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I don’t know what your house looks like after Christmas morning, but this year mine looked and sounded like Grand Central Station. I know that sounds like your average student pastor exaggeration but it’s 100% accurate. By 2pm that afternoon I had the Polar Express running through the living room, the Santa Express running under the tree, a mini train encircling a leg of the couch, and the Lego Hogwarts Express under construction on the kitchen table. Maybe it would help you better comprehend this situation if you knew that I have a 4-year-old son who is obsessed with all things train. Watching his imagination play out across the floor throughout the day was as magical and inspirational as it was often hysterical. Again, and again, he would shout “All aboard!” before loading the train (aka balancing the figures on top of the engine/boxcars) and starting it in motion. Watching him play…more specifically watching Lego Harry Potter keep falling off and Lego Ron Weasley keep getting run over by the Polar Express…made me think about my ministry volunteers and lead to the topic of this blog.

How often do you (or I), in our plowing down the tracks to “fill in the holes” or “get through this semester or event”, place new ministry volunteers in a position where they’re more likely to fall off or get run over by our ministry train than they are to find their seat and flourish? It’s an important question because these are the very people we give the ministry (and the students) away to. They’re the saints mentioned by Paul in Ephesians 4:12 who we are “to equip for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” I’ve never met a single student pastor who isn’t constantly on the lookout for more committed volunteers. At least once a year, most of us get places and spaces to shout, “All aboard!” but we don’t often have the processes or systems in place to ensure we successfully escort new volunteers to the right seat. Usually, we just balance them on top of a moving train and hope they make it. The harsh truth is, unfortunately, too few of us take a strategic and thoughtful approach to onboarding new volunteers. Instead, we often rely on a brief orientation, a combination of “eye test” with a background check, or we have no clear process at all. As a result, our ministries quickly become a revolving door for disappointed and disillusioned volunteers who pick themselves up off the tracks and seek a better fit elsewhere. So, if effective onboarding is more than offering an orientation to your ministry; what does a strategic onboarding process look like? I won’t say we have it figured out, but we care too much about the volunteers, students, and ministry not to try. Here’s what we’ve come up with so far:

– Kerry Ray

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you have a strategic and thoughtful process for onboarding new volunteers?
  2. What do you do (or what can you do) to ensure that you successfully escort new
    volunteers to the right seat where they will thrive?
  3. With an eye towards your church and ministry mission/values/culture/context, what do
    you think are the most important interview questions you need to ask in a volunteer

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