Ministry Job Descriptions

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Job descriptions are a necessary evil – or at least that is the way many view them.

The thing is, that most ministry or church leaders are not managers. Seminary does not focus on this aspect of ministry leadership. Hiring ministry leaders is not a frequent activity, and most churches go through a calling process that is dramatically different than most executive searches. So what about a job description.

Here is my take on ministry job descriptions – especially as pertain to calling a pastor, or hiring a ministry leader:

What you expect a ministry leader to DO is what belongs in a job description. So start with a list of activities. What activities do we expect the individual to participate in, and what is their role relative to that activity.

A good job description, should also include goals and measures for each activity. That is, in doing some activity, what do we expect you to accomplish, and how are we going to measure that accomplishment. For example, if the job description is for a youth minister, and the activity is outreach, a reasonable goal might be to increase the number of youth ministry participants regularly attending who’s parents are not currently attending this church by some amount on a periodic basis. Measure would require taking attendance at youth ministry events, and knowing who are not church kids. Notice how neither goal, nor measure specifies a method. But asking about preferred or proposed methods and past success would be a great interview question.

For a leadership job description, you may want to differentiate between directly responsible activities, and activities that can be delegated. You might also differentiated “shared” responsibilities from “sole” responsibilities. For example, for a pastoral role, planning and administration can be delegated, shepherding cannot. For example, visitation can be shared among pastoral staff, but leading worship is the sole responsibility of the worship pastor. Again, methods of sharing or delegation are not included, but could be the basis for a great interview conversation about how delegation is done, and how sharing works with coordination and accountability.

You want to focus the attention of your search, and your staff on the responsibilities that can neither be shared or delegated. Why? Because these responsibilities are those that only the individual you call or hire can execute. If he or she cannot execute these responsibilities effectively, there will be problems.

In a candidate search you may want to develop a “giftedness” profile for candidates that you expect to hire. We all understand that God gives spiritual gifts temporally – as needed, and that giftedness can change – but we want to focus on the specific gifts that we believe are key to executing this role that may be complementary to the rest of the staff, or that may be necessary to execute a role in the way we desire it to be executed.

We often want to overlook apparent shortcomings in a job candidate, because we like the person. We may like him because he shares our giftedness, or because he agrees with our theology, or because he is a “good guy”. However our confidence in his ability to execute is different. We should ensure that his gifts align with the profile that we devised as key for execution of this role.

As we look at our job description, we should also look at growth. It is always better to hire people into roles that they can grow into. So we want to make sure that we have thought through what aspects of this role we can afford the candidate to grow into, and which aspects require execution capacity immediately. One key to hiring candidates into “stretch roles”, is alignment between their self-assessment and our assessment of their current capabilities. You want to ensure that your new minister will accept coaching, and will eagerly seek a mentoring relationship around his growth goals. If he believes that he is independently capable, and you are skeptical, this can become an immediate source of conflict and can cause problems with trust.

Please don’t think that I am in any way discounting the spiritual aspect of a pastoral or other leadership call. I am focusing on the human diligence that we should do in preparing for any hiring decision. If your call or hire process is more executive, you probably can afford to allow this (job description development) to be informed by your initial search. If it has a congregational element to it, then the development of role expectations must be diligently proofed in preparation for that involvement, be that search committee, or candidating process.

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