Should our church have a staff policy manual? Any church with more than one or two paid staff should have a Church Staff Handbook, explaining church policies, employee benefits, your vision for ministry, and your ethical standards (especially for your pastoral staff).
How do we get a church policy manual? You have three options for designing a church staff handbook:
1. Buying a TEMPLATE and making it yourself
2. Hiring a HR SERVICE COMPANY to professionally design it
3. Retaining a LABOR LAWYER who specializes in church labor law to design it
Should we use a TEMPLATE to create our own Church Staff Handbook? There are companies that offer templates so that you can build your own manual, as a sort of DIY project. Is that feasible for your church? That really depends on the expertise of your staff and/or volunteer experts. Most handbook templates offered are aimed at businesses, not non-profits and certainly not churches. If you have someone you can rely on for the major revisions required, then a template would be a cheap alternative (especially if the hours spent doing the revising are volunteered by someone in your congregation). If you are using PAID STAFF to create a handbook from a template, you will most likely NOT save any money when you consider the workhours required. Expect to invest 80-120 hours, researching state laws and editing the template. Again, if you have experts on hand, then this time estimate could be much lower. Expect to pay between $100 and $350 for a decent template program. Avoid the bare-bones cheaper ones that will cost you far more workhours of revising and adding policies.
How are Church Employee Handbooks different from Business Employee Handbooks? There are numerous policies that you will not find in the typical handbook template, which most churches would want to add:
1. Working with Volunteers
2. Volunteer Time
3. Working with Minors
4. Pastoral Accountability
5. Pastoral Covenant
6. Pastoral Sexual Purity/ Ethics
7. Pastoral Licensing, ordination, Education
8. Safety and Protection of Minors
9. Statement of Faith
10. Word from the Pastor
11. Sabbatical Leave
12. Ministry Leave
13. Food Handling (Church Cafe)
14. Driving Policy (Church Bus)
What can an HR SERVICE COMPANY offer that is better than the DIY approach? Such companies will customize your Church Staff Policy Manual to the needs and vision of your church. They will take the time to get to know your ministry and make sure you get a handbook that fits. New Wind is the national leader in HR Service Companies who special in providing handbook services, both for businesses and churches. They will do all the hard work and you will receive a Church Employee Handbook customized to your ministry. Expect to pay around $575 for professional handbook services. (Get a 10% Discount by mentioning the Promo Code: HRQA)
Who should consider hiring a LABOR LAW ATTORNEY? Any church or ministry that has a high-risk of lawsuits from employees should definitely consider hiring a labor lawyer to design their church policy manual. This might be a large-scale ministry with many “businesses”, or a high-risk mission that sends employees into dangerous situations regularly. The law expert will make sure your handbook is legally airtight. Lawyer service are definitely the most expensive option for designing a policy manual, but for some it is the best option. Pricing can range from $3,500 to $5,000 or more. Look for a labor lawyer that specializes in church/ non-profit law.