3 Keys to Successfully Onboard New Team Members

Follow these steps and you’ll smooth the process of training and integrating a new volunteer.

Onboarding new team members is a process, not a one-time event. Whether it’s for the worship team, production team or really any volunteer team at church, learning how to onboard them well is simply setting them, and your team, up for success. Keep in mind, it’s a great problem to have. It means your team is growing and attracting new team members.

While the process may feel overwhelming, I believe—like any good message—it’s as simple as executing three key components: communication, integration and assimilation. Before we dig into each of these components, let’s look at something that’s going to help you implement your plan well.

REMEMBER WHAT IT FELT LIKE TO BE NEW

Do you remember what it felt like to be the new person? Whether it’s starting a new job or serving on a worship team, it’s tough. You don’t know the inside jokes. You don’t know how things are done. You don’t know everyone on the team or their personalities. You don’t particularly know how to fully do your role or all that’s expected of you, which can often lead to feeling like you’re constantly failing. This results in insecurity and questioning if you made the right decision to join the team in the first place.

Remembering what it felt like to be the new person will help you be empathetic to those who are new to the team, and help inform you on how to onboard them well. So how do we do this successfully? Start with communication.

Communication
People Who Fit Our Culture Do Things Like This

To borrow a phrase from Seth Godin (his definition of marketing), communication during onboarding is essentially explaining “what people like you do.” Said another way, what is the culture of your team? Do you have core values? Not the core values you find printed somewhere on a wall, but the ones that actually get acted out, first by leadership, and eventually by the rest of the team.

What are the standards and expectations of the team? How many weekends are they expected to serve? Are volunteers paid? When should they arrive on Sunday? When are rehearsals? How long do they last?

Although there is much to communicate, start by spending some time with your existing team members and leadership to decide what are the most crucial things to be communicated to new team members. Side benefit: It may surprise you how much your current team members learn about the team and your goals through this process.

To make this process easier for you, consider putting together a team handbook—something that tells your story and explains what people like your team do. What is the culture; what are the standards and expectations? This may take a few months or even years to fully complete, but start the process now so you can begin to reap the benefits.

Integration
Welcome to the Family

Next, work toward integration. Stated plainly, how does the new team member become part of your team? How do they get to know other members?

Consider events specifically focused on team building for your existing team, like a team night, and invite your new members. You could even make celebrating new team members a part of that event.

You can also invite team members to a dinner at someone’s house, or even a coffee with a few team members to get to know the group in a smaller setting.

One of my favorite ways to do this is to create “Team Advocates.” Each incoming, new team member is assigned an advocate to help them get integrated. The advocate is someone from your team who is there to answer questions, to meet socially, and to help new members feel like they’re truly part of the team. Elect veteran team members who are strong leaders to step into these advocate roles. This is an effective way to help new team members quickly feel like a part of the team, while sharing the onboarding workload so it’s not all on you.

Assimilation
Learning the Ropes

The next step is to help new team members assimilate all the information and training needed to do their role well. Here’s where this differs from communication. Communication says, “We’ll ask you to serve once a month, and you’ll be expected to run ProPresenter and be in place ready to go by 8 a.m.”

Assimilation means you’ve provided all the necessary training resources and ensured the new team member has assimilated the information needed to accomplish their role well.

In many cases, new team members are launched into service without first making sure they fully “know” how to serve in their role. I see this most often in tech teams—I’ve made this mistake myself many times as a leader. As someone who has spent years doing the work, I easily forget how much I’ve forgotten—the details and how-tos I take for granted that are not intuitive to a new team member. Again, putting yourself back into the mindset of a new person on the team will help you recall the training you need to provide.

Whether prerecorded or in person, make sure you’ve spent enough time training your team, away from the normal routine of Sunday. Take time to walk them through their roles and make sure they truly understand the goals.

For a band member, this could look like ensuring they understand how to mix their in-ears using Livemix. For a production volunteer, it may be making sure they know how to use ProPresenter.

Again, onboarding a new team member is real work and not an elective if you want them to be successful, but it’s as simple as communication, integration and assimilation. Remember, the necessity of onboarding new members is something to celebrate. It means your team is attracting new people and growing. It’s worth taking the time to consider how to do it well, and then executing it well as a way to honor your new people.

First published on Sweetwater.com. Used by permission.