Writing Job Descriptions That Foster a Teamwork Mentality

October 16, 2019 Andrew Osborne

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Working for a church can be one of the most fulfilling career paths out there! Not only do you get paid to pursue your passion and serve God using the gifts and abilities He’s given you, but you also get to grow extremely close to the people you’re serving with, in ways that aren’t typical for non-church-work jobs. Your faith not only plays a role in your work life, but is the center of it. Many times, you become family with the people you are serving with.

However, there are some challenges. One of the biggest challenges in church work is having limited resources and manpower. Even if you work for a larger congregation, you will often need to assist in other areas that you're not as passionate about.

For example, I was hired as the director of worship arts at my congregation, primarily leading the music in our contemporary worship service. But the church couldn’t afford for me to be paid full time and focus all of my attention solely on leading music. When I was hired, it was intentionally made clear that part of the reason I was chosen was because I have experience in not only music but also videography, youth ministry, and worship technology. The expectation was that I would also participate in assisting with those areas in our ministry, which I was more than happy to do.

As most churches are not rolling in cash, we have the responsibility to be especially good stewards of what God has blessed us with, doing as much as we can with the people and talents He’s given us. As your church’s needs continue to grow, you may find that you need to hire more people to fulfill those needs. It’s important that you shape your job descriptions to best reflect the desire to find a candidate who will understand that part of working for your church will include assisting in parts of your ministry that may stretch their skills and experience.

Start with Your Vision

Every Christian church has the same mission—to spread the Gospel of Jesus to their community, making new disciples and baptizing them. However, every church has a distinct context and community that they are ministering in, making their vision for their congregation look dramatically different than the church three miles away. What we preach and believe will be dictated by Scripture, but if you are a congregation in a rural area, an urban city, or on a college campus, the way you communicate those beliefs will change. When you are crafting a job description, it’s important to spell out who it is you are ministering to. That way, your potential candidate will know if it is a demographic they can understand and relate to.

That’s not to say you can’t learn to understand different people, but if you grew up in an urban context, you will naturally be able to understand that demographic much easier than you would a rural community of two thousand people. Your goal when hiring someone to serve your church is to find someone who is passionate about connecting with the people they are serving and connecting those people to Christ.

Set Expectations

As you write your job description, it’s obviously important to clearly identify the expectations you have for the potential employee. Write out what qualifications and experiences the potential employee would ideally have, but also be clear that one of the biggest expectations for a potential employee will be that they are a team player. If you are clear that one of your expectations is that your employees be willing to help outside of their main area of expertise, it will be easier to foster an environment where everyone is moving toward the same goal and working together. Be sure to communicate this desire with the people currently on your staff as well, otherwise new employees may feel they’ve been deceived when joining your team.

As your write out your expectations in your job description, you could separate them into sections like this:

  • Position Summary—List the primary duties of this position.
  • Competencies—List the skills or aptitudes you would expect the candidate for this position to have. For instance, if you were hiring a technology director for your church, you may want to list things such as, “Should have a good grasp of basic HTML and website development, should have a good understanding of sound engineering and mixing, should know how to run a live-streaming camera kit,” and so forth.
  • Essential Functions—List the tasks that would be regularly performed in this role. For instance, if you are writing a job description for a youth director, this might say something like, “The person in this position will be in charge of preparing and teaching weekly Bible studies on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights and organizing and leading bimonthly mission trips and youth retreats.”
  • Marginal Functions—List the tasks that would be performed less frequently but would still fall under the responsibility of the person doing this job. Staying with the youth leader example, you might say something like, “The person in this role would be in charge of training middle school students to be acolytes for the Sunday services if students have not yet been trained. They would also assist the pastor with determining family ministry curriculum as needed.”
  • Additional Expectations—Here, you dive into the idea of working as a team. For example, you could say something like, “One of the biggest expectations of this position is that the person in this role would be a team player. There will be many opportunities to assist in other areas and roles in our ministry that would fall outside the main function of this position. The ideal candidate for this position would be someone who is willing to assist others as much as possible.”

Consider Adverse Effects

If your goal is to get people to work together and not create silos in your ministry, you might have some adverse effects. One of the problems you might run into is that if it’s everyone’s responsibility, then it’s no one’s. It’s important to make sure people know what their main responsibility is and what it’s not. For example, if there’s not one person directly responsible for responding to comments on your Facebook page, you might run the risk of comments getting ignored. Be sure that you have a clear list of responsibilities for your employees, yet encourage them to be helpful. Help them to understand that they have certain tasks that they are responsible for but that you also expect them to assist with tasks that are others’ responsibilities.

Another potential adverse effect is if you don’t set clear boundaries regarding who is responsible for what, your employees may end up fighting for control of things that they’re not responsible for. As humans, we tend to have a sinful desire for more power. It is important that your employees know where the boundaries are between helping and grabbing for too much power. For example, imagine you have a director of communication who asks the youth leader to assist with running the church’s Instagram account, but as time goes on, the youth director gets possessive of the Instagram account and changes the password so he’s the only person who can access it. You need to make clear who is ultimately in charge of certain parts of your ministry and who is simply assisting.

Regularly Review and Update

A job description isn’t something that is only used when you first hire. You should be regularly reviewing and updating your employee’s job descriptions to more accurately reflect what it is they do. Perhaps you can meet with each of your employees at least once a year to look at their description with them and evaluate if that description still fits their role. You may find that over time their responsibilities have morphed and that you need to rewrite their description with them to more accurately reflect your church’s needs.

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