Local Church Ministry

The Pastor’s Job Description

“Pastor, I need you to make sure the garbage is emptied from all Sunday School classrooms and pushed out to the curb on Tuesday mornings.”

“Pastor, I’d sure appreciate it if you could visit my cousin’s brother-in-law before his doctor’s appointment tomorrow morning. He lives three hours away, but you’ll enjoy the drive.”

“Pastor, the grass at the parsonage is too high. When are you going to mow it?”

“Pastor, some of our widows aren’t receiving food deliveries. We need you to start making the deliveries yourself so no one is overlooked.”

“Pastor, I’m transferring my membership from this church. Your sermons aren’t feeding me.”

A 2,000-Year-Old Problem

Although the details may change, many pastors hear comments like these on a regular basis. As a result, these shepherds of the flock spend much of their time completing tasks that are not directly related to their primary ministry calling, a challenge that church leaders have faced since Christ established the church 2,000 years ago.

During the church’s early days, the number of new disciples grew rapidly. As the church grew, the need for member care also grew. However, in Acts 6, a complaint arose because some of the widows were not being served during the daily distribution of food.

When the Twelve heard this complaint, they responded, “It would not be right for us to give up preaching the word of God to wait on tables” (Acts 6:2). At first glance, the Twelve’s response seems arrogant. Who do these guys think they are? Do they believe that serving others is beneath them? Are they too good to wait on tables?

However, a closer look shows that they simply recognized the role that God had called them to fulfill. Their task was to devote themselves to “prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4), but they couldn’t fulfill that task if they spent the bulk of their time meeting the individual needs of their growing church membership. 

When the Twelve defined the tasks they would and would not complete, they essentially created the first pastoral job description.

Why Your Church Should Have a Written Pastor’s Job Description

As I have consulted with churches during their search for a new pastor, I have discovered that many don’t have a written job description for their pastor. Some don’t see the need for one. Some think that such formality allows the world into the church because job descriptions are a business-oriented idea. (Side note: If you don’t like the “job description” terminology, call it a “ministry description.”) Some think their church is too small to need a written job description.

However, I believe churches of all shapes and sizes should create and adhere to a written job description for their pastor. Here are three reasons why:

  1. It clearly defines the pastor’s responsibilities and expectations. A good job description lists specific responsibilities the church expects the pastor to fulfill (more on that below). As a result, the pastor and the church are on the same page.
  2. It promotes accountability. If your church has a group that holds the pastor accountable to his calling (such as an Elder Board, Deacon body, or Personnel Committee), the pastor’s job description is an excellent resource for both the pastor and his accountability group. The church can hold the pastor accountable for fulfilling the tasks that God has called him to do. But he can also hold the church accountable for the requests made of him. This document becomes his best friend if he is regularly expected to complete tasks not in his job description. Accountability works both ways!
  3. It creates teaching opportunities. Writing or revising the pastor’s job description is an opportunity to teach the congregation about a pastor’s biblical roles and qualifications.

What Should Be Included

If you’re convinced that your church should have a written job description for your pastor, you’ll need to decide what to include in the document. Here are six of the most common features:

  1. Position summary. This element is usually listed first in the job description. It is a summary paragraph – usually no more than 2-3 sentences – of the primary function and responsibilities of the pastoral position.
  2. Statement of faith. You should include a summary of what your church expects your pastor to believe about certain theological doctrines. For example, a statement that the pastor must believe the Bible is far too broad and should be defined with greater clarity. If your church holds to a specific statement of faith (such as the Baptist Faith & Message), a simple statement that the pastor must believe and teach in accordance with (and not contrary to) that statement of faith will suffice.
  3. Qualifications. What are the minimum qualifications for your pastor? At the very least, you should state that he meets the biblical qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9. If there are other specific qualifications your church requires, list them in the job description.
  4. List of specific responsibilities. Include a bulleted list of all the specific duties that you expect your pastor to fulfill. You don’t have to spell out how he performs those responsibilities in the job description, but you do need to be specific in what responsibilities he needs to fulfill.
  5. Physical demands and working conditions. Will the pastor be expected to lift 25 pounds regularly? If so, you should list it in the job description. Will his job require him to sit for long periods? If so, you should include it. Whatever physical demands and working conditions are a regular part of the job, list them in the job description.
  6. Accountability/evaluation process. Will the pastor have an accountability group? Is there an annual review? To whom should he report any personal grievances? Who determines if/when he will receive a pay increase? These questions should be spelled out in the job description, so there’s no misunderstanding.

What Should Not Be Included

While several items should be included in your pastor’s job description, many things should not be included. Here are four items that come to mind:

  1. Requirements for the pastor’s wife or family members. The pastor’s job description is just what it says. It’s a job description for the pastor, not his wife or children. Under no circumstances should you include expectations or responsibilities for the pastor’s wife. Her primary role is to love and support her husband. There’s also no scenario where the duties of the pastor’s children or other family members should be included in his job description.
  2. Procedure for hiring/firing of the pastor. While the process for the hiring or termination of the pastor needs to be written down, the pastor’s job description is not the best place to do so. These procedures would be better placed in the church’s Constitution & Bylaws or other governing documents.
  3. Compensation package specifics. Times change. Churches grow, and churches decline. Budgets increase, and budgets decrease. The church’s ability to be generous toward their pastor’s compensation ebbs and flows. Therefore, the specifics of the pastor’s compensation package should not be included in the job description. The specific figures will likely change yearly, and revising the pastor’s job description every time would be a pain.
  4. Specific metrics of success. Many churches set annual goals (such as baptism or attendance goals). However, churches overstep if they list those goals in the pastor’s job description as a criterion of job performance. This places too much pressure on the pastor to “perform” and indicates a lack of trust in the work of the Holy Spirit. Similarly, churches should not include financial incentives in the pastor’s job description. For example, don’t place a statement in the job description that the pastor will receive a $1,000 bonus if the church baptizes a minimum number of people within a 12-month period. While church goals are helpful, there’s no place for them in the pastor’s job description.

Questions to Consider

After reading what should and should not be included, you may realize that your pastor’s job description needs some work – or that your church needs to create one. If so, here are some questions that may be helpful:

  • Who needs to be involved in reviewing or revising the pastor’s job description?
  • When was the last time it was revised?
  • How have the church’s expectations for the pastor changed since the last revision?
  • Is there any unnecessary language included?
  • Would a pastor candidate spot any red flags simply by reading the job description?
  • Does your current pastor have any recommended changes?

Based on your answers to the preceding questions, four questions remain:

  • What needs to be added?
  • What needs to be removed?
  • What needs to be re-worded?
  • How do we go about making these changes?

Now is the Time

If your church is currently without a pastor, there’s no better time to create or revise your pastor’s job description than now. Feel free to share this post with your Pastor Search Committee!

If your church has a pastor, there’s still no better time than the present to make the necessary revisions – especially if it’s been a long time since it has been revised.

I hope this post has been helpful! Have a blessed day!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

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