How should we write a policy?

Before you begin writing a policy, it is important to think of the goal as being as simple and concise as possible. Bullet points and numbered lists are allowed. You’re not trying to complete a complex body of legislation. Also, a policy level document is something that should not be changed very often. As we recommended in a prior section, it’s good to think in terms of process and procedure documents, along with guidelines, application forms, sub team documents, etc. being handled as guidelines which can be changed more easily as needed.

The easiest possible way to write a policy is to take someone else’s and adopt it as your own. There are a number of good model church missions policy documents on Propempo.com. We know of at least one church that simply took one of those policies and did a “search and replace” function in their word processor to change the church name to their own churches name; and, voilà, they had an instant church missions policy.

We don’t particularly recommend the “instant policy” method. However, gathering and examining several good church missions policies (or “guidelines”) can be an excellent way to shorten your development cycle. Put side-by-side, it is easy to notice and distinguish the meaning and applicability phrase by phrase and section by section. Doing so as a small editorial group could simplify the process using a virtual cut and paste method.

It is important to get the right people on your policy (or guidelines) writing task force. You need to have people who understand the value of sound policy, those who are practical and people oriented, and those who have a knack for expressing things in a precise and down to earth manner. Often, it is necessary to include a cross-section of interested parties and leadership in the composition of your policy writing group.

When the group first gets together, try to keep the big picture in mind. Start each session with prayer. Remember that the word you put on the page will have an impact on the lives of missionaries and their families, strategic field ministries, and ultimately the souls of the people they are trying to reach.

An organization named ACMC (Advancing Churches in Missions Commitment, which no longer exists as a separate entity) published three editions of the Church Missions Policy Handbook.  You might find a copy of this now out-of-print handbook. It doesn’t tell you exactly what to write in your policy; but it does give you a comprehensive checklist of issues or concerns for each item you might want to include in your policy.

At a minimum you’ll probably want to address the following sections:

  •  purpose statement, including scriptural basis
  •  missions leadership team structure
  •  roles and responsibilities for the MLT
  •  boundaries, criteria and priorities for support relationships
  •  financial priorities and processes
  •  ministry philosophy with respect to alignment in doctrine, local church centeredness, missiology/methodology, missionary accountability, and the special relationship of “homegrown” missionaries sent out from your church

How long will it take? It depends largely upon the time available to dedicate to the task and the number of people involved. One person giving a lot of personal attention to it might be able to create a reasonable draft in one week. If your church ethos demands that you coordinate the input of a 10 or 12 person editing committee, it’s going to take a long time. If the chemistry of the group works well together in relationships and attitudes, it will take considerably less time than if the group is polarized or otherwise less than gracious in interaction. It’s not uncommon for a policy writing team to take 3 to 6 months to complete their first draft. Some churches might chip away at it in smaller segments over a longer period of time, e.g. up to a year. Generally speaking it’s not healthy to take too long. People lose interest and forget what they decided early on of the time they’re considering issues much later in the document creation process. Also, it’s much easier and more practical to start with a simple document and revise it over time as you learn how it is implemented in real life.

Even discussing these issues will be a tremendous opportunity for growth and understanding of missions issues among your leadership. Becoming of one mind on these issues can be one of the most positively impactful activities for your churches biblical missions development. May God give you grace, fortitude, and tenacity to do this meaningful task well!

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