Advice written especially for ministries students
WHAT IS A CHURCH RESUME?
A resume is a self-created job application. That is, instead of answering pages of questions on an application form sent to you from a dozen different places, you get to answer many of the questions on your resume. It is the first step in getting a job, before a telephone contact, a preliminary interview, or a committee/board interview. Your hope is that your resume will get you a telephone call and an interview. Indeed, one might even say the primary object of a resume is to get an interview.
A church resume is not your average resume. Churches employ people on a different basis than business. So some of what you hear in standard "Resume workshops" won't fit in a church situation. The major difference is churches don't hire resumes, they hire people. Churches are more interested in who you are, what you've experienced, what "your story" is, and who influenced you so far in life than they are in your credentials. Once you are older they'll be increasingly interested in your "track record" -- that is, what you've actually done in ministry to date. In many churches your credentials (licensing, ordination, college GPA, awards and honors, graduate work) will be assumed or expected and they'll focus more on you than your credentials.
WHAT SHOULD A CHURCH RESUME INCLUDE?
1. WHO ARE YOU?
Your name, address, phone, e-mail. Usually at the top of the first page.
2. WHAT JOB YOU WANT?
Usually right off under your name you need to tell them what kind of job you are looking for. This is traditionally called "Objective" but sometimes church resumes use Ministry objective, Ministry focus, Ministry direction, Calling or another more church-friendly term. You pick it. District Superintendents and churches looking through a pile of resumes often look here first to keep-or-cut resumes. That is, if they are looking for a worship leader and your objective statement says, "I am looking for a youth pastor job with either senior high or junior high youth" you'll get tossed on the "cut" pile.
You can adjust your job preferences depending on what kind of job you are applying for.
3. WHERE DID YOU COME FROM?
Churches hire people. Who are you? What is 'your story?" You might even call this your "personal testimony." Some ministers start off with this (right under the name) thinking that the first thing church people want to know is who you are, even before they learn what you want to do -- what do you think?).
Most students try to put plenty of names (people, events and churches) here so the reader has a good grasp of the spiritual and people influence on you. But this is not a listing of what you’ve done (that comes later) -- but who you are. In your interview they’ll ask you to give it from memory, usually by a question like, "Tell us about your faith journey to date." This section can be either a paragraph or a list. Frequent titles for this section include Testimony, Spiritual formation, Spiritual journey, Spiritual foundations, Personal sketch. Which sounds best to you?
Some students who can’t work it into their testimony add a separate section called "FAMILY" to tell about their spouse and children. Others tell if they are engaged or planning to be engaged so the church will know if they are hiring a single person or not. (Again, here is a place where a church resume differs.) A business can’t legally ask you questions like this (or even ask for a picture, which might show your race or how you wear your hair). However that does not apply to churches.
4. WHAT EXPERIENCE DO YOU HAVE?
When you are 30 you'll have a long list
here. If you are a student usually you'll list these in reverse-chronological
order (recent-to-old) and you'll have less. Some list experience from most
important and relevant to least relevant. (E.g. most churches don’t really care
as much about your work experience as an auto-mechanic before you came to
college but they do care about what you did in ministry-related tasks) This
list can include your part time church jobs, your Practicum experiences, your
volunteer-at-church work, internships, and campus leadership, plus other
"positions" of ministry you held. When using dates for summer most
folk forget the months and say, "summer 2001" (instead of
When you return to the list to fill in the what-I-did descriptions (in paragraph or list format) use lots of verbs. "Churches hire verbs not nouns." Be truthful, of course, and do not exaggerate, but favor verbs which show what you did. Consider verbs like, organized, led, developed, planned, operated, designed, wrote, assisted, performed, attended, sang, worked, decided, called, visited, preached, helped, mentored, taught, delegated, recruited, supervised, counseled, invented. You don’t have to list all you did, but reading this total list should give the reader a glimpse of the kinds of things you have done. (And thus they assume you could do again.)
5. WHAT IS YOUR EDUCATION AND MINISTERIAL STATUS?
Where did you go to college? What was your major/minor? What degree did you/will you get? When? Some add GPA. Some tell of their do-it-yourself concentrations in electives or other areas. Some even list individual courses they were especially good in -- whatever tells them who you are and what makes your heart beat faster.
What is your status with your district? Which district? Are you planning to be ordained? Some put these into to different categories.
6. WHAT ARE YOUR SKILLS AND GIFTS?
A short list works fine here. Be careful to not look too fantastic (a resume for a 20-year-old student listing six spiritual gifts might be true, but probably will get chuckled at -- it looks too-good-to-be-true.
7. WHO ARE YOUR REFERENCES?
Select people for references who know you of course, but also consider a few who also are known by the pastors or district leaders. (To be honest many will not even call your references. And, those who do it right will call the references primarily to ask for "other names of people who would know this person" so they can call these "secondary references: to find out what you are really like.
Many students also list the relationship of the reference (e.g. My home church pastor" or "Professor in three courses" or "supervisor in youth Practicum" so the reader knows the connection with you.
Four other decisions to make about your resume:
1. How many pages: Usually 2-4. If 2, try front-back of one sheet. If 3 consider a 4-fold with name on cover. If 4 think about starting on the cover or editing it down. If 5+ edit it down to 4 or less -- you're not that impressive yet.
2. You may want several "editions" of a resume? If you are applying for a job somewhere as a R.D. and somewhere else as a CE director, you should consider two editions.
3. Pick a quality paper stock... it is the first impression you make. Some select "quality card stock" for a 2-pager. Remember they will photocopy it for a committee or board, so try that yourself to see if you are satisfied with how it looks.
4. Will you attach or print a picture? If so, that will be the first impression.
Church Interview Tips
Tips for Telephone Interviews:
Revised by Amanda Drury (September 14, 2006)