Setting It Straight

Policies and Procedures

Policies and Procedures books

Basic Training for a Church Safety Ministry

In the Bible

But all things should be done decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40).

Therefore an overseer must be above reproach ... (1 Timothy 3:2-3).

And if any foreigners visit you or live among you and want to present a special gift as a pleasing aroma to the Lord, they must follow these same procedures (Numbers 15:14 NLT).

Because you did not carry [the Ark] the first time, the Lord our God broke out against us, because we did not seek him according to the rule” (1 Chronicles 15:13)


Decently and in Order

What the Apostle Paul told the Corinthian church is good advice for any organization or business, namely to do everything "decently and in order" (1 Cor. 14:40). In the context of Paul's admonition, several persons were getting up and speaking, singing, or praying out loud at the same time in their services, and this was causing chaos. The apostle said that they should take turns and limit the number of speakers in one service. In modern terms, he was setting a policy of keeping order in services, and he outlined a procedure for doing this.

In the early church, the administrators were episkopoi (overseers), from which we get our word bishops. At that time, the overseers/bishops of a congregation were the governing board. A larger group of elders (of which the bishops were members) were the spiritual guides of the church, and the deacons took care of practical duties, such as administering relief (charity) for widows, orphans, and invalids, and some were also teachers. In Paul's letters to Timothy and Titus, he specified the qualifications and duties for these offices and others. He also covered church discipline. In a sense we can call these policies and procedures.

The Old Testament books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy have many policies and procedures for the Tabernacle worship and the duties of the priests and Levites (these are in addition to the laws for daily life). The procedures for each sacrifice were the same whether the sacrifice was brought by a citizen or by a foreigner. 1 Chron. 15:13 refers to what happened when they did not follow the procedures for moving the Ark of the Covenant (1 Chron. 13:7-10).

What this means for us is that we, as a Church Safety Ministry, need policies and procedures to conduct our ministry "decently and in order," and we should follow these. In some cases, not following them can lead to public embarrassment, legal issues, or injuries - perhaps even someone's death.

What Are Policies and Procedures?

Two definitions of "policy" are, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, (1) "prudence or wisdom in the management of affairs" and (3) "a definite course or method of action selected from among alternatives and in light of given conditions to guide and determine present and future decisions."[2] In other words, a policy specifies what we will do and generally how it is to be done. When a member or the team decides what to do, it follows the policy.

According to Merriam-Webster, a procedure is, (1) "a particular way of accomplishing something or of acting," (2) "a step in a procedure," or (3) "a series of steps followed in a regular definite order."[3]

Procedures specify how we do what the policy says to do. It's the distinction between putting "Cake" on the menu and the recipe we use to bake the cake.

Sample Policies and Procedures

The Church Safety and Security Volunteer Academy has a section on Sample Policies and Procedures. This is to give you an idea of what can or should be covered by Safety Ministry policies and well-thought-out procedures to carry out those policies. Your church's Safety Committee should write the policies to fit the local congregation, considering factors such as size, financial ability, the church's traditions, mission, beliefs, and denominational practices and policies. The samples provided in the Scholarly Article for this course are:

Identifying Personnel

This policy states how Safety Team members should be visually identified by church members, staff, and guests. The means given in the sample are (1) the type of clothing, including embroidered logo and lettering, and (2) an ID card with a clip-on or pin-on holder. The details will differ according to the acceptable clothing expectations of your congregation, whether more formal, in the middle, or more informal.

Supporting Ministry

The principle of this policy is that the Safety Ministry is to serve the other ministries in the church. This should be expected, since the church as a whole is a body (1 Cor. 12:12-31).

First, Safety Team members should introduce themselves to the pastor(s), staff, and volunteers in the congregation. This builds trust and confidence as they know and work with each other.

Second, the safety ministry is there to support, not to take center stage. Do not disturb their services, meetings, or activities.

Third, be mindful of their concerns, and be helpful. This means fixing minor issues if asked, such as sweeping snow off the walkway and salting the ice. It could also mean helping a nursery attendant understand how to check the infants in and out of the nursery.

Staffing

This concerns the scheduling and assignments of Safety Team members, including how many are needed for services and events. An example would be two in the sanctuary, one in the foyer, one in the parking lot, and one in the Children's Department during the 10:30 AM service, who accompanies the ushers to the office after the offering, and where team members go at the end of the service for the next half hour.

Volunteer Schedule

This policy outlines the responsibility of Safety Team members to be there, be ready, and be on time when scheduled to work. It also addresses what to do if there is a conflict of schedule and you cannot be there,

Communication

The policies on communication include carrying and using the two-way radio and communicating with other team members, with church staff and volunteers, and during emergencies. More on this is in the article "Communication - Radio Use and Reporting."

Safes

This is one of the safe cash policies. These are part of access control, covered in another article. The policy specifies having a secure safe. The combination can be changed when needed (or on a regular basis). Access to the safe is restricted, and it is not to be opened unless two or more persons are present.

Cash/Offering Security

This is also covered in "Access Control." Safeguards are needed for cash (especially the offering) and the church's funds and accounts to protect them from both pilfering and embezzlement. This also includes precautions when making bank deposits.

Robbery

The policy and procedures here are about (1) preventing robbery or making it less likely, (2) how to respond during a robbery, and (3) reporting a robbery and following up (including reviewing the policy and procedures).

Bomb Threats

If the church receives a bomb threat, whether written, by phone, or electronically, how should you respond? What measures do you take? How about other threats, such as arson, poisoning, or an armed attack?

Suspicious Package Threats

What if you received a suspicious package or letter? This is not an everyday occurrence - at least not now - so the procedures should be written and placed where anyone in the office can immediately find and consult them.

Incident Reports

The Safety Team should have a policy about reporting incidents. The Safety Academy says, "Any time that the security team is involved in any non-routine action, an incident report should be thoroughly completed." Report forms should be kept on hand. More on this is in another article.

Other Policies

The Safety Committee may formulate, adopt, and implement other policies as needed. The committee may originate some procedures, but these are usually the responsibility of the Safety Director.

If the Church Safety Ministry is fairly new, it may have only a few programs in place, such as Fire Safety and Child Protection. When a new program is put in place, it needs program-specific policies. For example, in the case of Medical Response, the policies selected depend on whether or not there is a Medical Response Team. Policies for Severe Weather and Natural Disasters depend on which natural hazards are more likely for your local area and the setting of the church.

Conclusion

It is important for members of the Church Safety Ministry to understand what policies and procedures are and why they are needed. The success of the Safety Team depends on conducting business "decently and in order."

There Is More

Other articles in the series on the Church Safety and Security Volunteer Academy are "Orientation" (Starting Right), "Setting It Straight" (Policies and Procedures), "Communication" (Radio Use and Reporting), "Making the Rounds" (Patrolling), "Curricula" (More Courses, Refreshers), and "Access Control" (A Key to Security).

References

  1. Kris Moloney, "Church Safety and Security Volunteer Academy," Sheepdog Church Security Training Courses, Training Bundle (Classroom) [https://sheepdog-church-security.thinkific.com/courses/church-safety-and-security-volunteer-academy-training-bundle]; Individual (Online) Training [https://sheepdog-church-security.thinkific.com/courses/church-safety-and-security-volunteer-academy].
  2. Merriam-Webster Dictionary, "Policy," [https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/policy].
  3. _____, "Procedure," [https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/procedure].