Church Business Best Practices

June 8, 2016

Church Business Best Practices

Churches play so many different roles in people’s lives. They’re a place for community, celebration, mourning, finding meaning, and receiving guidance. All of these important moments make it easy to overlook that every church—from local parishes to city cathedrals—must operate like a business, with many people helping to run it from day to day.

Given what a church represents to its parishioners and community, the concept of running a church like a business may seem a little inappropriate to some. The truth is that parishes of any size have to be able to fund ministries, maintain the building itself, and pay their personnel. Much like other non-profit organizations, churches can help themselves spend efficiently and manage people effectively by taking a page or two from the for-profit world’s playbook.

It’s all about finding the right blend of sanctified and shrewd when it comes to church business practices. A little accounting and human resources know-how can go a long way toward ensuring a sustainable future for every church. Here are some of our tips for ensuring the business end of your church is covered.

Put policies into writing

It might seem a bit redundant considering the ethics built into the religious atmosphere, but drafting a thorough set of guidelines for church employees is as important for churches as it is for any business.

Religious institutions aren’t unaware of this need. For example, the Catholic Church has had some form of its Code of Canon Law for centuries, which provides laws and guidelines for the organization of its hierarchy and directs the actions of its faithful.

Though your church likely doesn’t need 246 pages of precepts, it should have written sets of policies and rules for its employees. Like with any other job, people need to know what’s expected of them in several senses. Documents should be drafted for:

  • The specific responsibilities and roles for any position in the church, including to whom each role reports
  • Rules for employee conduct when on the premises or acting as a church representative
  • Standards for paid and unpaid time off, vacation, and sick leave
  • Evaluating employee performance and setting guidelines for promoting employees
  • Policies for hiring and dismissal, the latter being important for avoiding wrongful termination lawsuits
  • Reporting misconduct, abuse, or negative experiences with fellow workers or supervisors

Unsure or uninformed employees tend to be unhappy employees, but more than that, a lack of set expectations can hurt productivity and efficiency. Churches need to make every dollar spent count—paying wages to employees who aren’t sure about how to perform their jobs can undermine that.

Embrace the power of technology

If that all sounds like an ungodly amount of paperwork, worry not! We’re fortunate to live in an age when there are bountiful options for digital church management.

The acronym CMS will be familiar to those who have spent some time in the for-profit world. These Client Management Systems are powerful software platforms that can track the status of customers, update budgets automatically, and organize operations. The religious world has its own CMS—in this case, the C stands for church, appropriately enough—and it, too, has many convenient benefits for church management.

Church Management Systems can help a lot with human resources and accounting management. Digitizing forms makes it easier for employees to refer to them and helps supervisors perform and document management duties. Better still, CMSes provide churches with the ability to forecast budgets with more certainty by plugging in donations, tithes, and expenses.

Communicate with the congregation

In any organization, operations can break down because of a lack of communication. With churches, there’s a need for communication on many levels: between pastors and employees, and between church staff and the congregation at large.

In people management, part of that communication comes from putting policies into writing as mentioned above. But there’s also the importance of two-way communication, something that can get overlooked or ignored easily in a church setting. Employees need to feel comfortable asking questions to their supervisors and have a platform for voicing concerns or ideas. Great companies incorporate feedback from all facets of their workforce to operate more successfully —churches can and should do the same.

The congregation can help their parish more ably when pastors and church leaders are clear about their needs. Fundraising is likely the first thing that comes to mind, but this also applies to asking for assistance in running or improving operations. Don’t be afraid to delegate. Parishes are full of people with diverse experience who can offer their time and advice. Chances are there’s at least one accountant, human resources specialist, or executive who can offer some tips.

A church is not quite a business and so much more than a non-profit organization. Applying the best practices of secular management can help churches operate efficiently and effectively, preserving the most resources possible for the mission. At Paycor, we believe HR wisdom applies to any organization that has people to care for. Subscribe to our Resource Center (below) for helpful advice and insights to assist you in getting the most out of the people who help your church provide good to the community. Not sure where to start with putting some of these processes in place? Contact us and we’ll be glad to help.

Sources: Churchleaders.com, Smart Church Management, U.S. Catholic


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