5 Steps To Successfully On-Boarding Your Church Staff


Scene 1: “Welcome, new Pastor! Here is your office key; the staff meeting is tomorrow at 10am. Be there on time, the Senior Pastor doesn’t like stragglers.”

Scene 2: “Welcome, new Pastor! We are glad you joined us. Here is your Employee Handbook. Take some time to read over it today. Your supervisor is going to go over HR forms with you and answer any questions that you have about the Employee Handbook. Lunch with your department is already planned. We made reservations and everyone has RSVP’d on their Google Calendar, which IT will set you up with in a few minutes. Remember, as we talked about last week, your family is invited for dinner at your mentor’s home tomorrow night. They are expecting you and your wife and darling children at 6pm.”

Which situation would you rather walk into on your first day at your new job?

First days are hard, even if the new hire is completely competent, excited about being there, and ready to get started. The amount of information new hires are expected to learn can be equated to the old saying, “It’s like drinking out of a fire hose.” Everything is new – new names, new programs, new responsibilities, and new office norms. There are five things that church leaders can do to make the on-boarding process more productive for new church staff members.

1. Communicate with the new hire before their arrival.

After the contract is signed, communicate with them about moving assistance, their start date, and what their first few days on the job will look like. If the new hire is moving to a new area to join your church’s staff, go the extra mile and prepare for their arrival at their new house. A “welcome kit” with essentials for a new home (toilet paper, paper towels, dish soap, hand soap, some snacks, and gift certificate to a pizza place for an easy dinner) will go a long way in making your new staff member feel loved.

2. Ensure everything is set up before their arrival. 

There is nothing worse for a new employee than showing up for their first day of work and feeling like the church was unprepared for their arrival. Make sure the new hire’s office or desk is set up, clean, and in good working order. Call IT to establish user id’s for login and email. Ensure their computer is wiped clear of the previous owner’s materials and is ready for them. Label office keys and give them to the new hire on a key ring (don’t just hand them random keys). In short, show them that they care by preparing for their arrival.

3. Give the new hire a copy of the Employee Handbook.

If your church doesn’t have an Employee Handbook write one. If the employee handbook is out of date, update it. An Employee Handbook should include as much information about the organization as possible including your church’s story, vision, values, and practices as well as Human Resource information on health and dental insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off.  A section on behavior and work expectations would also be beneficial. An Employee Handbook says to your employees, “We care enough about you to communicate what you can expect from us and what we expect of you.”

4. Set up a schedule for them on their first few days.

Set up a few meetings with other church staff members, key members of teams with whom they will directly interact and a key volunteers. By giving structure to their first few days, you will allow them to meet people and get acquainted with their new duties.

5. Assign all new hires a mentor.

This mentor should not be their direct supervisor but rather a person within the organization who will help them become acclimated to your church’s culture. Every church is different, even if the new hire fits your church’s culture to a T, they still will have questions about norms and expectations. If the new hire has a family, they should take a roll in getting them plugged into the church and the surrounding neighborhoods. A mentor will go a long way in not only on-boarding but also retaining employees. 

A candidate signing the contract is not the final step in hiring a new member of your church staff. A well-established on-boarding process is the best way get a new hire to become integrated and productive member of your church staff. You owe it to your employees to onboard them well.