Impropriety Policies

A true story that is every church leader’s worst nightmare: It was a weekday, and the police had just left the church office. The officers showed up unannounced and informed the staff that their visit was for the purpose of investigating an allegation of abuse in a children’s classroom from the previous Sunday. A specific volunteer was being accused of impropriety. Nobody on the staff team knew anything about it. A communication breakdown occurred and the parent complained about the volunteer that Sunday never made it to church staff or leadership.

The church’s leaders were left with unanswered questions: Do we believe the victim’s allegations? Do we support the volunteer, who we really trust? Do we announce what happened to the church? Do we issue a statement? Do we confront the volunteer? Do we remove the volunteer from all services? How did we not hear about this before the police arrived?

To make a long story short, this incident ended about as well as it could have under such bad circumstances. But sometimes the stories do not have good endings. Beyond that, the questions that arise can be challenging to address when a situation unfolds suddenly.

How does a church respond when allegations are made against individuals? This question becomes especially difficult when allegations are made against key leaders in the church.

These issues are becoming more complex as our society is increasingly sensitive to the balance of power issues. What may appear on the surface to be a consensual romantic relationship involving a leader may give rise to allegations of abusive behavior.

In order to be prepared to respond properly to a wide variety of situations, churches should consider adopting policies ahead of time. More specifically, churches should consider drafting and adopting the types of policies described below.

Pastoral Conduct Policy: This applies to the conduct of pastoral staff and other leaders in the church. Deals with issues such as appropriate physical contact, communication, and pastoral counseling practices.

Investigation Model Policy: Describes how to go about conducting an adequate investigation when allegations are made.

Sexual & Other Unlawful Harassment Policy: Governs sexual harassment in the workplace, including what constitutes harassment, how to report it, how reports will be handled, and assurances that there will be no retaliation for genuine reporting. This policy may be included in the church’s employee handbook.

Volunteer Sexual & Other Unlawful Harassment Policy: Governs sexual harassment with volunteers of the organization, including what constitutes harassment, how to report it, how reports will be handled, and assurance that there will be no retaliation for genuine reporting.

Whistleblower Policy: Explains and empowers those involved with the organization as to how, and to whom, to report any suspected illegal or unethical behavior by those representing the organization.

Some churches have people on their staff or board with the expertise to help draft these policies. However, in many churches, it is necessary to consult with a church HR or legal professional to ensure best practices.

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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.

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

Tel: (888) 421-0101 
Fax: (888) 876-5101


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