Policies & Procedures

Creating a safe, secure environment for a spiritual care ministry calls for specific policies and procedures that protect your church, lay caregivers, and those who receive care.

Lay counselors should be adequately prepared for this ministry. To be effective, the church must take the lead in developing lay counseling ministry guidelines, and then provide ongoing, regular lay counselor training and supervision.

Here are some items to think about as you plan for this ministry:

  • Have you determined lay counseling ministry goals within the parameters of your state laws with the guidance of an attorney?
  • Have you obtained full support of ministry development from church leadership?
  • Have you determined who will serve as supervisor of the lay counseling ministry?
  • Have you developed a lay counseling policy and accompanying forms with the help of an attorney?
  • Have the policy and forms been developed to ensure compliance with state law and the church’s governing documents?
  • Have you secured appropriate insurance coverage for the lay counseling ministry?
  • Have you developed a communications plan to address the information needs of various audiences within the congregation, including potential lay counselors?
  • Have you selected and screened potential lay counselors?
  • Have you provided training for the initial group of lay counselors?
  • Is the lay counseling ministry supervisor prepared to provide ongoing training and supervision to lay counselors?

Check for Conflict 

The effectiveness of any church program begins with the understanding and support of church leadership. That’s especially true of lay counseling and spiritual care ministries. For this reason, include church leaders in your planning process. Ensure that the governing body of your church not only understands the rationale for your ministry, but also fully supports and approves of spiritual care ministry policies and procedures before you implement a new program.

It’s also important to confirm that the policies and procedures you develop do not conflict with the church’s bylaws or other governing documents.

Review your plan regularly 

Laws change, as do the makeup and needs of a church. Review and update your lay counseling policy and forms annually, together with any other relevant spiritual care ministry policies and procedures. Church leaders should actively apply the church’s lay counseling and spiritual care ministry policies and procedures.

Posted October 2022

The sample policies and related documents in the Lay Counseling Overview site are intended to be a template for you and your legal counsel to use in developing your own customized program. We recognize that every faith-based employer is different, and policies and procedures must address the particular needs of each organization. We believe that you’ll find the materials on this site valuable, either as a starting point in developing a new program or in reviewing and updating an existing program.

As with all documents of this nature, it’s important that you ask an attorney in your area to review the policies in the handbook before you implement them. This step will help ensure that the documents have been properly drafted and that all relevant legal considerations have been addressed. Your legal counsel should also review the handbook on a regular basis after implementation to make certain that it remains current with changes in the legal environment.