May 17, 2018

5 Keys to Successfully Onboarding New Volunteers

If you want your ministry to thrive, then it's crucial that you build a strong volunteer team.  

This means you need to enlist new people to volunteer on a regular basis. 

But it can't stop there.  HOW you bring them on your team is just as crucial for building a strong volunteer team

You see, how you bring new volunteers on your team will set the tone for the time they volunteer with you. 

Let's look at 5 keys to successfully onboarding new volunteers.

Key #1 - Help new volunteers find their sweet spot.  When you ask a new volunteer where they want to serve, many times they will say "wherever you need me."  And the temptation is to do just that...place them where you need them. 

But don't do it.  Here's why.
Don't place new volunteers where you need them.  Place new volunteers where they need to be.
Where they need to be is in a role that aligns with their passion, gifts and personality. 

You can help a new volunteer find their sweet spot by...
  • Asking them "What's your dream job at church?"
  • Having them take a personality test.
  • Having them take a spiritual gifts test. 
  • Letting them observe several different areas of the ministry if they are not sure which area is their sweet spot. 
  • Giving them permission and actually encouraging them to switch to a new role if they find the role they first entered is not their sweet spot.
When you place someone in their sweet spot, they will thrive.  When you place someone in their sweet spot, they will enjoy serving and will stick around. 

Key #2 - Share the vision and core values of the ministry.  The ministry vision is why they will be doing what they will be doing.  The core values are how they will be doing what they will be doing.  This is critical if you want your team to stay aligned. 

Give them both of these in writing and take time to explain it.  

Key #3 - Give new volunteers a clear job description.  The job description should include general expectations, specifics for the role and what success looks like for the role.  If you want new volunteers to be successful, you have to show them what success will be.

You can get over 20 ready-to-go job descriptions for your ministry at this link.

Key #4 - Provide new volunteers with on-the-job training.  This doesn't mean shoving a new volunteer in a room of 30 preschoolers with just one other person and saying "Good luck." 

Place new volunteers with an experienced volunteer that they can shadow for a few weeks.  How long will depend on the role.

Here's an example for a new small group leader you're onboarding.
  • Week 1 - sit with the group and observe veteran volunteer leading the group.
  • Week 2 - co-lead the group with the veteran volunteer by doing about 25% of the lesson.
  • Week 3 - co-lead the group with the veteran volunteer by doing about 50% of the lesson.
  • Week 4 - lead the entire lesson with the veteran volunteer observing and providing feedback afterwards
  • Week 5 - new volunteer lead his/her own group by himself/herself.
Key #5 - Provide new volunteers with the resources they need.  This includes curriculum, supplies, snacks, etc.  Provide these things in a timely manner and show them where they are.  You want your volunteers to be relaxed as possible.  Knowing they have the tools they need will help reduce any anxiety they may be feeling.

You can get more great tips for enlisting, equipping, engaging, encouraging and empowering new volunteers in my book "The Formula for Building Great Volunteer Teams."  Readers have called it the best book ever written on the subject.

It's available in ebook and paperback format at this link.

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