Resume Writing for Church Staff

Over the last few months, I have been covered up with resumes from prospective associate pastors. In this time, I have seen some resumes that were well written and eye catching. I have also seen some resumes that were quite lackluster. As I look through these hundreds of documents, I have noticed that there are some things that stand out that make certain resumes jump out of the stack. I thought it might be helpful to share some of these thoughts and hopefully give some tips on causing your resume to jump out of the stack and catch the eyes of the search committees you’re interested in.

  • Give us a nice picture. Please. We want to see you and your family. This is important. No church thinks that they’re hiring only the staff member, they’re bringing the family in as well. Go get an attractive picture made and integrate it into the resume. Top corner. We’ll even take your Christmas card picture, but give us a face. It goes a long way.
  • Please tell us about your family. Are you married? If so, brag on your wife a little. Did she go to college? Did she graduate? Can she string thoughts together and make a complete sentence? Do you have kids? How old are they? Do they have all ten toes?
  • Birthdate please. Most people don’t like trying to extrapolate your age based on when you graduated college or high school. It makes things unnecessarily complicated. Leaving off such an important piece of information frustrates committees before they even meet you and it causes your resume to get shifted further down the stack.
  • .pdf is an amazing file format that I have grown to love. If you email your resume, go ahead and convert that baby into a .pdf. It preserves your formatting like you like it and is guaranteed to be opened by anyone. Not everyone can open a .docx yet. Someone even sent me a resume with an .odt extension. I think that’s OpenOffice, but I’m not sure and I don’t have time to figure out how to open your bizarre file format.
  • If you’re emailing your resume, please do not send lots of different attachments. If you feel the need to attach a cover letter, concatenate into one file and save it with your name. Don’t just send a resume named “resume.pdf” because it could easily get lost. Remember, there are 200 other people sending resumes as well and your goal is to stand out, not get buried.
  • References matter. Stop leaving them off. And if for some strange reason you choose to leave references off, also leave off the statement, “References available upon request.” No kidding.
  • Declutter. Give your information room to breathe. If your font is too small and your line spacing is too tight, I find myself not wanting to read what you have to say. Sure, space is a premium, but you’re better off having an extra page than having two pages that no one wants to read. However, if you send me 5 pages of single spaced prose explaining everything from your take on the Baptist Faith & Message to your political stance, there is a high likelihood that your resume is not going to be read.
  • Know the job you are applying for. You would be amazed at how many resumes get sent to the bottom of the stack because guys say things like, “My objective is to pastor a Southern Baptist Church.” Well, guess what? This Southern Baptist Church already has a pastor and he’s not looking to go anywhere. If that’s your goal, then praise God. Go pastor a church! If the church you’re submitting a resume to is looking for a youth guy, then you need to at least recognize that they’re not looking to call a senior pastor.
  • We are going to want to creep you. It’s just the way things go. You can anticipate a criminal background check and a credit check so don’t act shocked when we ask. Also, on your resume, go ahead and give us your Twitter handle, the link to your Facebook page, and the url to your blog.
  • If your work history is made up of a list of 12-18 month ministries, it is probably a good idea for you to explain some of the circumstances that caused you to bounce around. Most churches are not calling someone with the goal that they make it a year. If that’s your history, you would be well served by some honest explanations.
  • Don’t trust your seminary. Church-minister relations offices in seminaries are just clearinghouses for resumes. SBC seminaries in particular include an obnoxious cover page in front of each resume. It wastes my time and just keeps me from getting to the meat of the document. If possible, ask your seminary where they have sent your resume each week so you can follow up as needed.
  • Trust God! At the end of the day, we know that the Lord works in great and mysterious ways. A resume is a tool to help churches understand potential candidates. But it is also something that should be done with the utmost care and consideration. A resume should be created and submitted as if it is being done for Christ. Also, don’t forget to pray for that church and that search committee when you send them your resume. Pray that they will be sensitive to the Lord’s leadership.

I’m sure that there are other people out there that would disagree with me, but these are just some of the things I have learned over the past few months. Hope it helps!

In Christ,

Pastor Brian



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2 responses to “Resume Writing for Church Staff

  1. Great article. On the references point . . . here’s the concern. Churches are in bad habit of contacting references before there is a real consideration of a ministry call. This fatigues one’s references, let’s the cat out of the bag that one is looking for another ministry, and frustrates the process . . . don’t know the answer, but not willing to put my references on a resume until I see interest. Just a thought. Thanks for the ariticle!

    • Don, great point. However that is bad etiquette on the part of the church. Really it is bad etiquette on the part of ANY hiring organization. It is our policy that no references are contacted UNTIL we have the permission of the candidate. It is a good practice to make sure that…

      1. Your references know that you are looking for a position.
      2. Your references are trustworthy enough to speak about your character & experience without violating your trust with them.
      3. Your references may not need to be connected with your current place of ministry if it is going to cause you problems later on when the vetting begins.

      Most search committees recognize that they are tiptoeing around in dangerous territory. If they don’t, then you don’t want to serve in that church. You’ve got to remember that your references help get your foot in the door for consideration if there are other parts of your resume that are lacking. Either way, there is some risk involved and you have to be willing to accept the risk. Thanks again for the thoughts!

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