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Handbook How To

Anita Weldon

STEP #4:  Arrange the Documents in Logical Order. We organized each piece in various categories such as vision, purpose, values, safety information, infants, preschool, elementary, general audience, and ministry roles. Then we determined the order for a logical flow and easy reference.

At this point we took a critical look, eliminating duplicate information and nonessential verbiage. Keep it simple, concise, clear, and clean. We dropped several pages of information that wasn't essential, to keep it short and easy to read. Then we developed a feature page for easy reference and use.

Have other people review your project and give feedback. We asked people who were outside of our ministry to comment, and we found that some of the things that seemed clear to us were vague or confusing to them. This step provides excitement and momentum. This is also the time to have several people review your handbook for spelling or grammatical errors.

STEP #5: Storyboard Your Handbook. We began to lay out the handbook and determined how we wanted it to look. We were able to hire a graphic artist; however, you may have a church member talented in this area who would be a great resource for a rough copy layout. Another option is to contact a local community college or university to find a student willing to help as a class project for no cost. This was our opportunity to be creative and make it fun by using puns and funny statements or facts. We searched for pictures or images that would highlight our ministry and dress up the handbook. We determined to use stock pictures available to purchase at a minimal fee, for quality and consistency. If you're using pictures of children in your ministry, you must obtain parental permission in writing before moving to the next step.

STEP #6: Solicit Church Leadership Endorsement. With a working draft in hand, I met with our senior pastor to discuss the vision, purpose, and value of our handbook. Leadership buy-in was essential in the proc- ess and provided an opportunity to showcase Discovery Island ministry in a positive manner. This handbook was a marketing piece for our church and ministry and, as such, would raise the bar for all future church communications. 

STEP #7: Negotiate for the Best Deal. A key component to your plan is a budget for printing costs. We discovered the larger the printing order the less per-copy cost, and we adjusted our order to provide a projected number of copies for the next two years. We solicited three bids from graphic artists and local printers. Many churches have a relationship with local printers where printing is done at a discounted rate for the church. If you have limited funds, you may need to print your handbook on your church copy machine. In that case, upgrade the weight and quality of the paper.

STEP #8: Unveil Your Handbook First to Your Team. Because we value our Discovery Island volunteers, we wanted to include them in the promotion of our Volunteer Guide. The first edition was targeted for volunteers' use and training. Due to the interest and enthusiasm our Volunteer Guide produced, we developed a Parent Guide the following year. Edition 3 was an updated version of the Volunteer Guide, and for Edition 4 we determined that both guides were similar and combined them into one publication -- The Parent & Volunteer Guide.

Today our guide is a great source of information for parents as well as a unifying encouragement to the volunteer team that equips and empowers them to serve. It has raised the level of communication, added excitement and value, and increased ministry trust for each volunteer role. Stay tuned, as we find ourselves in the process once again, of designing Edition 5.

Anita Weldon is director of Discovery Island at NorthRidge Church in Plymouth, Michigan.

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