How to Write Volunteer Job Descriptions

The Church Revitalization Podcast – Episode 125

Plus download a FREE Editable Template for your Volunteer Job Descriptions (download below)

People are far more likely to quit a volunteer position due to a lack of clarity than because of an abundance of feedback. 

Unclear lines of authority, mismatched strengths, undefined roles, and undetermined time commitments all contribute to volunteer attrition. Having volunteer job descriptions for every volunteer position from small group leader to greeter empowers your church to attract and retain volunteers

Moreover, the process of developing your volunteer job descriptions may prompt you to think about aspects of your organizational structure that you’ve ignored or never considered. 

There are five key components that all volunteer job descriptions must include. Below, we explore each section and what to include in each. You can also fill out the form at the bottom of this post to download a free, editable sample job description. You can use the document as a template for your own job descriptions.

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Section One: Reports to…

In the first section, you need to answer the question: Who is in charge when I have a problem?

As you consider the answer, keep a couple of things in mind. First, every volunteer has a direct line of accountability. Ideally, the whole organization is streamlined and integrated from senior leadership (i.e. board, council, senior pastor) down to frontline volunteers. If in the process of writing the job description, you encounter a “rogue” position or team, it’s time to reorganize.

Second, manage the span of control. If any staff person (or volunteer, for that matter) is responsible for managing teams of 12 or 20 or 30–it’s unsustainable. The target span of control is 6-8 people. There are some exceptions to how these teams are formed and how we monitor and track span of control–which we explore in our Leadership Pipeline Design workshop. But as a general rule–think no more than 8 people in any one person’s span of control.

In the job description, simply note the title, position, and/or name of the person that this volunteer role reports to.

Section Two: Divine Design Alignment

In the second section, you need to answer the question: Will I thrive in this position? 

God gave each person a special grace gift and a unique design to accomplish their pre-ordained ministry (Ephesians 2, Ephesians 4, 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12). Therefore, church leaders have an obligation to help people discover their calling and give them opportunities that specifically align with their divine design.

One common reason that people burn out of volunteer roles is because they don’t enjoy the work. We can minimize this risk by categorizing our volunteer opportunities using two (relatively) objective criteria: temperament and Spiritual Gifts.

Select a standard “bank” of spiritual gifts (the Bible provides varying lists in the three places Paul writes on the topic; you have the freedom to form your own list to use). Then, determine which spiritual gifts are the best fit for a particular job.

Next, using a tool like DiSC, you can determine which temperament types will best succeed in a given role. At The Malphurs Group, we prefer DiSC because it is four simple categories that have easy, clear definitions. A tool like the Enneagram or Myers-Briggs are more difficult to wrangle. 

Once you have finished all of your job descriptions and tagged the Divine Design elements, you can more easily help someone put feet to their faith by finding their calling.

Section Three: Responsibilities

In the third section, you need to answer the question: What will I do in this job?

When we said volunteer job descriptions, this is where your mind went immediately. We don’t need to say much here. Simply provide a short description of the responsibilities of the job.

We encourage churches to be brief. The whole volunteer job description should fit on one page. This is the area of the document where the bloat is likely to come. Have some restraint and focus on the key roles and responsibilities for the job.

Section Four: Time Requirements

In this section, answer the question: How often do I serve and receive training?

One reason people are hesitant to sign up to volunteer is because they don’t know what kind of time your church will ask them to invest in the ministry. Be up-front here.

Are you asking people to serve weekly, every other week, monthly, quarterly? Be honest and direct about the time requirements and serving frequency. Also, be sure to include how much time they will need to be onboarded and regularly trained. This is also a great place to include a length of commitment. For example, you may ask a greeter to commit to a year of service that you can then renew annually. Predefined off-ramps are your friend, not your enemy.

When people are clear on the expectations, they are more likely to sign-up (and stick around).

Section Five: Competencies

In the last section, answer: What character and capacity do I need for this role?

What’s the difference between a leader and a non-leader? What’s the difference between a leader who can teach a small group versus a leader who can be a greeter? For most churches, the answers to these questions are undefined. This is a problem.

You need to identify a set of Core Competencies, which distinguish a leader from a non-leader. You also need to outline levels of leadership in your organization (and map specific competencies to each level).

An unqualified leader is the downfall of any ministry. Therefore, it’s critical for you to set standards and apply them.

In this final section of the job description, paste the universal–or core–competencies for leadership at this particular level. These are useful for evaluating leaders both before they join a team and as a standard for ongoing evaluation.

No one gets hyped up about making volunteer job descriptions. But churches that fail to have them are more likely to volunteers failing out, bailing out, and burning out. Taking the time to develop volunteer job descriptions can radically shift the culture of your church in a positive direction.

To learn more about how we help churches develop more and better leaders, check out our Leadership Pipeline Design service.

BONUS: Get a free Team Discussion Guide in the video description on YouTube.

Scott Ball is the Vice President and a Lead Guide with The Malphurs Group. He lives in East Tennessee with his wife and two children. (Email Scott).

Got questions? Meet with our team for a free Discovery Call.

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