Recruiting Volunteers: You Need A Job Description… So Do They!

You Need a Job Description….So Do They.

Job descriptions.  Ugh.  That’s how I really feel about them.  They just seem like a waste of good trees and ink.  And they’re tedious.  Have you ever tried to write your own?  I was helping develop my own job description (along with descriptions for a few other staff members) and it felt like all the books in all the world could not contain all the crap that had to go in those documents.

So why bother?

It boils down simply to this – expectations.  Clearly defined expectations are a win-win.  Those doing the expecting win, because they know what they’re asking of you.  You win because you know what you need to do.  Clearly defined parameters.  Easily evaluated performance.  Everyone goes home happy.  (Yes, I know it doesn’t always work that way for staff people – but that’s another blog post for another day.)

So if clearly defined expectation equals a win-win relationship, why don’t we do this for volunteers within our ministry?

It’s a lot of work.  #truth   But it’s work that yields long-term results.  It’s much more productive than, say, driving all over the city trying to find shaving cream that doesn’t contain menthol.

Volunteers might balk.  #truth   But in all honesty, every single person I have ever enlisted utilizing a job description has thanked me for it.  People want to know what they’re getting into – and springing on them that they have to sponsor the lock-in and attend monthly volunteer meetings usually gets about the same response as using mentholated shaving cream in your next prank.

I have to be organized.  #truth  When people have a written copy of what you are asking them to do, it’s more difficult to ‘wing it – swing by the seat of your pants – pull it out of your butt at the last minute’…like the time you forgot the shaving cream and had to you mentholated at the last moment.

What’s the big deal about mentholated shaving cream?  It stings the eyes.  It burns the skin.  It takes the paint of a car…come to think of it, it causes some of the same results we get when we don’t use job descriptions for our volunteers.

To learn more about enlisting volunteers and keeping them happy, look for my next book – coming out in August – Everyone’s Called to Youth Ministry…They Just Don’t Know It Yet.


6 Responses to Recruiting Volunteers: You Need A Job Description… So Do They!

  1. John Fix July 24, 2012 at 9:12 am #

    But I don’t have to shave. The analogy is lost on me. The info on job descriptions for volunteers, however, was helpful. Thanks Darren.

  2. Justin Herman July 30, 2012 at 11:16 pm #

    When we started thinking about how we would live out our volunteer value, we scaled down much of what we wanted for each leader and in the end, it boiled down to three things. These three things were picked up in part from a session at Catalyst West Coast speaker Marcus Buckingahm.

    The three questions that fueled our job descriptions are:

    (1) Do you feel the other volunteers and staff are committed to quality work?
    (2) Do you know what is expected of you at JHM (Mariners Jr. High Ministry)?
    (3) At JHM, do you feel you have the chance to do what you do best every week?

    Making sure that each leader knows these three things, and for us, making sure we communicate it to them clearly solves a lot.

    What do you all think? Do you have any other ways of getting feed back on “quality work” from your leaders?

  3. Jeff D July 31, 2012 at 10:34 am #

    Couple of questions:

    Are volunteers and ministries served better by a common volunteer job description, by creating multiple jobs based on perceived need/desire, or by creating individual job descriptions?

    What, if anything, should I work towards creating for a volunteer handbook? (In addition to a job description, application, child protection policy/background check, and expectations)

  4. Darren Sutton July 31, 2012 at 11:31 am #

    Justin – we actually do a sort of ‘performance review’ each year. Volunteers get a chance to ‘review’ me as a leader, anonymously unless they’re brave! And then we do a general ‘evaluation’ of strengths and weaknesses as a whole ministry team. (Paid interns get evaluated individually.)

    Sometimes we glean what needs to be clarified, ratcheted up, or dumped from these annual sessions.

    We define our job descriptions, expectations, etc. based on our core values and purposes.

  5. Darren Sutton July 31, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

    Jeff – we use a common ‘code of ethics’ for all our leaders. But we use job specific descriptions for all our ‘positions’ within the student ministry – every thing from host home to small group leader to transportation. Some elements cross over from job to job – and some are role specific.

    I always dream beyond what I have – so we write descriptions for the positions we want, not just the roles we have.

    We don’t use a handbook, exactly – but we do have several documents that every worker signs off on. We also have policies that we follow regarding how we enlist leaders, etc. (But that’s more of an internal guideline for staff.)

  6. Jimmy Hudson August 13, 2012 at 4:14 pm #

    I remember taking weeks to create job descriptions for my leaders. I gave them to them and never brought them back out. Looking back I realize how much trouble I could have avoided. Time to dust those off and bring them back.

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