To help your congregation be nimble and effective, consider putting only the essentials in your congregation's bylaws, and put the rest into board policies. No matter the size of your congregation, policies can help to build institutional memory and structure, but can have the flexibility to be changed when needed.
Although board policies are superseded by the congregation's bylaws, policies are still governing documents that should be used by all leaders, staff and members of the congregation to be in alignment with the mission and vision of the congregation.
Policies define the scope and range of authority so as to guide day-to-day operational decisions by committees, teams and individuals to the benefit of the whole congregation.
- Policies save time. A policy can keep a group from revisiting or rehashing previous decisions.
- Policies provide clarity: Many aspects of congregational life overlap. Policies can help reduce unnecessary friction over who gets to decide what.
- Policies encourage desired outcomes. Setting clear expectations around safety, record-keeping, financial management or even social hour or greeting can help improve the congregation's effectiveness.
There is no one exhaustive list of policies. However, there are some general categories of policies. Links to details of some of these policies can guide you as you determine and write your own.
Policy Development and Maintenance
Policies should be developed collaboratively between the governing board and the people who will implement and/or be guided by the policies before being approved by a vote of the board.
Copies of current policies should be readily available to all church members along with the bylaws. Consider keeping a notebook in the church offices and/or where the board meets, as well as in a members-only area of the church website.
It is good practice to notify the congregational membership about new and revised policies for transparency and a reminder to be familiar with them.
Governance policies augment the bylaws by giving more detail and guidance. Policies defining roles and responsibilities the Executive Committee and board members (as a group and as individual roles) can be modified as needed.
- Leadership Covenant Policy
- Congregational / Right Relations Covenant Policy
- Typical Board Role Responsibilities Policy
- Board Officer Policy
- President Policy
- Vice President Policy
- Secretary Policy
- Treasurer Policy
- Congregational Meeting Conduct Policy
- Board Meeting Conduct Policy
- Finance Committee Charter Policy
- Leadership Development Committee Charter Policy
- Membership Committee Charter Policy
- Personnel Committee Charter Policy
- Personnel Policy
- Non-Discrimination Policy
Ministry Guidance and Limitation Policies
- Membership Policy
- Ministry Team Policy
- Children’s Religious Education Committee Charter Policy Children’s Religious Education Committee Charter Policy
- Animals Policy
- Real Estate Policy
- Indemnification Policy
- Finance Policy
- Safety Policy
- Disruptive Behavior Policy
- Gifts Policy
- Endowment Policy