Role Descriptions: An Effective Tool for Recruiting Volunteers
Spelling it out can motive and encourage

Role descriptions can be used as a tool for recruiting volunteers. They help you emphasize the seriousness of the role and its importance to the church's vision. No one will take it seriously if you don't.

People don't like to be managed, especially volunteers. They get enough of that five days a week at their jobs. So role descriptions take away the need to manage people and place it on managing agreements.

People want volunteering to be a choice, not an obligation. They want to feel appreciated for what they contribute, not taken for granted. And the best way to measure and appreciate someone's contribution is to spell it out.

Leaders who think role descriptions will limit a person's contribution are mistaken. Role descriptions simply point people in the right direction. They'll go the extra mile.

If you're recruiting someone who is already serving in another area, don't combine the role descriptions. Keep them separate so that the system stays pure. Think of each role as deserving of its own focus and priority. This is the only way to build a system in your church that will survive attrition and bailouts. You don't want your church to come to a screeching halt just because someone who is multitalented leaves.

When you meet with recruits, talk through the role description. Explain each responsibility and why it's important to the role. This will undergird your church's core values. Also explain how they can step out of the role if necessary. This will help them see it's not a lifetime commitment but that there are on and off ramps if they need them. Ask them if they have any questions. Give them a chance to challenge the process.

When you're sure they understand the role and agree to it, tell them why you believe they're right for the role. Affirm their gifts and share how their involvement will fulfill the church's vision. Ask them if they'd like to accept the role. If they say no, thank them for their time and ask if there's a better role for them. But if they're onboard, thank them for accepting and say a prayer to seal the agreement.

From this point on, you are not managing the person; you are managing an agreement. Again, no one likes to be managed. So a role description takes the authority off your shoulders and puts it on the agreement. If volunteers fall short of their role descriptions, you can ask them if they misunderstood the agreement. But you're managing agreements, not people.

Adapted from Church in the Making by Ben Arment (B&H Books, 2010). Used by permission.

To learn best practices for selecting and screening volunteers, see theReducing the Riskkit.

Stay informed on church management issues. Subscribe to our e-newsletter,Church Management Update.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations."

Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.


If you found this article helpful, subscribe to for access to more articles like this one.

Become a Church Law & Tax Member



Experience a whole new way to set compensation. Eliminate the guesswork – get access to detailed compensation reports in just minutes.

Starting a Disaster Response Ministry

Starting a Disaster Response Ministry Member access only

Safely and effectively serve people whose lives have been overturned by a disaster.
Unrelated Business Income — The General Rules

Unrelated Business Income — The General Rules Member access only

How unrelated business income, and the possible taxes owed from it, works for churches.