One of the things I’m frequently asked about is how to write a good job description. I share copies of many of the job descriptions my church has written over the years in the Resources area of my site. Today, I thought I would share my “two cents” on how to write one.
Obviously there are a number of different approaches to writing a job description. I have seen many, especially since becoming an Executive Pastor. In the church, job descriptions tend to contain information that I don’t believe should be in a job description. For example, an Arts Pastor should be “spiritual” and “above reproach,” etc. In my opinion, this stuff should be a given for any pastor on staff at a church. Evaluating a potential staff member’s character, spiritual maturity, doctrinal position, etc. is more appropriately covered in the recruiting and candidate evaluation process for every staff member. You know, the recruiting process.
I believe a job description should take more of a “just the facts Jack” approach. Job descriptions need to accomplish a couple of things …
First, the job description should define duties, responsibilities, and qualifications for a position. This should be done in a way that fits within the overall organizational structure of church staff. In other words, one position should be easily compared to another based on the content of the job description. Of course rate of compensation, relative to others on staff, should also be determined based on the duties, responsibilities, and qualifications of a particular position as documented in the job description.
Second, a job description should provide the individual in the position with a good description of what the job entails and what they are supposed to do in the position. It should be specific enough to accomplish this but not be too specific as to create a “not my job” culture in the organization.
So, here’s a brief explanation section by section:
The general description is a brief overall description of the position. I try to stick to only two sentences. The first sentence describes the position overall.
Here’s an example:
The Executive Pastor is responsible for the overall leadership and direction of church staff, leading all functional areas in the accomplishment of the church’s mission.
A second sentence describes what the job includes. You know an “items in a series” list. This is important. Each item in the series is broken down in more detail in the next section: Essential Job Functions.
Here’s the second sentence:
This includes outreach, arts, pastoral care, group life, student and children’s ministry areas as well as strategic planning, finance, administration, human resources and operations.
Essential Job Functions
The next section of the job description is Essential Job Functions. Simply put, this section breaks down the items in a series listed in the “This includes …” portion of the General Description. My experience is that the Essential Job Functions section should be fairly detailed, but again, not too detailed as to give the individual the idea that their position is narrow and they should never “color outside the lines” so to speak. A good Essential Job Functions section should list between 8 and 12 numbered items that are in the same order as the items in a series of the General Description.
If the job description is for a leadership position, the very first Essential Job Function should say something about leadership. From there, breakdown the position in some detail. Oh, and one more thing, every Essential Job Functions section should conclude with “Perform other duties as assigned.” This is the one that makes sure no person can say, “Not in my job description!”
Here’s the Essential Job Functions section from the example:
- Support the Senior Pastor in the accomplishment of the church’s mission through ministry effectiveness evaluation, discernment, decision making, planning and overall direction of the church staff.
- Lead the ministry staff in the establishment and ongoing direction of ministries that effectively reach the church’s demographics, ensuring the accomplishment of the overall mission.
- Ensure the operational readiness of the church through leadership and oversight of the support staff performing duties in administration, finance, human resources, supply, and facilities management.
- Facilitate the annual strategic planning process including evaluation of ministry performance; review of mission, vision, and core values; development of key objectives and tactics; and establishment of three-year goals.
- Establish and maintain a set of key performance measures (KPMs) that provide the Senior Pastor and church staff with ongoing visibility of the effectiveness of all functional areas of the church.
- Develop annual financial plans that fund the accomplishment of the strategic plan and meet critical financial objectives such as established cash reserve levels.
- Lead church planting efforts including development of a strategy, networking with other church planting focused churches for funding and provision of other needed resources as well as identification, development, and leadership of lead church planters.
- Champion the development of infrastructure by all ministry and support areas that support the healthy, long-term growth of the church.
- Lead the church’s building programs including capital fundraising campaigns, master planning, design and architecture, contractor selection, and construction.
- Perform other duties as assigned.
Education and Experience
Under Education and Experience list the particulars of these two important areas. How much education should the “successful candidate” have in order to do the job? Is the education “required” or “preferred?” What kind of experience should a person have to be successful in the position?
Write a brief couple of sentences that cover these two areas:
This position requires a minimum of 10 to 15 years of experience as a senior leader in a corporate business environment. Possession of a Bachelor’s Degree in Business, Technology, or other related field is required. Master’s work in Biblical studies is a plus. The successful individual must have a proven track record of effective leadership, judgment, and above reproach character.
It’s important in the Education and Experience section to make sure that the “level” of the position works in the context of other positions in your church. Generally speaking, a higher grade level position will pay more but will also require more education and experience. I try to go with ranges of years of experience. The Executive Pastor’s job description that we’re using in the example is a fairly high-level position, therefore requiring much more education and experience than an entry-level position might require. Make sure that positions in the same grade require the same experience and higher grade level positions require more experience. Lower-grade level positions require less education and experience.
Position Structure and Level
The last section of the job description is a listing of particulars on how the position fits into the organization. What’s the pay grade? To what other position does the position report? Are there employment classifications and/or categories that the church has put into place? If so, the job description is the “guiding document” that should state this information.
That’s it! I hope this post has given you all the information you need to write your own job descriptions. If you have written a number of job descriptions and have a different approach or something to add, please post a comment.
If you would like to talk to me about this area of documentation and infrastructure development in your church, feel free to contact me.