Creating a code of conduct for meetings, groups, teams, or committees
Tips and resources on writing your own code of conduct to encourage constructive discussions and handling one another with grace in group settings.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. There is no law against such things.” Galatians 5:22-23.
What is a code of conduct?
Codes of conduct are relatively simple documents setting out clearly how we intend to behave with one another. Their aim is to provide structure so that all the business of a parish or benefice can be handled in a way that builds us up rather than draining or even damaging us.
Why do we need one?
Most of the time, the content of a code of conduct feels like ‘common sense’, and you may wonder why on earth you would need to write this down. However, setting out expected behaviours up front will stand you in good stead when your committee/ group/PCC needs to address controversial topics such as financial pressure or the need to change some aspect of Church life.
Sometimes meetings can become tense and difficult for other reasons, perhaps a disagreement outside of Church life. And many committees include individuals who are new to working as part of a group.
Having a code of conduct in place allows the group to hold each other accountable for working well with each other and focussing on the needs of the whole parish or benefice.
How can we set one up?
Codes of conduct can usefully be introduced at the start of something new, for example, the first PCC meeting after the APCM. Equally they can be introduced for discussion and adoption at any point.
It is important to consider them in detail at an initial meeting so that they can be discussed and understood fully by members before being adopted/ agreed to by all.
The principle that we each, personally, agree to abide by the code of conduct is an important one. In order to establish this personal commitment, you may wish to take a vote on adopting the code of conduct, which is recorded in minutes, or you may wish to ask everyone to sign a copy.
Thereafter the code should be reviewed by the whole team/group/council at least annually, or whenever change is needed.
It is important that discussion takes place and agreement is sought at each review.
When new members join a group or committee, the code of conduct should form part of their induction.
It might be sensible to set up a code of conduct at parish or benefice level and then cascade it to all groups and committees.
What does a code of conduct look like?
It is important that the code of conduct you use makes sense in your context.
Codes of conduct can include statements about:
- Conduct in meetings.
- Disagreeing well.
- Conduct outside meetings.
In the next section we have put together some statements that you may wish to include when you create your Code of Conduct. Not all of them will necessarily be relevant for your circumstances.
Setting out the purpose of the code of conduct is a good way to start. Some possible opening paragraphs are:
- So that we can work well together, the PCC/Committee/Team has a set of ground rules which help to facilitate trust, honesty, and accountability in all we do.
- Everyone on the (insert name of group here) feels called to serve God and the community by taking a role on this team/ group/ council. We respect each other’s calling and seek always to treat each other with love and courtesy.
- The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things Galatians 5:22-23. In our meetings we observe the following guidelines…
How we conduct meetings
It is important that everyone has a share of voice at meetings. Here are some phrases that express this:
- We will take turns to speak and turns to speak first.
- We don’t interrupt each other but will allow people to finish what they have to say before asking a question.
- All questions and contributions are made through the Chair who will ensure we are all heard.
- We will listen fully, attentively and politely whist others are speaking. This may sometimes mean that we need to manage our face and our body language as well as our words.
- We don’t mutter or have conversations whilst someone is speaking.
- We think about whether what we are about to say may cause hurt, offence or pain to others and then find another way of stating our point if necessary.
- If we are not able to attend a meeting and wish to express a view on an agenda item, then we will write or email to the Chairperson who will communicate our points in discussion at the meeting.
Sometimes your group or committee will have to discuss confidential items. It is important to be clear about what can and cannot be discussed or shared outside of the meeting room. Some phrases you might find helpful include:
- Discussions at PCC/ Leadership Team/ Committee are confidential.
- Decisions and minutes belong to the whole church and are communicated by (insert method).
- We take care to respect the agreed channels of communication which are (insert method).
When we disagree
Sometimes you will need to discuss challenging or emotive issues, at such times it is even more important that everyone has a share of voice and that people give and receive care and respect. Some phrases that express this are:
- If we disagree with something then we have a responsibility to say so and say why, clearly and respectfully.
- We ask questions and make comments in a constructive manner avoiding insults, sarcasm and criticism for its own sake.
- We don’t raise our voices to each other.
- We try to be aware of our own feelings, taking time and space to calm down and seeking pastoral support if we need to.
- We resist the temptation to judge when someone shares a view different from ours.
- We resist the temptation to contradict when someone expresses a viewpoint that we do not share.
- We will acknowledge our disagreements, listen with compassion to people’s experiences and seek to understand better how they have come to their point of view.
Serving our church family through membership of a group or committee extends beyond the meeting room. Making this clear is important and some phrases to help include:
- We are here to represent the views of our church family, not just our own.
- Whilst it can be helpful to explore issues in conversation with congregation members ahead of a meeting, we do not use written methods such as letters, emails, or social media to canvas opinion or garner support for a particular point of view.
- When we have come to an agreement as a group or when a motion has been carried, then we will all support the decision that has been made.
- We take care to use social media in an appropriate manner. Committee members are encouraged to read and sign up to the Church of England social media guidelines.
You are very welcome to contact the Diocesan Mediation Team who can give advice on working well together and working with conflict. Contact the team leader, Milee Brambleby by email or check out our web pages.
There are many sources for further information on conduct in (and outside) meetings. You may wish to look at: