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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Appropriate relationships: Pastors and ministers will exercise prudence when meeting alone with others and avoid any situation that might compromise their marriages.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Posted on May 10, 2023
As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
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I don’t know if requiring a pastor to tithe to what is effectively their employer is even legal where I am. It would certainly have the church under a microscope.
Who gets to oversee what the senior pastor and staff are giving financially? That is a dangerous situation you
are creating hoping that it will not be open to being abused. Is everyone else in the church held to the same standard. I can tell you right now that would never work in my church at all. Tithing is not even mentioned in the New Testament. Paul tells us to be “cheerful givers.”
We have a personnel committee that oversees the staff, including me. Our financial director will give an alert if someone on staff stops giving to the church. Nobody else has access to individual giving records. We would work with a staff person if they had a financial hardship.
Great article Sam. I am curious though,, do you have any accountability standards for your deacons and/or elders of the church. Are they held to the same standard of accountability as the staff?
Good question, Seth. Yes, each tier of leadership at West B has accountability standards. Our pastors and paid staff have the highest standards, followed by deacons, then our council and committee members.
Found this very helpful and informative. It is simple, easy to follow, and it makes sense. I think the main reason churches don’t do personnel reviews for pastor’s (and in my experience very few do one at all, and those that do have no real reproducible process) is because they have no specific plan as to what they will be doing in the first place. If you can avoid moral failure and don’t hack off the wrong people you can go on forever leading poorly and never reaching the potential of your calling. I love the idea of using a mutually aggreed upon covenant (also like Eric Gieger’s language Ministry Action Plan (MAP)) to state what the specific expecations are in the next year of ministry. Do you use a form or process for your “Reviews”? Would it be possible to see an example, or two, of the written covenant, reviews, and personal standards?
Shawn, I’m glad the article is helpful. You can find our membership covenant and pastor covenant at bylaws.westb.org. We use a written form when doing reviews and document everything. I’ll have to do a follow-up article with the exact process!