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Your Staff Needs a Written Job Description: 4 Reasons Why

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 babysit 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.