The business world employs a technique, called onboarding, to facilitate the integration of new employees into the organization and its culture. It is based on the principle that new employees will find it difficult to achieve success if they are left to their own devices. Furthermore, success in a job does not only mean that there are specific tasks that need to be accomplished; understanding and succeeding in a job requires employees to understand the culture of the environment in which they will work.

This concept should also hold true in the church, especially between clergy and musicians. Sometimes a clergyperson is in place and is looking for a musician to fill an opening. Sometimes a musician is in place when a new pastor is appointed or called, and occasionally, both pastor and musician begin at the same time.

Before continuing, we need to recognize that, ultimately, the pastor is in charge and has the authority to make final decisions. That being said, the pastor should assume that the musician deserves respect and has some expertise that should be employed, an expertise that the pastor might not have. It is not as much a matter of hierarchy as it is of function. It is, then, based on this assumption on how each person can bring the other “onboard”.

In any case, pastor and musician should reach out to the other frequently between the time of job acceptance and the first official day at the church. Either established person, clergy or musician, can initiate this exchange but, preferably, the established person would want to provide a welcoming atmosphere first. Exchange regular phone calls and emails to keep in touch. Arrange to go out for an informal lunch or dinner, or two, just to spend time with each other and to get to know each other personally; you don’t necessarily need to talk about work. Pastors, ask your new musician about his or her desires for a computer system, music equipment and other items; provide for them, if possible, or suggest a timeline for getting those items. Add the person to your church email lists and provide other access, such as keys and codes. Arrange for these needs prior to the first day on the job.

Make the first day memorable. Pastors, arrange for a meeting place and time in advance so that when the musician arrives, the motion is in place. Musicians, offer the same courtesy to the incoming pastor to offer your support and desire for a meaningful relationship. While it is assumed that pastors will meet with the staff early on, make arrangements to have the musician do the same; have the staff stop by throughout the day to offer their words of welcome. Go out to lunch together on first day (catch the theme here?) and pay for their meal. Have the office and music space ready to go and arrange a tour of the church facility and grounds, if not done so already.

Structure the first few days for the musician to some degree to encourage a sense of perspective and understanding of the church’s life together. Provide a welcome packet with a job description (if available), contact names and numbers, church directory, historical information, etc. Touch base, at least quickly, each day.

Regular staff meetings, initiated by the pastor, are important to plan worship, coordinate the various ministries, and assist and collaborate with one another. Appoint a mentor (the pastor or other individual) to be the point person for a musician to answer questions and provide guidance in the initial months. If appropriate, allow the musician to shadow others to get a closer look at the day-to-day operations and particular issues of the church’s culture. The musician can also be a point person for a new pastor to provide insight on why things are the way they are and how they got there.

The pastor should define the roles and expectations for the church musician early on; similarly, musicians should be encouraged to express their needs and preferences as well. Too many surprises along the way thwarts success in team building. Establish short-term and long term goals early on so that some aspects of the job are measurable. Continue regular one-on-one meetings to keep the line of communication open and intentional.

Allow time for the new staff member to give feedback. Ask what they like and dislike and assure them you will honor their need for confidentiality. Everyone needs to feel they are being heard. After all, new eyes and ears can also bring a fresh perspective on that which might have been taken for granted over time.

Communicate the culture early. What are the church skeletons in the closet? What are the work habits and personalities of those persons in place? What characteristics seem to be a match and what areas might need a little extra care as the staff lives and works together? Musicians and pastors should engage in activities outside of their own specific work areas; this suggestion offers the opportunity to see how a colleague works in their own environment in a non-threatening and informative way.

Finally, pastors and musicians should give each other the necessary time to get acclimated and not expect them to hit the ground running. Celebrate their successes along the way and recognize their contributions to the life of the church as their ministries unfold.

A dynamic partnership between clergy and musician is vital. May each partner be eager to get onboard!