Three Keys to an Effective Job Description

Clearly defined authority, roles, and responsibilities of the staff are marks of effective leadership in the church. While authority, roles, and responsibilities are established by the organizational structure of a church, they are described with the most detail in the job descriptions written for each position. Unfortunately, many churches are not able to provide job descriptions to their staff.[1] Churches are quick to hire people, but slow to tell them how to do their job. The end result is confusion by the workers as to who they answer to, what authority they have, their role in the organization, and the responsibilities they are expected to carry out. That’s why, as Lotich says, “Providing employees with a detailed job description is the best way to prepare them for a successful employment experience.”[2] Each employee that makes up the organizational chart should have a written job description.[3] An effective job description has many elements, but those can be summarized into three main areas: roles, authority and responsibility.

The Employee’s Role

First, an effective job description addresses an employee’s role. That is, the employee needs to know what part she plays in the church/organization. Therefore, Pollock notes, “The content of the job description will depend for the most part on the specific job itself.”[4] As it relates to the employee’s role in the organization, the description states the title of the position, i.e., youth pastor, children’s pastor, or lead pastor. Secondly, the general expectations of the position should be stated in the job description. For example, the youth pastor is expected to lead a gospel-centered student ministry with teaching on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. The third part of the employee’s role that should be defined in the description includes the qualifications for the position. This may be length of experience, type of education, or both.

The Employee’s Authority

The next key to an effective job description is to identify the employee’s authority. Clarifying the employee’s authority is just as important as communicating the employee’s role in the job description. When authority is not defined, confusion results because an employee may, on the one hand, attempt to delegate responsibilities to another staff member, or, on the other hand, refuse to accept responsibilities delegated to them. Therefore, the description needs to clearly define the person/position that provides supervision. For a senior pastor, this may be no one or it may be the board. For the youth pastor, this may be the executive pastor or the senior pastor. Additionally, the job description will define who the employee supervises. A senior pastor may supervise several staff members, while the administrative assistant may supervise only a few contractual staff.

The Employee’s Responsibilities

Lastly, an effective job description outlines the employee’s responsibilities. That is, the employee needs to know what he needs to do in his job. The job description should state the specific responsibilities the individual will be held accountable for accomplishing. The responsibilities defined in the description will be specific for the job. No one else on staff at the church is hired to do these tasks (unless there are multiple people filling the same type of role, obviously). In addition, the responsibilities are described in detail. The employee will not be surprised by more details about responsibilities after he is hired. He will know exactly what is expected of him before he accepts the position. Lotich makes the point that, “Job descriptions should be reflective of expected tasks and responsibilities of the role and should be updated annually to ensure that changing focuses and priorities are reflected in the job description.”[5] In addition to being specific and detailed, descriptions should be flexible. The job descriptions change as the organization grows and changes. However, the specificity and the details of the descriptions do not change. An employee will have a clear understanding of her responsibilities based on the job description presented to her.

An effective administrator in the church gives ample attention to identifying three key components in an employee’s job description: role, authority, and responsibilities. This not only identifies an effective leader, but also sets up the employee to be an effective leader. He/she has clarity to carry out his/her job as expected by the church. The employee, then, is enabled to succeed and everyone in the church benefits from his/her success.

Wimberly, The Business of the Church, 55.

[2] Patricia S. Lotich, Smart Church Management: A Quality Guide to Church Administration (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012), 93.

[3] Welch, Church Administration, 84.

[4] Pollock and Burkett, Business Management in the Local Church, 195.

[5] Lotich, Smart Church Management, 93.