Pastor Mike, the worship pastor at Central Christian, asked the Senior Pastor, Allen, to have lunch with him so they could talk about Allen’s growing frustration with the new youth pastor, Toby. Toby was a member of the congregation before he came on staff, and after the resignation of the former youth pastor a few month’s earlier, Toby raised his hand and asked to join the staff. He had already been working with the youth as a volunteer assistant, and he had a long-standing friendship with Pastor Allen. It seemed like a good fit… for a few weeks.
After a couple of months of being on staff, Toby seemed aimless and lost in his job. He tried to be creative, but at just about every turn he found that his old friend, now his new boss, started treating him differently — and then he started getting into trouble for being inconsistent. He also started developing a lot of insecurities, and confided in Mike that he never heard from Pastor Allen anymore unless he had done something wrong. Pastor Mike, trying to help, asked to talk about all of it over lunch with Pastor Allen.
“The church is growing,” Allen said. “I need staff members who can keep up. I don’t know what’s wrong with Toby. I thought he’d be a high performer, but the guy just seems lost. He’s not what I thought he would be.”
“I think he is a high performer,” Mike said, “but he needs more direction.”
Allen shot back, “I hire staff members so that I can turn stuff over to people. I don’t have time to babysit. If he needs direction, he’s not our guy. I don’t have time to do my job and help him with his at the same time!”
“That’s not the kind of direction I’m talking about,” Mike said. “I think if you give Toby a job description, and spend a couple of hours with him going over it based on exactly what you want from him, you’ll see real change. I think he’s looking for more input from you on the front-end so that your relationship doesn’t devolve into a cycle of silence followed by correction for wrong-doing. That’s what it seems like now, doesn’t it?”
“Yeah, but he has a job description,” Allen said. “He knows exactly what he’s supposed to be doing. Plus, he’s been helping in the youth ministry for quite a while. He should have it down. I thought he’d just take it and run with it, but he’s taking it nowhere.”
“Wait,” Mike responded. “He has a job description? I don’t even have a job description! When did you give it to him?”
Allen looked shocked and confused. “What do you mean you don’t have a job description? You got yours the same day he got his!”
“What day was that?” Mike asked.
“Are you kidding? On your hire-date, Mike. Your job description is Worship Pastor, and Toby’s is Youth Pastor.”
And then — no joke — Allen grabbed two napkins out of his taco-bell bag, put them side-by-side on his desk, took out a pen, and wrote “Worship Leader” on one, and “Youth Pastor” on the other.
“There!” He said, as he pushed the napkins over to Mike with an angry smile. “Job descriptions! I don’t have time to baby-sit the staff or hold your hands through every little thing you should be doing. I hired you to be creative and to get things done in your departments. If you guys need more than that, then we are at an impasse, and this isn’t going to work.”
“But that’s the thing,” Mike responded. “You’re not happy with the things that Toby is doing, but you won’t tell him what you want him to do instead.”
“I want him to be the youth pastor,” Allen said with an irritated low growl.
The story goes on a bit, but you get the idea. And by the way, it’s a true story — though all the names have all been changed.
Unfortunately, many Senior Pastors and churches become the victims (and the victimizers) of their own lack of training in human resource management. They function under the false belief that giving someone a title is the same thing as telling them what they’re supposed to be doing. But if a church is going to go into the employment business, and hire staff members to work on behalf of the church, then this post is a challenge to work harder and do a better job embracing standards and practices in the workplace that help staff members function at full capacity.
The first tool every staff member needs, regardless of the job, is a well-written and very specific job description. A job description and a title are two different things. To illustrate, think of a football team. “Quarterback” is a title, and calling the plays on the field and throwing the ball to the other players based on those pre-written plays that have been practiced over and over is the job description. Nobody knows how to be a quarterback just because he is assigned that title. He has to learn the role, understand the functions, and be taught the skills and tasks associated with the title. He has to know what the coach expects of him, and he has to be given a very specific list of plays to be memorized for the big games. Otherwise, he’s just a guy with a title who doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do. He may be incredibly talented and gifted for the game, but he still needs a playbook. The job description is every staff member’s play book. Here’s how it works.
#1 – A written job description gives clarity and direction
Every job description should include a general description of the job, including the job title, the number of hours per week the job requires, the pay and benefits associated with the job, the person to whom the staff member is directly accountable, and the general duties associated with the job. But it should also contain several lines (bullet points) that give the staff member specific tasks and assignments to do as a regular function of the job. This is the part of the job description where you get to tell the staff member the specific things you want done on a regular basis. You can break it up by daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually if there is a larger program that requires ongoing ministry as well as long-range planning for events like retreats, camps, outreaches, etc. Build those things into the job description, then you’ll have a tool for the second function.
#2 – A written job description provides objective accountability
If your new youth pastor excitedly announces that he has dreamed up a cool idea for a Men’s Ministry breakfast, and that he’s already working out the details, you can calmly respond with, “Toby, is that part of your job here? It’s a great idea, buy I really want you to spend your energy working on the job description I gave you first. If you have vision for more, then that’s excellent, but I’m not willing to expand your duties until we’re both sure that you’re doing the things on your job description first.” Sometimes staff members will lose motivation for their actual job, and start doing someone else’s job instead. Of course, they’ll feel like (and try to convince you that) they are working hard. The written job description helps you to remind a staff member that their job is not about doing stuff that would be really cool, but is instead about them doing the stuff that pertains to the job they were brought in to do. That brings up a third helpful function of the job description.
#3 – A written job description is the perfect tool for performance evaluations
I worked as an associate pastor in two churches before being a senior pastor. Over the seven years I spent as an associate, I never received a formal performance evaluation, and I never had a written job description. Even if I had sat down with my pastors to discuss my performance, our talk would have devolved into a cat-and-mouse game of subjectivity about exactly what I was supposed to be doing. There was nothing written down that either pastor could point to in order to evaluate my performance, so their evaluation would have been intuitive, subjective, and inconsistent. I always provided staff members with a written job description. When we would sit down annually to discuss their growth, progress, and even their struggles, the first thing we would do is read their job description out loud. I can’t tell you how many times a staff member would say, “Oh, man I forgot about that one.” I would smile and say, “Well, before we leave today, let’s get some goals on paper to address it.” When you let the job description do the correction, then you’re not the bad guy. It give you an objective, dispassionate way to help staff members get back on track, and see if they’re doing the things they have been asked (and are being paid) to do. Finally…
#4 – A written job description can be used for promotion, correction, or even termination
If pastor Toby comes in to the quarterly or annual review, and you discover that not only has he done everything on the job description, but he has actually expanded some of the things he’s doing in youth ministry, then you can give him a written letter of commendation (to be read at the staff meeting), and a bonus check or gift card to a local restaurant! You can even give him a raise. If he gets it all done in 30 hours, and wants to spend 10 hours developing a men’s ministry, you can give him a promotion, and add a few lines to his job description, and a few bucks to his hourly rate. If, however, Toby isn’t doing what’s written down, you can give him a letter outlining the things that he is not doing, and helping him to set goals to get them done. If, after a season of correction and recalibration, Toby just doesn’t get his work done, you can put the job description on the desk in front of him, and ask him if he thinks he is doing the things written on it. Since you’ve done the work of writing things down, you can help him, if necessary, to see that he’s not cut out for youth ministry the way you want it done, and you can let him go. But it won’t have to be because he can’t read your mind, and therefore can’t do the things you want done. It will be because both of you know that he isn’t doing his job. And you will both know that because you have given him a detailed and well-crafed job description.
Again, you don’t have to hire staff members and have employees if you don’t want to. For some churches, that language just doesn’t sound very spiritual. But if you do hire people, and if you do have employees who work at your church, then you owe it to them, and to yourself, to give them a well-written, clear, and detailed job description, and to get some basic training in best practices for human resource management. If you want help with job descriptions, you can get it for a very reasonable cost http://www.jobdescription.com. Here is an example of the kind of job description they can help you develop in a matter of minutes.