Do You Know What You’re Doing?!

[This article first appeared in the May 21, 2004, Mission Moments newsletter from the Center for U.S.
Missions. Permission is given to copy this article for distribution within your own congregation. Please
credit the author and the Center for U.S. Missions in Irvine, California, For
more information, contact the Center at 949-854-8002 x1780.]

“I volunteered to bring refreshments and make coffee for the meeting. I found out later I
was also expected to be the babysitter. After a couple times alone with 30 kids, many of
them uncontrollable, I couldn’t wait to get out of there.”

“When we came to this church from our old church, I was so tired from everything I’d
done there, I made up my mind I was not going to get involved and no one could make

What do these comments have to do with mission and outreach? Mission is the core
purpose of the church. Volunteers are the core workers of the church, vastly
outnumbering professional church workers. For a church serious about the Great
Commission, productive volunteers who are happy and content are vital. Such a church
can’t afford volunteers who are angry, frustrated, burned-out and turned-off.

Interestingly, the above comments were made last weekend by two people during their
training as ministry orientation leaders in their congregation, volunteers who would get to
know new members and invite them to consider ministry opportunities in the church.
Despite their previous negative experiences, both were excited about this new ministry.
They had been selected based on their spiritual gifts, had been personally invited and had
received a ministry position description, detailing the responsibilities of the task.

Many factors are important if a church wishes to equip and support their volunteers,
rather than use them up. One factor is rather simple and often overlooked or underused:
the job description. It’s been said, “Well begun is half done.” And a job description is a
major part of a good beginning. Would you agree to a salaried position without knowing
the pay, benefits, hours or responsibilities? Before giving up their valuable free time,
people want to know those basics, too

What does a job description do? And how does this help mission?

  • Focus on purpose: Why is this job worth doing? Our time is too valuable to give to
    busy work. A job description should emphasize the purpose of the task, showing
    how it supports the purpose of the congregation. A side benefit: determining the
    purpose of the many tasks done at church might help us decide which are really
    worth doing.
  • Spell out the details. You don’t sign a contract without knowing the details. Wise
    people know the details before they commit to a task: the hours needed, the length
    of the commitment, the actual duties. Be completely honest. The result is less
    burnout and more willing volunteers.
  • Include qualifications and benefits. By including the qualifications needed, you end
    up with better matches between volunteers and tasks. You may still have
    unqualified people express an interest in a position; be ready to lovingly guide
    them to more appropriate tasks. By adding the benefits a volunteer receives
    through that task, you may well peak the interest of someone who otherwise
    would pass up the opportunity.

If the finished job descriptions simply sit in a file or on a hard drive somewhere, they do
no good or, worse, raise expectations without satisfying them. Don’t bother to write job
descriptions without a plan to use them! Update them, at least annually, by the people
who know the job best—those doing it. Make them conveniently available (print and/or
website) to new members and others who might want to browse the opportunities.
Commit to never recruiting for any open position without a job description in hand. If
you really want to commit to excellence in mission, include the job descriptions as part of
annual review meetings between each volunteer and their supervisor, to address the topic:
How can we do this better?

See also: How to do Job Descriptions

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