Part 3: Running Well with Policies and Procedures

Today I ran in the first of eight races that I plan to run this year. It was a fun one – Hot Chocolate 15k/5k (I did the 5k). Part of me is attempting to run these races because I want to challenge myself to keep training. The other part of me is running because of the SWAG (stuff we all get). The SWAG for this race included a hooded sweatshirt, as well as a hot chocolate mug at the end. So, how did the race end for me? Well, I was 1,403rd out of 5,992. To break it down, I was the 567th male out of 1,465. For my age (35-39), I was the 83rd male out of 193. It was a nice run, but I have a long way to go before I’m running well.

As mentioned in Part 2 of the Policies and Procedures posts, while policies and procedures are clearly different in purpose, they both have a place in the Church and that place is to help the Church run well – this means effectively and with great efficiency. Just like wearing loafers to a 5k won’t help you run well, when there are no policies and/or procedures in place, the Church cannot run well because of a gaping lack of clarity. As Welch explains, “Unplanned, disorganized activities are meaningless; thus, as administrators, we should orchestrate our leadership toward the end of productive output.”[1] That is, when the activities of a church, such as its policies and procedures, have no direction and are not clear, those activities lack purpose. Our job as leaders is to set the direction and to bring clarity into the organization. The end goal of our work is life change because of Jesus Christ, but also that work should be accomplished. Since policies and procedures are specific in action and direction, they have a place in the ministry of the church. There are two major reasons that policies and procedures provide efficiency and effectiveness.

The first reason policies and procedures have a place in the church is that they provide assistance to the leaders. Welch explains, “Policy and procedure statements offer significant assistance in the management and administration of the church or organization.”[2] Leaders gain because the policies and procedures become guides for operation. They communicate how business is done within the organization, provide information for the church body, and become training material for new staff and volunteers.[3] Leaders further gain because the policies and procedures turn “recurring problems into routine processes.”[4] When a problem occurs multiple times, a procedure is written to give step-by-step instructions for staff to resolve the issue when it occurs again. This allows all leaders the opportunity to focus on and resolve major issues.

The second reason policies and procedures have a place in the church is that they provide clarity. Welch additionally points out that, “Policies and procedures present to both those in the church and those outside an atmosphere of order, business, and sense of purpose.”[5] Clarity is achieved when there is order. By nature, policies and procedures are orderly. Through their orderliness, a sense of satisfaction and fairness is achieved. This results when all points are considered and unbiased decisions are made. Strong policies and procedures do not favor a particular group of people in the church, but seek to benefit every person through stated facts. Clarity is also achieved when there is a sense of purpose. Policies and procedures are the product of a well-defined mission and vision for an organization. The mission and vision state the purpose of the church. Policies and procedures are intended to guide the church to reaching its mission, thus they give a sense of purpose.

Effective leaders run the race well. To do this, it’s important to understand that policies and procedures have a place in the Church. They are not to be feared because of their rule-like nature, but should be embraced because they provide the leaders assistance and bring incredible clarity, not only into the Church, but into any organization.

[1] Ibid., 30.

[2] Ibid., 59.

[3] Ibid., 60.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 59.


Part 2: Understanding the Difference Between Policies and Procedures

The world watched the United States this week. It watched us transfer power to a new president. It watched our cities fill with hundreds of thousands of people for the women’s march. It watched former President George W. Bush struggle with a rain poncho. It watched the gift exchange faux pas between our First Ladies. The United States was on stage this week and to post here about the difference between policies and procedures seems trivial. Alas, I move forward in my mission to show the world why the Church needs to pay attention to how it operates on a daily basis.

As a church grows, policies and procedures become the infrastructure needed for continued growth. That’s because well-written policies and procedures direct the steps of each employee in an organization. For example, when a children’s ministry classroom reaches capacity, a volunteer should be trained on what steps to take to alleviate the situation. When a procedure is in place, the volunteer has been given the tools for such a moment of high capacity classrooms.

The terms “policies” and “procedures” can be confusing. So, before establishing a place for them in the church, it would be helpful to define the differences between the two.

Policies differ from procedures in that they are specific in direction. By definition, a policy is, “a command decision from top management to perform in a specified manner.”[1] The decisions from the church leadership regarding performance are various and numerous. These decisions may be made by the highest level of authority for the entire organization or may be made by ministry directors for specific ministry areas. Additionally, the policies not only direct the staff, but also the volunteers. Policies guide the entire organization and its people. An example of a policy might be, “Church ABC will be governed by an elder board.” This decision made by the church leadership dictates how the church will operate in a specific way.

Procedures differ from policies in that they are specific in action. Procedures are “guides to action rather then guides to thinking. They detail the exact manner a certain activity will be carried out—a chronological listing of what must be done and by whom to get the job done.”[2] Procedures provide step-by-step ways by which a task is accomplished. While a church may be governed by an elder board (policy), the board elects new members each year by way of congregational vote (procedure). Another example may be found in the processing of the weekly offering. A team of volunteers counts the offering taken in by the church by following procedures starting at step one until they reach the final step. The procedures for counting the weekly offering guide the volunteers as to exactly how the money is to be accounted for.

While this topic won’t make headlines this week, effective leaders know the importance of policies and procedures for the church. The local church leads more effectively, its ministries are run more efficiently, when staff, volunteers, and others know what they are to be doing and how it’s to be done.

Questions for Thought:
– Think of 3 to 5 policies that you have in place in your organization.
– What are the procedures for those policies? Are the action steps clearly articulated?

[1] Welch, Church Administration, 25.

[2] Ibid.

Part 1: Policies and Procedures for the Church

My college education provided me with a Bachelor of Science degree in Medical Technology. It was my dream to be a doctor some day, that is, until I took organic chemistry. I nearly failed the class. I was bummed, but knew that I still wanted to be in the medical field, so I redirected my studies to medical technology. Using that degree, I worked in three different hospitals over the course of 10 years. I learned a lot during those years, but one thing I learned (and depended on) was the importance of policies and procedures. No test was run on a machine, no work was done, without first consulting the procedures manual. If we didn’t follow those procedures, our work would fail. We would be ineffective.

As I studied for the ministry, worked in various churches, and networked with other pastors, I learned that churches are shy in the area of policies and procedures. For many churches, these manuals just do not exist. It’s no one’s fault. A pastor doesn’t go to seminary to learn how to write procedure manuals. It’s not the pastor’s job. However, it’s apparent that churches need someone to focus on these. These manuals become recipes for efficient leadership because they provide clarity, direction, and instruction to get things done.

Obviously, the Bible wasn’t written to argue that churches need to have policy manuals, but we see examples of policies and procedures in the Bible. The Law of the Old Testament is filled with policies and procedures for the people of God. An example of this includes the observance of the Passover Lamb. The policy stated by God was that an unblemished lamb was to be sacrificed once a year in obedience to the Lord. The procedure for how this was to be accomplished was outlined for the people in Exodus 12.

As we flip to the New Testament, a great example of the importance of policies and procedures is found in Jesus’ explanation of the cost of discipleship in Luke 14:28-33. In his desire to illustrate the cost of discipleship, Jesus considers how men would plan to build a tower. He says that the first step for building a tower is to take into consideration the costs associated with such a project, (v. 28). If the builder does not take this first step, then he will not be able to complete the project. Similarly, a king must first determine if he has the manpower to take on another nation in war, (v. 31). Again, the downside of not following this first crucial step is failure.

I may have belabored the point, but that was not my goal. Simply, I wanted to give examples of how policies and procedures were used even in Bible times. This is the first of three posts about policies and procedures. My argument is that these tools will help ministry leaders have a clear picture of where they are going and how to get there. They are tools that will help us to be not only efficient, but effective, leaders. In the following posts, I will explain the difference between policies and procedures, then I will describe the place for them in the church.