Employee Handbooks for Churches

 Churches sometimes lean toward avoiding too much formality around hiring practices and employment procedures. There can be a bias against seeming too “corporate” or running the church “like a business.” Heightened formality may seem natural when a church is hiring a previously unknown candidate for a pastoral position. But in other circumstances, formality may not feel as necessary. For example, the existing pastor may recruit friends or prior colleagues to serve in staff positions. The relational equity is high, and formality does not seem natural. Further, it is becoming increasingly common for churches to find candidates for various staff roles from those already attending the church. Those who excel as volunteers may be given the opportunity to join the paid staff. The arrangement seems to flow organically. Formality may seem forced.

Yet the employment relationship raises many questions that may go unanswered in an informal arrangement. When and how is the person expected to work? What happens when the employee does not want to perform certain tasks? What if there is an extended illness or injury? How much time off is allowed? How will expenses be reimbursed? How will the employee be reviewed? What if conflict arises, or termination is necessary? These, and a list of other issues, may cause the informality of an initial employment relationship to be unsustainable. More definition may become essential.

The best way to be proactive around employee issues is to develop and maintain an Employee Handbook. The handbook can address issues proactively, and can be presented to all new employees for review and signature at the time of hiring.

Here are some practical and legal considerations that may be relevant to include in a church’s Employee Handbook:

  • Standards of conduct and discipline,
  • Employee sexual harassment policy (including conduct expectations, how to report harassment, and how it will be investigated),
  • Confidentiality of church information,
  • Alcohol and drug use during work hours and outside work hours,
  • Attendance, punctuality, work hours, and schedules,
  • Social media use and outside communications
  • Full-time versus part-time status,
  • Exempt versus non-exempt status,
  • Pay periods,
  • Performance reviews,
  • Introductory periods at beginning of employment,
  • Business expense reimbursement procedures,
  • Clergy housing allowances,
  • Sick days and other leaves of absence (including paternity and jury service),
  • Paid holidays,
  • Vacation days,
  • Outside employment
  • Employment benefits (health insurance, life insurance, retirement plans, and other health benefits),
  • Professional development, and
  • Termination and resignation.

Employee Handbooks can be complex. Employment issues are nuanced by each state’s specific employment laws, which adds to the complexity. Federal labor laws are also relevant and constantly changing. Although resources are readily available online to help assemble an Employee Handbook, it is vitally important to consult with a professional in ensure that all employment laws are followed. State laws vary greatly when it comes to employment issues, and employment issues are a leading cause of legal disputes for churches. As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Experience matters. Especially when it comes to managing HR and payroll compliance issues. Our HR Pros have an average of more than 10 years of experience, hold professional certifications from the HR Certification Institute and handle thousands of questions each month.

Your employee handbook can be an invaluable organizational tool … or an employment lawsuit waiting to happen. And in recent years, Congress and state legislatures have been busy enacting laws that directly affect your employee handbook. If you haven’t kept up, your handbook is out-of-date! Order risk-free! If you are not completely satisfied with your employee handbook development, just let us know within 30 days and your money will be refunded in full. Order today and received 12 months of HR On-Demand Support FREE.

Start today  – Employee Handbook and HR On-Demand Enrollment

Still, have questions?
Learn more about how you can update your employee handbook.

Clergy Financial Resources
Tax I Payroll I Bookkeeping I HR
11214 86th Avenue N.
Maple Grove, MN 55369

Tel: (888) 421.0101
Fax: (888) 876.5101

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Clergy Financial Resources serves as a resource for clients to help analyze the complexity of clergy tax law, church payroll & HR issues. Our professionals are committed to helping clients stay informed about tax news, developments and trends in various specialty areas.

This article is intended to provide readers with guidance in tax matters. The article does not constitute, and should not be treated as professional advice regarding the use of any particular tax technique. Every effort has been made to assure the accuracy of the information. Clergy Financial Resources and the author do not assume responsibility for any individual’s reliance upon the information provided in the article. Readers should independently verify all information before applying it to a particular fact situation, and should independently determine the impact of any particular tax planning technique. If you are seeking legal advice, you are encouraged to consult an attorney.

For more information or if you need additional assistance, please use the contact information below.

Clergy Financial Resources
11214 86th Avenue N.
Maple Grove, MN 55369

Tel: (888) 421-0101 
Fax: (888) 876-5101
Email: clientservices@clergyfinancial.com


If you would like to learn more about our tax services designed for clergy or payroll, bookkeeping or HR designed for churches, please complete the request form to have an advisor contact you.

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