Last year, I was asked to help a church searching for a lead pastor. They asked me to look through all the resumes they had received and see if I agreed with their top 5 candidates. It was the first time that I, as a pastor who has my own personal church ministry resume, looked over so many other pastor’s church ministry resumes. I was completely, utterly shocked.
The spectrum of difference in design and scope was unbelievable.
Some resumes looked like full-color, 4-page media press releases. Pictures, backgrounds, graphic designs, and interactive links. One extreme resume had the prospective pastor in various tight-fitting muscle shirts, standing in intimidating poses with lightning bolts and thunder clouds surrounding him, like he was Thor or a WWE wrestler.
I promise you, I am not making this up. He sold himself as a hell-fire preacher and prophet who brought with him apostolic signs and wonders. I guess that is why he needed lightning bolts.
Others were really poor Microsoft Word resume templates with barely any information, no images, terrible spelling, and pathetic design. These resumes communicated humility (which I appreciated) but also poor work ethic, no creativity, and lack of vision or skill.
So where is the balance? Where is the middle ground between speaking to your experience and giftedness without selling yourself to the highest bidder? How can a pastor selection team learn about your convictions and passion in ministry and yet not feel if they are being sold something?
Here are some ideas for the church ministry resume.
1. Be honest and clear and minimize the hype. Don’t exaggerate. Don’t embellish. Be forthright and upfront. Tell your true ministry experience and journey without hyperbolic language. Remember it is God who is the giver of all good gifts and you are not a gift to the ministry world. In the same vein, don’t be so humble, so contrite, so simple that the prospective church feels sorry for you. You are a servant of the King – live in that calling with courage and confidence.
2. Be helpful, resourceful and industrious. Make the printed resume easy to read, easy to follow, and easy to access additional information. While business resumes are usually no more than 2 pages in length, a ministry resume is not held to that same standard. It can be longer and more developed without the perception of overkill.
I highly recommend creating an additional biographical blog site to go along with the ministry resume. This site becomes a virtual repository of personal and theological information. On the site, you can create links to Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, embed recent Twitter feeds, post and link any sermon video or audio available from any church, add your personal philosophy of ministry statement plus any doctrinal or theological statement you hold to. You could add pictures or photo albums of your family to give a sense of who you are outside of ministry.
3. Be visually-oriented and narratively-focused. Every person under the age of 60 is visually-oriented. They need pictures, images, and color to move their eyes across the page. Without going overboard, your resume needs to have a visual appeal to it. Consider your church’s bulletin. What if it was only text and no images? Would you want to read through it?
Also be narratively-focused. While bullet points and jaunted sentences might appeal to the quick reader, your resume needs to tell a story. The story of your journey with Jesus, call into ministry, and experience from the field. It needs to have a beginning, a past, and a present flow. Bulleted lists and strict outlines struggle in communicating time and story.
I am in no way an expert on church ministry resumes, but I offer mine as an example to start with. My church ministry resume has gone through thousands of edits and redesigns. The great part is, I am not looking for a church position so I don’t feel any sense of urgency. If it helps, be my guest.