If you’re really serious about recruiting volunteers, you have probably created job descriptions for available volunteer positions. Specificity always trumps generalities. We can recruit people to work in the children’s ministry, but people tend to use their own imagination of what that might look like and opt out of what they sense to be a coming disaster. We’ll always be more successful when we recruit to a specific role. People want to feel good about making a difference, but what the really want to know is what it is they will be doing… specifically. This is where job descriptions come in handy.

However, I want to present an idea worth considering.

Job descriptions are flawed. They’re documents that describe what the job is all about. They’re an essential part of the application process. When applying for a new job, I want to see a job description before I apply. I want to know what I’m signing up for. However, once we take the job, we never look at the job description again. It’s as if the job description was just an advertisement. Usually when you ask people about their job description, they laugh.

Ha! That’s not really what I do! What I do is far bigger than that document HR created.

I find that a great staff evaluation tool is to have your staff do a time audit and write out their own job description. This exercise helps manager truly see what the job entails, or how staff might missing the mark of what they truly should be working on.

Job descriptions tend to be irrelevant and vague descriptions of an unrealistic jobs.

Job descriptions are good, but checklists are better.

What if we revisited who we wrote job descriptions? Rather than have two to three paragraphs describing a job with 8-12 bullet points, what if we described the role in a couple of sentences and listed out a checklist of what the role required? It wouldn’t need to be a 75 item list, but 6-12 general tasks that encompass the role. A person looking at the role could know what it looks like to be successful in this position. Larger jobs might require multiple checklists to give a fair description of the role, but these checklists would be far more helpful than vague and idealistic descriptions.

Here’s why the checklist is better than the job description. The job description becomes irrelevant once we take the position. The only time we pull it out again is when we get frustrated with our job and we attempt to compare what we actually do with what the job description describes. However, a checklist does more than describe a job to a potential candidate. A checklist then becomes a tool they utilize every week. It’s how they can know they’ve been successful. A checklist gives us a basis for evaluation. A checklist also gives us boundaries, describing what we are’t supposed to do without setting false expectations about unwritten responsibilities.

Job descriptions are good, but checklists are better. Volunteers need to know what they’re signing up for. Go the extra mile and convert your job descriptions to checklists and you’ll give your volunteers something that will add value beyond their recruitment.


This post is part of a larger series on moving your ministry forward using the often neglected tool - the checklist. In this series, we unpack how a system of checklists can actually help us take our ministry to new levels. Plus, we want to share dozens of actual ministry checklists you and your team can implement right away. Click on the link below to explore this topic and pick up some helpful resources!