3 Big Mistakes in Making Church Policies


Church policies are necessary, but when can they become an abdication of leadership?

No one like rules, but without them life is no more than chaos.

No one likes to be told what to do, but without submission to authority we experience confusion, disorder, and misalignment.

The local church is the poster child for gathering individuals who want to do what is right in their own eyes.

Enter policies.

The truth is that we need policies. Staff policies, finance policies, security policies, and the list goes on. We may not like them, 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!

There are 3 big mistakes churches tend to make when it comes to policy:

Mistake #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. Leadership is required to establish 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 the tough conversation with grace and love. When you attempt to solve problems through policies, you erode your leadership.

Mistake #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 # 3 – Writing polices on stone tablets.

Policies should be living and breathing documents. If a 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 are forced to have more policies than we want. Some are 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 point person to see it through to completion, but it’s smart to form small teams who gather insight and input from many. I’m not suggesting that decisions should be made by committees, but it’s wise to get a level of buy-in from the key leaders before you put the policy in place.

What changes do you need to make in your approach to policies?

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