June 24, 2014

Do the Job Descriptions Match the Job?

Summer officially began on Saturday, and your church will probably be a quieter place as programs take a summer break and people leave on vacation. This may be a good time to look at workflow and job descriptions for your church’s staff.

I’ve been the parish administrator and receptionist for a few churches and small nonprofits, and I’ve found that if the job description does not match what the job actually entails, it can lead to frustration and confusion.

There are at least a couple things that can lead to this gap between job description and the actual job.

One is simply underestimating how much there is to do at a church, the many daily tasks—from ordering new communion wafers to sorting the mail—as well as the time-consuming but less obvious work of interacting with people. I was a parish administrator who was also a receptionist for a while, and found that the constant interruption from phone calls and visitors took up far more time than any other task, but was just one of many items on my job description.

Another reason that job descriptions and actual jobs might not match is that the staff may be over-functioning, either out of a desire to be helpful or a sense of obligation.

As the office manager at a small nonprofit, when I noticed other employees were busy, I’d help them take care of their timesheets and organize their receipts. This helped some, but others never got used to doing those tasks themselves, which hurt the organization in the long-run. There are many corollaries to this at churches. Staff members care about the church and want to go the extra mile, but this can get in the way of the congregation taking responsibility and taking ownership of the church.

Sometimes, of course, the congregants might ask too much of the staff and it can be difficult to say no. Especially administrative staff who don’t have much authority. Eventually, if this happens too often, you can feel frustrated or taken for granted.

This is why it’s helpful to look regularly at the job descriptions and work flow of the staff and volunteers at the church. Are employees actually doing what their job description says they should be? Are the intangible but time-consuming tasks reflected in the job description? Do they feel like they can say “no” when they are too busy or being asked to do too much?

It can be a helpful exercise that prevents frustration and makes everyone feel that they and their time are valued by the church.