The Equipper Newsletter -- March 3, 2007

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Today's article, below, on job descriptions includes a link at the end to sample job descriptions, along with a quick experiment to test their value.

Worth Reading: "Discerning Your Church's Hidden Core Values," an article on the culture within a church. This article doesn't directly address a church's volunteerism culture, but culture has as much influence as any system on volunteerism in a church.

Worth Browsing: Lifechasers and His Church at Work, two websites that aim to help Christians serve God while they're at work. Serving God is 24/7. What if churches gave people practical help for serving at the office, home, school, etc.?

Worth Knowing: "Training Staff to Succeed with Volunteers," also known as "The 55 Minutes Training Series," has long been popular in the non-profit world as well as very useful in churches. Author Betty Stallings has updated it and increased the number of topics from 10 to 12; one of the topics is job descriptions. This new version comes out in April for $69, but is available through March 31 at a pre-publication price of $55. As Betty says, "Folks MUST become internal trainers or things just aren't going to get better!" Read about the resource here.

The How-to's of Job Descriptions

by Karen Kogler

Churches are finding great value in having a job description for each ministry task done by volunteers--everything from weeding the flower beds to serving on a board.

Yet most churches don't have volunteer job descriptions. It can seem like a daunting task, although it needn't be. This article looks at the how-to's; for more on the value of job descriptions, check out "Do You Know What You're Doing?"

First, gather a team of interested people. Adapt these suggestions to tailor a plan for your congregation. Be sure to include plans for using the completed job descriptions, or why bother making them?

What jobs?

It can take some digging just to discover all the tasks done around your church. Create and maintain a master list. Get official input from staff and ministry leaders, then ask around to find the unofficial volunteers: the person who waters the office plants, changes the furnace filters, etc. Announce that you're compiling this list, and see what pops up. You'll likely find it's never a complete list: there's always someone else, or someone thing new starting. You might decide to create guidelines to distinguish church-related ministries from the person who on her own decides to take a casserole to a neighbor, but aim to be more inclusive than exclusive.

By the way, if the church's paid employees do not have job descriptions (or they are out of date or unused), this applies to their jobs, too. All work/workers benefit from job descriptions!

Who writes them?

The person in the job is the one who can best describe it. But not all workers are comfortable writing. Find a couple people who enjoy writing, and let them be ghost writers. They can contact the person working in the job, ask them questions, write their answers into the job description form, and then ask the worker to review and correct the finished job description. Leaders will give input also, especially in such areas as purpose, qualifications, etc.

What goes in them?

Look at some samples from other churches to see what they included. Decide what has value in your situation. Here's some thoughts on specifics.

The don't's

Don't fall into the temptation to start with an electronic version of the job descriptions from another church. It's so, so easy to simply change "St. Peter Lutheran" to "St. Paul Lutheran" and change choir rehearsal from Thursday to Wednesday night. But you want job descriptions that are authentic for your situation, that will be 'real.' The creation-from scratch--is crucial to the process. People need to think it through!

Don't make them too long, or too short. One page is a good goal. If they're less than half a page, they're not giving much information. If more than a page and a half, it's more than most people will read.

Don't sugarcoat reality. Honesty is crucial. Broken trust is very difficult to restore. Be upbeat and positive, but make sure you're being accurate.

Don't be humorless. It's healthful to make people laugh. The tone of the job descriptions says a lot about the 'tone' of serving in your church.

What to DO with them

Once they're all written, you've only just begun. If all they do is gather dust on a shelf or take up space on someone's computer, you've wasted your time (and discouraged those who worked to make them possible). Using the job descriptions is absolutely crucial.

  1. Make them available: post them on the church website and/or hand them out to new members and/or keep print copies in the church entry. Regularly remind people that they're available. Talk about the collection as if it's interesting and fun to look through, as well as helpful-because it is! Use the collection also to encourage appreciation for the variety of gifts given by God to members, and for all the ministry that is done for the Lord.
  2. Keep them updated. A team can have the ongoing task of noticing when some task is changed or a new task created, and of updating the electronic and printed copies. (Think about this step before you decide to print 300 bound copies of the job descriptions!) Once a year, have every job description reviewed by someone who knows that job. Once people sense the job descriptions are musty, dusty historical records, they won't be used.
  3. Work to instill into the church culture that whenever anyone is recruiting for a task, they have a job description in hand. Those being recruited will appreciate it.

Compiling, updating and using job descriptions is no more than recording what God is doing through the people he has gifted and called, while inviting others to join us in the marvelous adventure of using our gifts to serve our great Lord.

Try it!

Print two copies of the blank job description on this website's Job Description page. Share this article with a friend at church. Ask her/him to write a job description for one church volunteer task they're familiar with, while you do the same for another task. Then exchange and read what the other wrote. Did you learn something new about the other job? Did you learn something worthwhile?

Sample job descriptions are on the same page.

Let's pool our knowledge! If your church is using job descriptions, give us the benefit of learning from your experience! Email your comments, and one or two sample job descriptions to with "job descriptions" in the subject line.

Comment on this article by scrolling to the bottom of this page.

This is The Equipper Newsletter
Published by Karen Kogler
Helping Churches Help People Serve Jesus
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