Five Essential Accountability Standards for Pastors and Paid Church Staff

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Accountability is the acceptance of responsibility for your actions. But what does this acceptance look like with paid church staff?

  • It’s more than theology. For example, a church leader may believe in the biblical nature of accountability but not follow through, like a person who believes exercise is good for the body but never goes to the gym.
  • It’s more than a system. A church leader may submit to a system of accountability but do so begrudgingly. Additionally, no system is perfect. Loopholes always exist. People who want to game the system will find ways to get around the rules.
  • It’s a spiritual discipline. Leaders should seek accountability. They must be willing to be held accountable. It’s a spiritual discipline in which you act upon belief.

Accountability is both formal and informal. In any work environment, including the church, you must codify expectations. These formal guidelines should be consistent, ethical, and reasonable. In a church, accountability also occurs informally through the relational side of discipleship.

Within the church, consider the nature of accountability through three different layers: culture, operations, and personal integrity.

  1. A written covenant encourages the right culture. Many churches have membership covenants, but an additional covenant between pastors and churches is also helpful. When a clearly written covenant exists, there is less of a chance unmet expectations cause conflict. Here is an example of this kind of covenant.
  2. Reviews twice a year encourage the right operations. I perform two reviews a year with every staff person. The first review at the six-month mark is a progress report on how they are achieving annual goals. The second is a yearly review on job performance. Here is an example of how I set annual goals with staff.
  3. Personal standards encourage integrity. In addition to a covenant and formal reviews, our staff also submits to specific personal standards. These standards were not forced upon the church staff. We wrote them proactively for ourselves!

In this article, I will focus on the third layer. I’ve adapted standards from our employee handbook. We have five main areas of accountability. The following accountability standards ensure all pastors and ministers avoid situations that would have an appearance of compromise.

  1. Appropriate relationships: Pastors and ministers will exercise prudence when meeting alone with others and avoid any situation that might compromise their marriages.
  2. Accountability partners: Every pastor and minister will have at least one internal (within the church) and one external (outside the church) accountability partner with whom they regularly communicate.
  3. Internet tracking: Every pastor and minister will have some form of internet tracking installed on their personal computers, phones, and other electronic devices to which their spouse has full access.
  4. Giving checks: Pastors and ministers will be subject to regular giving checks. The expectation is that all pastors and ministers will maintain a minimum of 10% giving to the church operational budget.
  5. Church involvement: In addition to consistently attending worship services, pastors and ministers are expected to be involved in some form of small group (life group, Bible study, etc.) where community can be built.

Paid church staff should have different accountability standards than volunteers. I know some would like everyone in the church—paid staff or volunteers—to have the same standards, but such an arrangement is unrealistic. The person getting paid to do a job should have higher expectations than the one volunteering. The goal of these accountability standards is to protect employees while also promoting healthy spiritual growth.

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