By Tim Massengale
For a number of years I traveled full-time assisting churches in setting up a church growth and evangelism structure.
While traveling from church to church and working with various directors and Christian workers, it is common to hear lay leaders say over and again: “I don’t really know what I’m supposed to be doing.”
On the other side of the picture, I would often hear pastors give a very different, complaint: “Why can’t I get my directors to do their job?”
The problem here is obviously that of communication. Good communication is a vital key to church staff performance, whether it is for paid or volunteer workers. One of the most basic and important tools of good communication is that of job descriptions.
Why The Job Is Not Done
Let me tell you about a pastor who got a call one Sunday morning. The call was from one of his bus drivers. The bus was broke down on their Sunday Morning run to pick up children.
“Broke down” was putting it mildly. The engine was blown. And he felt he knew right where the problem lay.
His Maintenance Director had neglected to insure that the oil and water was checked before clearing the bus for use that morning. “What’s the problem?” the pastor said. “Why would a normally dependable man neglect an important job like that?”
At first glance, it would appear that the director is clearly at fault and obviously incompetent. But a closer examination revealed that the Maintenance Director had thought the Sunday Morning inspection was the responsibility of the bus driver. The bus driver thought it was taken care of by the Bus Ministry Director. The whole thing was an unfortunate mix up. So now let me ask you, who’s really at fault?
The problem this pastor had was a typical one. When a department director does not do their job, or is not following through with their responsibilities, a pastor must first check to insure that the person appointed meets the two prerequisites of good delegation – that of faithfulness and desire. But most often the response from the pastor is “yes, this person was a faithful, dependable worker before I placed them in the position of leadership, and they expressed to me a desire for this area of Christian service.”
Most pastors are already aware of these two basic requirements and hold to them strongly. Yet, in spite of these two criteria being met, the job is still being neglected and responsibilities are going undone. Why? Why will a faithful, dependable individual who has a strong desire to work for God not do their job? The reason, most likely, lies in one of the two following areas.
Knowing What To Do
First, they do not know fully what to do. When an individual does not know fully what to do, obviously, it is difficult for them to do it. A pastor might say “Well, I brought them into my office and sat them down for two hours. I told them everything they were supposed to do.” But unless that individual has a photographic memory, or is extremely adept at taking notes (few are), then they will remember little. And even if they do take notes, they are apt to miss key points that are critical to their position.
Research shows that an average person retains less than 10% of what they hear. After six weeks, this retention drops further to 3%.
Unless you place their duties in writing, there is a good chance that they will forget much of what you told them. For this reason, the written job description is very important. Your delegated director will refer back to it repeatedly. Job descriptions are not documents to be locked away in filing cabinets, but tools to be continually used, examined, and updated.
Knowing How To Do It
Secondly, they do not know fully how to do it. Herein lies the problem of many pastors and department leaders. They may prepare a job description that explains what to do, but unless the individual also knows how to do it, they will be fearful of failure. This is human nature.
It is not enough to tell someone what to do. They also need training. In this lies the difference between knowledge and skill. What they need is a pattern, or example, to follow. In following another’s example, they will learn the job and all its details. Then, after they have learned the job, they will often improve upon it.
The Apostle Paul said, “But join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you (Phil. 3:15 NIV). Providing a good pattern of service is just as important today as it was back then.
This pattern of “how to” needs to be in writing also. Some pastors have developed a basic “procedures manual” to help in this training process.
Only when the “what” and “how” of a job are covered is a person capable of doing it properly. Without these two, if a person does the job at all, it will often be wrong or incomplete, resulting in even greater insecurity when they are made aware of this. It is the responsibility of leadership to insure this does not happen.
What Will A Job Description Do?
A properly written job description will put teeth into an organizational structure. It will give it substance, strength, and clarity of purpose. It defines boundaries. It shows who is responsible for what and to whom. And more than any other single device, a job description gives goal-orientation. It is a responsibility check list as well as a training tool. A job description is all of this and more. Without written directions, a leader is asking for misunderstandings, conflicts, and frustration.
In the volunteer environment of the church, job descriptions are especially important. Some of the most effective, growing churches in Pentecost today not only have job descriptions for their department directors, but also for their Sunday School teachers and choir members. Pastors have found that the old saying is still true, “a good understanding makes a lasting relationship.”
How To Write A Job Description
First, lets look at the job description header. Begin with the job title. The title should describe, as nearly as possible, the work that is being filled or accomplished by this position. Next, you need the name of the individual involved. The job description should be personalized as much as possible. Finally, put the Date or year. This is important because once twelve months have elapsed, it is out of date. There are very few job descriptions that can go on for more than a year without alterations, because the environment changes, the capacities of the individual change, and the needs of the position change. The pastor must keep the position constantly in review.
Beyond this, the job description consists of six parts:
- THE JOB PURPOSE. A single, well written paragraph that states clearly what this position seeks to accomplish.
- JOB QUALIFICATIONS. These are the basic performance requirements (spiritual maturity, character, knowledge, and skills) necessary to do this job. Set your standard high, but keep it realistic.
- THE JOB RESPONSIBILITIES. These are the activities necessary to accomplishment the above purpose. When listing duties, it is important to be precise and specific. A vague, general job description is worthless. Give the job description some detail.
- ORGANIZATIONAL RELATIONSHIPS. Here you explain what their relationship is to the pastor, their relationship to subordinates, and their relationship to the other department directors. It should also spell out how they will be made responsible and when.
- TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT. Everyone responds to a challenge. This area says “I know you are good, but you can be better. I believe in you, I have faith and confidence in you.” Assign your leaders books to read, training CD’s to listen to, seminars to attend, churches to visit and observe. Help them to grow.
- GOALS FOR THE YEAR. List exactly what improvements you would like to see in that department in the coming year: New ministries, new programs, new positions, expanding existing ministries, numerical goals – the list could go on and on. Again, be specific.
God has always had a specific sign or symbol of every covenant or commitment that he made with his people. To Noah He gave a rainbow. Abraham had circumcision. The church has been provided with baptism – a “circumcision made without hands,” and the seal of the Holy Ghost. God never gave a “verbal only” promise.
Neither should a pastor. We, too, are following the pattern established by God and the early church. The covenant or agreement of service to help the man of God lead the people of God should be clear, precise, and in writing. This is what the Job Description provides.
If you would like a set of 40 job descriptions custom designed for Apostolic churches and ministries, contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org and I can send you a set via email. Cost: $3.00.