(Adapted from Pastoral Ministry for the Next Generation by Jere Phillips, ©2015)
Your first goal is not to find God’s will, but to yield to God’s will, whatever it may be. He is Sovereign, not us. He knows exactly where we need to be. Determining God’s call to a place begins with getting in touch with Him. As you commune with Him, have a submissive spirit and delight in God Himself. Don’t try to figure it out on a human level, but “trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5–6)
God does not play hide and seek with His will. He greatly desires that we know and do His plans. If we surrender our will to His and find great joy in His presence, He will show clearly whatever step He wants us to take.
As in most areas of employment, experience is highly valued as a qualification for ministry. How to get that experience in the first place can present not only a practical, but also an ethical dilemma. Once ready to serve, perhaps even while in college or seminary, how do you connect with a potential place of service?
Some ministers do not believe in sharing resumes. They trust God knows where they are and believe He will move them when He is ready. A similar mindset argues that because the Holy Spirit must inspire a sermon, it is therefore unspiritual to prepare a sermon. Both attitudes forget that the Holy Spirit often works through the tools we yield to Him. Having a resume does not circumvent the work of the Holy Spirit. It is merely a tool in His hands.
Think of a resume as a letter of introduction rather than as a way to induce a church to call you. If you are in school and have not found that initial place of service, or if you face the end of a ministry without a place to go, having a resume provides an introduction to churches searching for a minister. The Holy Spirit remains the Prime Mover between ministers and churches.
On the other hand, many ministers are too quick to spread their resumes, trying to leave a bad situation, trying to get a better situation, or just fishing to see what might be out there. They are constant candidates, never settling into a place of ministry but always on the move to the next pasture.
If you feel comfortable with offering a resume, what should it look like? As with any letter of introduction, a resume should have several overall qualities:
1. Honest – A resume should only contain truth. Don’t pad your resume. Search committees are not impressed that you won the spelling bee in the sixth grade. Increasingly, search committees do not accept at face value your claims of education or experience. Be sure your claims will bear up under investigation.
2. Clear – A resume should help churches get to know the minister and his wife. The arrangement of information should be easy to read.
3. Complete – Educational achievements should include the name and address of the institutions, the degrees earned and the dates of completion, and any areas of specialization. Lists of previous places of employment should include the years of service, titles of the positions, names of the church or ministry agency, complete addresses of the institutions, phone numbers and emails of key contact persons.
4. Personal – Committees want to know your family. Share the names of your spouse and children (along with dates of birth—of your children, not your spouse; she would not appreciate that!). Note special hobbies and interests, but don’t go overboard lest the committee think you plan to spend five days a week fishing or golfing.
5. Brief – Committees do not want to read a dissertation. For example, if you want to note your doctrinal beliefs you don’t have to explain your position on the top 50 doctrines. If you agree with your denomination’s statement of faith, such as the Baptist Faith and Message, simply say that. Churches are well able to look up those documents and ask appropriate questions.
At the top of the page, put your name (include a title only if you have a doctorate; avoid “Rev.”) address, home and cell phone numbers, and email address. A nice family photo (in color if possible) should adorn the top right or left hand corners. Avoid settings that are too formal (such as the wedding portrait of one minister and his bride complete with wedding gown) or too casual (like the minister who used a picture of his family on the beach in bathing suits).
Include a brief statement about your calling (pastoral ministry, youth ministry, etc.) and why you are open to a new place of service.
Describe your educational background by listing degrees earned, beginning with your most recent and working back. Include the degree, any specialties (such as B.S., business major), date earned, and the name, address, and phone number of the institution. If you have specialized seminar training, list them in order after listing your degrees. (Example: Advanced Pastoral Education – University Community Hospital, Tampa, Florida, 1996).
Describe your ministerial employment beginning with your current (or most recent) position. Include the dates of service, the title of the position, the name of the church or agency and its address and phone number. Give a summary of the location in one sentence. (Example: “Mount Zion Baptist Church is a congregation of 500 members in a county seat town.”) Give a one sentence summary of your work. (“As youth minister, was responsible for Sunday School, the Wednesday night youth service, visitation, summer camp, and all events and activities for the senior high and middle school students.”) Don’t exaggerate or brag about accomplishments. Keep each entry short. List your supervisor if you were not the pastor. If you do not want the committee to contact your current employer, note that request.
Describe any secular employment beginning with your most recent position. Unless the work relates directly to the ministry position you are seeking, just list the dates of service and the names and addresses of the employers. Do not feel compelled to state that your job at the supermarket was to sweep the floors and take out the garbage. However, if you supervised other employees, were responsible for organization and management of an organization, led marketing campaigns, or other pertinent tasks, a prospective church might find that information helpful in assessing your leadership skills.
List any published writings, honors and other items that are truly noteworthy and offer insight into your skills and experience.
Finally, list four to six references. Be sure to obtain permission before using their names in your resume. Use a variety of people, including previous pastors, professors, deacons and other laity, and friends. Include names, church (if a minister), position held, address, phone number and email address.
Print your resume on good stock, not copy paper. A light color or white is preferred since many committees will photocopy extra copies for members.
Truth-in-packaging laws were instituted in the market place because some merchants and manufacturers refused to give consumers all the information about a product. In some cases, blatantly inaccurate information has been placed on packages to make a sale. Is it time for ecclesiastical "truth in packaging?" Is it ever ethical for a candidate to tell less than the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in his communications with search committees and churches?
Resume writing services in secular industries suggest ways for prospective employees to highlight their successes while bypassing embarrassing failures. Unfortunately, some of those ideas have been absorbed into the Christian world. Some ministers simply eliminate from their resumes those churches where they have had problems. They find various ways of disguising lost years, succeeding with committees that do not do their homework. Unearned academic degrees, untraceable specialized training, even fictitious places of service have been found on resumes of the more dishonest candidates.
A resume should be a complete and honest accounting of one's training, ministry and references. It should not gloss over the difficult parts, nor should it embellish one’s successes. The resume is to be a polite and proper introduction, not a sales tool.
Once your resume is complete, feel free to share it as the Lord leads. Remember, you are His servant. Go where He sends you. Stay where He keeps you. Serve as He empowers you.
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