetings, and so on.  This section might also include a description of the church’s vision, mission, and core values (though these could also be put in the first section.)
  • Meeting Agendas, Minutes, Financial Reports Since Boards are to keep a record of their business, this section is very important as a means of keeping their business meeting activity organized.  Some might separate the Financial Business into another section, but these could be kept together because their reporting happens together.
  • Staff Job Descriptions  This section consists of a description of each staff position in the church beginning with the Senior or lead pastor. It would also include Job Descriptions for the Office Administrator or Operations Manager, Building Maintenance positions, and any other paid staff positions.  These JD’s should define the main responsibilities of each position in a way that can be used to measure progress or assess staff effectiveness.  They should include clear lines of accountability and communication.  A section of Work Arrangements addressing guidelines of remuneration and various benefits appropriate for the position should also be there.  They should also include a reference to some kind of annual assessment practice.
  • Ministry and Volunteer Job Descriptions The fourth section might consist of a description of the various ministries that the church develops and corresponding job descriptions for its leaders.  It would describe the nature of the ministry, why it exists, and how its effectiveness will be determined.  Each ministry should have a clear mandate, a list of essential features, a description of how it is led, and how it is responsible to the governing board of the church. Volunteer job descriptions should be set up to identify main responsibilities, who they are responsible for as well as to whom, and how long the appointment lasts.  (The idea is that each Volunteer leadership position is an annual appointment that also includes an annual assessment element.)
  • Congregational Care  Since church leaders are also responsible for congregational care in one way or another, it is advisable to have a section in the manual that identifies everyone (an up-to-date church directory) and guidelines on how congregational care proceeds. It might also include instruction on how to process applicants for baptism and membership.  It could even include a way to proceed regarding church discipline.  Correspondence regarding particular requests or needs could be included here.
  • Educational Items  The Policy Manual should include a section consisting of Training Materials for the Board.  Pastors should find ways to regularly provide material for discussion about how the ministry of the church can be more effective.  Ordinarily, a Board should meet regularly for this purpose separate from its regular business meeting time.  It could do this on a bi-monthly basis or in a regular Retreat kind of setting.
  • Denominational Items  The last section could be a place to keep important policies or items of communication regarding church life and ministry from the Denomination.  It is a handy reference guide for matters of concern from a denominational point of view.
In my mind, church administration is a very important part of the church’s life and progress.  Many churches fail to make progress because they fail to see how good administration complements the spiritual ministry to which the church is called.  As Jesus excelled in administration by choosing the disciples and working with them for effective ministry, so it is that a church should be known for the proficient stewardship of its resources for the glory of God.  Church leaders are responsible to make the best use of all the resources that have been given to it including the spiritual gifts of the people who call it their church home.  Jesus didn’t work with a Church Policy Manual per se, but there is no doubt that he had a clear vision of what He wanted to accomplish and how it should be done.  I think it is evident that He communicated with the disciples in all the ways that are set out in a Policy Manual as illustrated above.  I think churches that haven’t used this tool would find themselves well-served by establishing such a manual.
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