Handbook How To

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Your guide to developing a complete
handbook — before you kick off your fall program.

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Odds are that your ministry has policies and procedures. As many
churches do, you hang them in your children’s ministry hallways and
post them on your classroom walls, using colored paper or specially
designed signage to attract attention. You’ve probably scheduled
meetings with your teams to implement new policies and procedures.
You’ve discussed the relevancy of long-standing ones. You’ve most
likely made copies of copies to distribute to countless parents
over the years. You find yourself repeating the same information
over and over again to volunteers and parents, and pointing them to
the information posted or distributed.

All of this was my experience for the first four years of my
ministry as director of Discovery Island children’s ministry at
NorthRidge Church in Plymouth, Michigan. I knew there had to be a
better way to communicate essential information to the volunteers
and families.

I found the motivation for my handbook while attending a
conference at another church. Their inspirational booklet was clean
and professional-something you wouldn’t mind leaving out on an
office desk or a coffee table. Although it was a great booklet, I
envisioned something different that would better suit NorthRidge
Church and Discovery Island. When I arrived home, I was on a
mission to create the best volunteer guide possible! Read on to
discover the steps it took for our handbook to go from concept to
creation.

STEP #1: Find Your Inspirational Piece. You can
find inspiration by contacting other churches and requesting a copy
of their handbooks. Research church Web sites or organizations that
have high-level volunteers such as the Red Cross, major hospitals,
or mission organizations. We invite you to download a PDF of the
NorthRidge Church, Discovery Island Parent & Volunteer Guide at
NorthRidgechurch.com/DIvolunteerguide.
Once you’ve done your research, identify what you like from each
piece and what attracted you to the material in the first
place.

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STEP #2:  Form a Task Force. I knew I
couldn’t do this alone — so I planned a team of no more than four
people. I had the vision but needed to find others who had a flare
for writing and research. I made a short list of people I knew
would enjoy investing in this project. One of the key volunteers I
recruited had experience as a customer service agent and was
particularly skilled at writing apology letters. Another team
member was an engineer, currently a stay-at-home mom, who loved
research. My final invitation went to a creative writer who had a
flare for humor. My role was to keep the team on schedule and
assign different aspects of the project to each team member.

I scheduled a weekly 2-hour meeting, recurring for 10 weeks. Prior
to the first meeting I located every written policy, procedure,
rule and guideline we currently had. Then I provided a copy for
each team member to take home, review, and rewrite for common
language and consistency. At our first meeting, I shared the vision
for our handbook and identified our target audience. We discussed
how our handbook would be used, and we developed a timeline and
distribution target date.

STEP #3: Identify the Tone. Our task force
returned the following week with their suggested updates for
evaluation by the team. I then assigned one team member to review
meeting notes and standardize the policies, procedures, guidelines,
and rules for the following meeting’s review. At this meeting, we
also determined the underlying tone we wanted our handbook to take.
NorthRidge Church places a high value on honoring God through
excellent communication that maintains a positive perspective. We
modified all documents to reflect a friendly tone, not harsh or
demanding. We rewrote every document with a positive point of view.
We also made the names of the policies more interesting and
attention-grabbing. For example, we went from “Health Policy” to
“What’s Hot and What’s Not.” This was a fun exercise where each
person contributed.

     

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