Policies for a Church – sample

To support a “soccer field” model for the board and staff

…Let us not make policies just to make them!
… Many of them have already been formed by practice! How have you formed the budget in the past? If it worked well, describe it simply and adopt it as a policy.
How have you set budget? Do not reinvent the process steps every year — make it a policy.
How have you hired part-time of full-time staff? Was it a good process?
… While the constitution and bylaws are the first important documents of the church, not considering the most important, the Bible, the policies are second and can be changed by the board itself. The policies are not just details of how you do things or how do you set up a men’s breakfast, for instance. They are abiding rules that the whole church must follow, so they relate to important procedures.
They are ways of the church, best practices, and are mostly for the board to make in conjunction with the pastor, one of its members of course.

Examples (in the order the of the sample constitution items)

Article 5. Membership
The policy should simply state what profession of faith means and how a person gives that – often to the church itself or to at least two members of the board or to a membership commission!
The policy should also state if there is a class to be involved in before being received as a member and if any coming out of membership or partnership is desired.
The policy can also state how a person is received as a member and presented to the church. Is it in a service or just by mail or just an announcement?

Article 6. Property
A policy would tell how the properties committee presents a proposal to the board about purchase or a major project, and when it needs to go to the congregation or membership.

Church by-laws

Article 1. Membership
Covered under constitution.

Article 2. Government and leadership
Under Resources, a policy for how a team or committee for finances is appointed by the board of oversight. Normally this would say if the chairman needs to be on the board, which is a good practice. I would also say that the pastor and the chairman could suggest a number of people to be on the team — normally that would be approved by the board of oversight.
…Same thing if there is to be a building or properties team that deals with expansion or purchases. Again they report to the board. Normally such a team does not deal with ways of cleaning the building or daily issues, which are usually under someone interested with administration who is on the staff or adjunct staff.

The pastor.
There should be a policy about an annual review of the pastor by the board –normally three or four are designated for this, rather than a whole board.
And a very brief policy about how any of the staff are hired. The steps can be easy until when the board is involved.
Under the nominating committee a policy should be given for how a vote is taken.
Most churches now have a policy of voting yes or no to a name rather than selecting between good people and “eliminating” some of them! (No one should go home from church a loser!)

How is the decision made to cancel church in a snowstorm? Who?
How are Sunday school teachers and youth staff approved?
Is there a policy about alcohol at a church event?
Can the pastor be someone who has been divorced in the past? A staff person?
What is the policy for an honorarium for a guest speaker? For mileage?
Is there a clear policy that any staff in the future report to the pastor and the  pastor reports to the board of oversight?
Clear steps related to church restoration and discipline should gradually be in the policies. It is actually required by some states that a new member understands steps of restoration and discipline when he joins, or else he can sue if he were disciplined and claims it was a surprise.
There should be a policy about full-time employees and health insurance or vacation time or retirement program.

Portrait of a prospective member of the church board of oversight

Personal characteristics that are obvious

  • Godliness,  strongly united with and committed to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
  • Strong and vibrant marriage (if married) as a “one woman” man.
  • Faithful attender and servant in the worship and ministry life of the church.
  • Supportive of the general direction and senior leadership of the church.
  • Willing to give protective and loving oversight of the church ministries and to serve as a team with the other members of this board,  not ever seeking to lead or make changes as an individual.
  • Known for the fruit (evidences) of the Holy Spirit.

Doctrinal and personal commitments that are strong

  • Openly committed to Jesus the Christ and God’s Word as truth for our obedience.
  • Affirming the clear statement of faith of the church,  without motive to change it.
  • Aware of the church’s mood,  culture,  and even unwritten stance on areas of liberty and having no hidden goal to challenge them, while always seeking to improve the understanding and practices of the church.
  • Commitment to support the pastoral leadership by prayer, encouragement, unity, challenging when needed in a direct and kind way one-on-one when necessary, and in the context of the board when necessary.
  • Commitment to see the church always growing stronger in its declared mission to expand the outreach of the gospel locally and in all the world — therefore a generous spirit to see and support growth in every good way
  • Willing to sign and live by the oversight board’s covenant of unity and practice

Overview: The Government of the Local Church

Brief thoughts on how the church can have protection and strong guidance and pastoral ministry…with unity and spiritual health

 The Lordship of Jesus Christ and His Word
The Word of the Lord as given by the prophets and for these last days by the eternal Son is clear and leads us, when we obey, to godliness and church as God intended.

There still are people who say things like, I know the Bible says that, but we want to…They must be given no influence in the church.

Congregational government
The members of the church select their own pastor, oversight board, and must approve any changes to the constitution.  They approve of the budget and any property purchases or building  additions.   Denominations sometimes have district and national authority also.

Some have memories when 50 or 100 people or more sat and argued about the specifics for the church and details for ministries. It did it did not work as well as some remember, and it certainly does not work well today.

Board oversight
The main board, only one, gives oversight to the ministries and staff by taking care of the four boundaries of the soccer field: foundations, resources, guidelines, and goals.   This is big-picture wisdom and advice for the pastor and staff,  with protection spiritually and even legally.

When the board seeks to get involved in everything or do day-to-day management, they are guaranteeing frustration and smallness for the church. When they care for oversight they are protecting the pastor and the people and helping to guide the ship.

 Pastoral leadership
The  senior or lead pastor captains the Sunday services and the daily ministries, leading staff and many  volunteers of the church to carry out the clear commands of our Lord and functions of the church, His body.  The pastors train and empower teams of ministry, including outreach,  to evangelize,  to build the believers, to do the work of ministry and mission.

This is not leadership without boundaries,  for “the soccer field model” has clear oversight of the big picture entrusted to the board,  and ministry freedom and teamwork “on the field.”

 Every-believer ministry
The goal as prescribed in Scripture is for every believer to be equipped “for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:13) — serving each other in love with community, and showing outsiders what action-love does and explaining the cross and what it means to follow Christ in today’s world.

Together, we are the church, obeying His Great Command to love and His Great Commission toward the world.

Doing Elders and Pastors and Boards the Way of the Bible!

A few things to think about when we read the verses about shepherds or elders or overseers in the New Testament,  and how to apply to today


… The Bible is God’s Word for today. We must obey it.

… The teachings of the Bible can be obeyed in all cultures and situations.

… Jesus Christ is the head of the church.

… There are three and only three general categories of “offices” or positions of service in the church as described in the NT: pastor/overseer/elder,  deacon,  and believer/member-minister.    All three are here today.

… There is room for differences of opinion and even strong conviction about how those categories are functioning today,  with a call for mutual respect and honor when there is difference.

… Facing reality while holding to Bible teachings,  we must have an application for doing church organization that fits all sizes of churches.


… Today we have many different sizes of churches.   In larger ones over 100 one or more shepherds must give vocational time to the church — full-time,  most would say.

… Today we have many pastor-elders who are trained and educated for leading and ministering as servants of Christ and people in the local church.  That does not make them better than others called to give oversight to the church,  but it compels a difference in responsibilities.

…Those who help in the pastoring or “elding” or overseeing of thelocal church while maintaining other vocations (callings indeed, in line with the priesthood of all believers) cannot possibly give the same amount of time or carry the same burden of those who choose the church ministry as their vocation.
Good writers and believers like Alex Strauch argue that this can be done “by self-sacrifice,” and he quotes R. Paul Stevens  to say they “must be willing to forego a measure of career achievement and private leisure for the privilege of getting the prize (Phil. 3:14).”  Almost as if that prize is for the faithful elders and not for all faithful Christians.
Surely the issue is faithfulness and there can be a division of labor that still obeys the principles and requirements of the New Testament teaching and implications about oversight of the local church.

… Most churches today have many more activities and responsibilities than the early house churches founded by the apostles and early Christians. There could be another debate about whether every scheduled activity is good or necessary, but that is for another day.

… Most churches today have a much more complicated financial system and obligations and buildings.


… The “soccer field model” seeks to take all the commands or principles of the New Testament about pastors/elders/overseers and give them to the full-time pastors and staff and the lay elders in a way that promotes the plurality and responsibilities of both in a workable and protected way.
The board members or elders or presbyters or non-clerical shepherds give oversight to the church by defining and guarding the four “boundaries” of the ministries and church.  These are the four sides of the soccer field.
The pastor and team of staff shepherd the many ministries and people “on the field” and stay  in bounds.   Because of the nature of leadership,  the senior pastor (the only pastor in some churches) is responsible for the team of staff or member-ministers who carry out the many ministries of the church.    These include care for each other and witness words and actions to reach the unbelieving or unchurched.

… Thus the commands or responsibilities  of :
leading  (Acts 20:28) |
ruling/managing (I Timothy 3:4,5)
shepherding (I Peter 5:1-4)
teaching  ((II Timothy 2:15)
equipping  (Ephesians 4:12)
being examples (I Peter 5:3)
are overseen by the board (elders, overseers, lay pastors).  They do not seek to do it all themselves just as a  “younger women” in Titus 2:5 to be “keepers at home” does not imply they cannot assign responsibilities at home to others in the family!

… This can work well in a church of 50 and a church of 10,000.


 What about a renegade pastor?
Release him. Fire him. The board has oversight and guards the boundaries that way.

Does this model not give the pastor too much authority?
It gives the pastor the same authority for ministries as he has for Sunday or weekend services. The board does not check every hymn or every word in the sermon beforehand, but they could tag him out if he began teaching things that were not within bounds or doing things in the pulpit that did not show their values.

… Can’t these lay elders of board members use their spiritual gifts in other ways?
Absolutely. But they serve as senior high teachers or directors of groups or leaders of worship or parking attendants not because they are on the board but because they are willing  to do that and want to be active servants and ministers in the church.Can 

… In what sense then do these overseers shepherd the people?
By instituting a system that works – normally through the groups of the church where care can happen. In any church over  150, if board members feel they must personally shepherd all the people,  they either spend all their time doing that or simply pray for their list as a group. That is not shepherding.

… Should members of the pastoral staff be a part of the board also?
This does not rule that out.  But in a practical way, it may caution against that.  The agenda of the pastoral staff and the agenda of the oversight board are two different agendas,  not redundant  as in some models.  The pastor and staff lead the ministries of Sunday and the week,  with the lead pastor as captain.  The lead pastor then joins the oversight board as an equal to make and guard the policies and goals and lead the finances and financial projects of the church.

Can there be other boards of the church?
No.   This is a one-board-of-oversight system.   In many churches there should be a finance team or a building projects team or a missions team,  but they all report to the oversight board to avoid the confusion that results from multiple equal boards.

 How does this relate to the “congregational rule” preference that some churches have?
The congregation leads or rules by selecting their pastor and  the members of the oversight board. In most systems they also must approve any building projects and the annual budget. And there is no Biblical mandate for the congregation to decide everything,  as used to be true in some churches.

… Where do the deacons or deaconess fit in?
Obviously churches handle this in many different ways. The title simply mean serving, and probably many of us would like to recognize all who teach or serve or help in various ways would be under the general heading of servant or minister or deacon.   Rather than electing people to serve these ways, many churches appoint them to teach or take care of shut-ins  or count the offerings or visit in the hospital or lead the youth or serve in various ways. If the original deacons took care of widows or tables for eating, many ministries in the church would be parallel.

The Board of the Church

The main board of a church is either a very good car that helps to get the church where it should be going, or a clunker that goes as slow as can be and could never pass a state-of-the-church inspection if there were one.

In the one case, it is a shame,  for there could be correction.

But let’s start with two huge factors that call for unselfish thought if the best is yet to come:   the number of boards, and the function of the board.

How many boards does it take to make a church go?
Let’s define a board as a policy-making team that gives guidance and protection to the local church.

If you agree with that definition, or even something close, you must say there should only be one.   Period.

Many established churches started with a board for guidance and a board for care and one for finances for sure.   Throw in one for ministry or service – often called The Deacon Board in some traditions —  and you can see the confusion coming.   Are we talking three or four heads to this church?

Travel back in time 200 years or more in the States, and many churches had a circuit-rider preacher  who moved between two or even five churches, so he preached and up to 14 “commissions”  did the planning and ministry in the various areas of what was church life then – worship, Christian education, youth,  Bible study groups,  care, etc.   Sometimes that system has stayed, in spite of the assignment of one or more pastors to that one particular church.

Then the confusion often is about how the worship pastor relates to the worship committee or commission, and what the youth director must clear with the youth committee, and who does the actual work, and who says to do it that way?

The ideal is to have one board that has the clear assignment of Big Picture,  allows the pastor and staff and volunteers to do the ministries, using teams of volunteers in every area.

Some of those volunteers might be members of the one main board,  but they serve as Christian volunteers or servers,  not as board members or elders.

Even when a church has just two boards or policy-making committees,  and one is the finance people,  the church is asking for fist-to-fist conflict or slow clunker confusion at best.

Ministry takes finances.  If the board frees the staff and volunteers to do a certain ministry,  but the finance team or board does not get it or want to get it and do it,   there go the finds.

And here comes the stalemate.

Welcome to our church!

And what does this one board  do?   Let’s see its agenda!

 A second major checkpoint relates to what the board of a church is to do.  Why do they meet?   What is on the agenda?

Since we are talking the established church here, it is healthy to look back to the way this started.

Let’s say the church started 35 years ago,  probably with the vision of a church planter-pioneer or the plans of a “mother church.”   The lead pioneer naturally gathers an advisory group or church board or ministry team to get church going.   It makes sense to have one of those people on that board or team be responsible for evangelism,  another for youth ministries, and,  “Eric, would you be responsible for missions?    We have got to always keep missions a big item for our people?”

Now, 35 years later,  the appendix have never been taken out.    One of the board members is the overseer for evangelism, and another for youth, and the agenda can even include reports from them and their areas.

Or this board still goes down through the various main areas of church ministries to see how they are doing to  give direction.

We’re talking nice people with high motives holding a church to a certain size, freezing it at a common plateau of about 200, for instance.

I mean if a board is going to handle most ministries of the church,  growth of those ministries is going to be severely limited.

We have us a clunker.

It can chug along with good feelings, even,  but there will be no rapid growth.

One board chairman, who obviously liked the way that board covered everything, was honestly clear:  “We like to control everything, and we think it is good for the church.”

Of course they did,  but they were wrong.

And everyone who spends time studying churches and the ministry of the boards would say they were wrong.    If all ministries and even volunteer appointments in many cases have to be routed through the main board of the church,  it will chug and stay about the same size.   Usually under 200.

And clearly there is nothing wrong with a church being under 200.   Some of these best community or fellowship happens there —  even better when the total is under 90!

But every healthy church that size wants to grow bigger, to touch more lives, to help to win more unbelievers to the truth.

And they should have such a mission in mind.

What should this one board do?   What is its ideal assignment?

 This is the major issue, for many church boards do whatever.   Many spend much of their time on what the chairman decides to bring up, or the concerns of one of the charter-member families.

Often there is unprepared discussion into the late hours of the evening in response to the open question from the chair, “Anything else we should discuss?”

Some churches when being established wrote a constitution that said what should go to the main board or council:  “All matters of direction for ministry for the church.”    That would be everything.

This is why I like and propose “The Soccer Field.”

The one board is called by the church to be responsible for the four “sides” or boundaries of the church, and the pastor and staff and people involved in the daily and Sunday ministries of the church,  are free to minister and grow and care and evangelize and plan – all within those boundaries.

The main board cares for the big picture – with the pastor involved in that as a voting member of course;  the pastor and staff and ministry leaders have the freedom to grow ministry and carry out vision in the daily work of love and grace.   They “enjoy the game” while “keeping the rules.”

Let’s explain the four sides of The Soccer Field:


Statement of faith—this hardly ever changes, for good reason!  But any clarifications or questions of deviation would go to the main board.   When changes are necessary, they would recommend them to the membership.

Constitution – many of these do need clarification or updates.   Often they were written when the church thought it needed many “commissions” to carry out the ministries of the church.  Often the governance of the church was given to the entire membership, calling for frequent members meetings.   Maybe that was fine when the church was fifty strong, and the schedules of people were light,  but will not work today.

Restoration-discipline – this suggestion is that the board establishes policies for this controversial and difficult area, not that it handles all the cases.


Budget – the one main board must establish a process for the budget formation that is workable and geared to the number of staff and ministries.   They should also approve the annual budget or recommend the exact totals to the membership.

Finances —  using a finance committee that has leadership and multiple members from this board, to avoid stalemates,  this board watches monthly reports, sets salaries,  manages audits,  and makes policies for strong financial ethics.   Gone are the days when the financial secretary and the treasurer were husband and wife,  or the pastor signed the checks!

Building expansion —  any recommendations for purchase of property and building programs would be recommended by this board after a study that they ordained.

Property – this is also related to purchase or possible sale of property, and detail work can be done through a committee charged with that purpose of course.  When the church is over 4-500,  we recommend that a properties committee do the study and make the recommendations to the membership.    This standing committee should have  leadership from this board and one or two other members in addition to some others skilled in this area.   Again, this is to avoid stalemate  that can happen when the staff and board seek one direction and a property or trustee group is not in on the planning and goals.


Purpose — the purpose or mission statement should be adopted by this main board,  and it most cases it is developed by them and staff.   Some of the profit for doing this is in the actual writing, for those doing this think hard about “why we are here.”   Then this board keeps this in mind, along with the values, as any new directions for the church are considered.

Values —   these also are important for self-assessment, and to guide the growth of the church.   They will always be some memorable variation of grace,  worship,  community or connections and groups in the church,   mission (including missions local and global, but also defined DNA of the church and why it is there),  and integrity (of ethics and true “oneness” of its message with Biblical truth and real life).

Overall policies – these are the ones that apply to all events and staff and operations of the church.   Any perks for staff – mileage paid for car use,  health insurance, reimbursement policies —  are determined here, often after first study by the finance committee.  Also factors determining who can serve on staff or in a teaching role would be formed here.

This is not about issues determined about procedures in particular ministries – whether to have a men’s breakfast, or when to charge for an event, or when the youth group should meet.   (Many of the details of church life are indeed determined by this board or the advisory groups as a church starts, so this may involve change for the sake of expediting ministries.)


Culture —  the term seems nebulous,  but it is important.   This involves the mood of the church,  its involvement in politics,  the characteristics of the pulpit presentations in general.   How does the church determine the leadership areas for women,  new attenders,  youth?   These may come under policies finally, but they first show up under this culture issue.

“Product” – not that we see people as commodities!   But the board might best determine “what we would like to see people know and believe and do if they are here for five years and more.”  This is not about dress and political views,  but rather emphasizing what the church seeks to teach, and what practices it advocates for personal growth and mission.   For instance, some churches have diagnosed certain characteristics they would hope would be formed in their people through the years – people who pray, worship, give, serve,  witness,  love others,  advocate for God’s view of family, etc.   All departments of the church then pull in this same direction.

Other board responsibilities:

As noted on the diagram,  the main board is responsible for the call and annual review of the senior pastor, and clear recommendations of any votes that go to the membership.   Constitutions differ on how many issues must be handled by the larger membership group.

Yes there is trust from the membership to have such a board, but with clear guidelines for them.

Yes there is trust from the board to free the pastor and staff and all who volunteer their time for ministry and teaching and outreach,  but with defined lines.

It works well.

So how do we get to one board rather than multiple policy teams?

 Carefully  — full of care.

If  “people hate changes and surprises,”  as church consultant Lyle Schaller always warns,  we don’t spring this on them with urgency – “Let’s go to just one main board,  and eliminate the others.”

In some churches that would be a declaration of  war,  perhaps a seven-year war,  or maybe 40.

Change must begin with the pastor, usually, then with prayer and information, starting small with the second.   Often there is a council or church leadership group made up of either all of the main boards or committees, or at least their leaders.

It is there or with the main spiritual leadership board, often called elders, that the plan to move toward one main board can start.   They and other “tribal chiefs,”  influential people who care and speak up on such things,  should know the reasons why!

The issue is simplicity of mission,  not,  “We have more than one board.”

There is no way to prove how they did church from the Bible, either, since the variables are so numerous.   Who gave policy input in the house churches, for instance?   If you had apostles, what else do you need for vision and direction!

People do care about the church, and those who have been involved in the various boards of the church know when it is cumbersome and care to expedite ministry.   Hopefully they will get it as they see the good of one board and what it can do.

And that is the good of “The Soccer Field” diagram.   The picture says more than a thousand words, and the call for freedom for the “ministers” of the church – all the pastors and directors and volunteers also – to “play” and serve within the boundaries, is important.

Also,  the clear protection or boundaries for the staff and ministries answer the concerns about the proverbial power-hungry pastor or renegade ministry leaders.   The one board has strong responsibilities.

What does the pastor and pastoral staff do?

 They “play” in the infield,  within the boundaries of The Soccer Field indeed, but with freedom and flexibility to move swiftly.

They recruit and train volunteers for their areas, including sometimes volunteers from the main board, who serve not as elders or board members but as Christians who wish to help others.

They report to the pastor,  not multiple people, or the board in general.  Often church boards have asked all the staff to report to them, causing confusion, multiple bosses, and weakening the  role of the staff leader.

Obviously the lead pastor may designate associates to help in staff organization and reporting,  but he or she cannot abrogate responsibility for the staff.

Long-time traditions in established churches have the membership electing all kinds of “offices,”  most of which might be better left to appointments by the appropriate staff members.

A lot more about the pastoral and staff responsibilities are in their appropriate chapters.

I do think movement to this type of one main board for a church can be a very good and comfortable vehicle to help get a strong church where it wants to go!

Leadership Development

Why do we make it hard

  1. Because it is. We learned very little about it in school, and very few of us had strong leaders who deliberately built skills and desires into our lives. And we do not get much time to travel together like Paul did with Timothy or Titus.
  2. We use books too much. A lot of them make it complicated.
  3. Maybe we should just have two subjects to impart: character and church.   CE National has discussion guides from Bible verses on these two subjects, by the way.
  4. We forget it is just TLC – time with men in a group of 4 to 6 others, Love shown and said, and Content of the scripture that hits the heart.
  5. We do not ask ourselves and all staff to lead a group of 4 to 6 others to develop in character strength and church leadership.

Continue reading “Leadership Development”

Notes on The Soccer Field Model for the Board

soccerfieldNotes on The Soccer Field Model for the Board-Download

The Soccer Field

The board is responsible for setting and guarding the boundaries, so this is a board ” job description” for them! The pastor and staff are responsible to “play” or serve on the field, within the boundaries, and with as many volunteers as possible, so this is a staff “job description” also. Hopefully the picture makes it clear. Continue reading “Notes on The Soccer Field Model for the Board”