As a church leadership consultant who used to work as a C.O.O., a common subject I am asked by leaders is about job descriptions for church staff and volunteers. We all value them as important, but do we understand what comprises an effective job description?
Why do we need job descriptions in church?
Job descriptions bring a great deal of clarity and security in church life. This is important when committing finance to hire someone. We want to ensure they know what they are being paid to do, and what they are being paid not to do!
Pastorally, they are also essential. They grant security to staff, who no doubt want to do a good job. This little piece of paper brings clarity, guidance and protection. I advocate job descriptions for volunteer ministry leaders too, for the same reason. If people are choosing to invest their spare time to the church, we must honour and value that as much as we do our own time. Job descriptions ensure people are empowered to direct their energy and focus in ways they have actually signed up for.
We can sum up the benefits of job descriptions as follows:
Firstly, effective job descriptions bring church vision into day-to-day outworking.
Secondly, effective job descriptions bring clarity of responsiblity.
Thirdly, effective job descriptions communicate value to staff and volunteers.
What should be included in a job description?
So what goes into an effective job description? I want to propose four things. These four things should easily fit onto no more than two sides of a page. If they can’t, either the job isn’t clear, or it isn’t well thought through and defined enough!
I’ll also repeat something I said earlier: these job descriptions are needed for unpaid volunteers just as much as for staff. If a job is needed, it needs to be clarified. That will bring security and focus to everyone involved, and avoid many difficult conversations later down the line!
The four things I believe are essential in effective church job descriptions for both staff and volunteers are:
What is their title? A title isn’t important for the ego, but it brings a definition and focus to the job. Be fair with a job title here, in terms of the authority connotations. Don’t call them a manager if they are not managing resources or people. If they are managing those things, call them a manager! Similarly, if they are not directing an area or team of managers, don’t call them a director. If they are, you’ve guessed it – honour them by giving them the right title!
Interestingly, appropriate job titles will give a clue whether you have a culture of control or empowerment. If managers can’t manage, and directors can’t direct, then you probably have a controlling or disempowering culture.
- Explain why the job is important, as this communicates vision.
- Make sure any essential qualifications or experience for the role are truly, really, absolutely essential! Otherwise, you’ll miss out on great people.
2. Expectations & Goals
What are the overall goals of the job? What purpose does it serve in the organisation? What do you want from them? What does success look like? It might be broad or be a specific measurable, but make sure they know what you are assessing whether they are doing a good job or not.
- Outline expected goals with timelines that will be reviewed. Deadlines create a sense of urgency and that can create momentum. But be prepared to follow up your deadline with a review, otherwise it means nothing!
A summary of job responsibilities is needed. What do they need to focus on in this role? What should they spend their time doing? What are their duties? Where does the buck stop with them?
Be specific here. Vague is not helpful for anyone, because you either won’t be clear on what they do – or don’t do – or they won’t use their time in the way you originally intended. Clarity brings focus.
- Review job descriptions at least once a year with the person in the role. They’ll tell you what is realistic, unrealistic, fantasy and reality about the job!
4. Reporting Lines
Who are they managed by, and who do they manage? How often are they expected to see them? Make sure that the other parties are also aware of this!
In a church environment, supervision and accountability are aspects of discipleship. If they are not helping people grow and develop, you may have a dysfunctional culture that uses people instead of nurturing people.
- Only have someone report to one supervisor. Any more and you breed confusion and conflict for everyone involved!
These tips should, I hope, guide you in ensuring you have effective job descriptions for your church staff and volunteers. To learn about how I help churches like yours and leaders like you with staffing and structure issues, click here.