Church Planting: People and Policies

This is the fifteenth installment in a series based on my adventures in planting a church.  For more information on the series, or to see what else we have walked through, check out the original post.  My hope is to use this series to develop a resource for planters as they are thinking about diving in, or need to process their current situation… this resource is incomplete without your contribution (that is a subtle way of saying leave a comment).

Whenever I initially interview a church planter to assess their needs I always ask them to tell me their story: why they are planting, what brought them to this place, and how do they intend to move forward.  At some point during the conversation there will always be a reference to other churches that they had been a part of, and how their leadership will look different.  This is not normally a critical conversation, most times the former churches are referred to rather warmly, but as we all evolve in our leadership, we look to do things differently from the places in which we came from.

One common theme that comes up during these conversations has to do with policies being valued more than people.  There is a common dread of policy manuals, employee handbooks, bylaws, and anything that feels “corporate”.  While I understand the fear of such things (I am highly allergic to Robert’s Rules of Order), as leaders we need to understand that a little bit of the “corporate stuff” is not only wise, but necessary to protect the church from significant issues.

During a recent gathering of our church planter’s coaching cohort one of our planters was just returning from a meeting with his church’s lawyer.  The conversation that the group was having centered around the idea of not allowing policies to become more important than people, and as is usual in these crowds an anti-policy slant was being voiced… until the story came out.  He began by saying “in our church people are far more important than policies… the problem is we have no policies.”  He then went on to explain how this lack of policies has the church running up legal fees in order to protect themselves against someone who was denied ordination by the church.  The sad truth is that were there a simple policy manual or set of by laws in place, the church could have avoided this whole mess.

The bottom line is this: do the hard work of creating the policies you need ahead of time… and follow them.  Spend the time crafting your articles of incorporation, your constitution, your 501(c)3 paperwork, and the policies that govern your board now… before there is an issue.  This will free you up to make people more important than your policies… while having the safety net in place when you need it.

Have YOU done the work of crafting the policies and procedures that YOUR church needs to protect it?

If you are feeling a little nervous after reading this, you are not alone.  I’d love to spend a little time with you walking through the specifics of what your church needs in order to keep out of trouble.  Keep in mind that I am not an attorney, but if you need one of those, I’d love to connect you with some friends of mine that work specifically with church planters.  Click here to set up a time for us to talk.



About the Author: Matt Steen

I love Jesus, Theresa (my wife), the Redskins & Capitals, and am currently living in Waco, Texas where I am studying the finer points of BBQ (while working on my MDiv and MBA at Baylor University). When not studying, I serve church leaders through and am the Director of Connections for Harris Creek Baptist Church's Downtown Campus.