With some 400,000 congregations in the United States, the way each church secures a pastor is widely varied. Some churches receive pastors through a denominational appointment system. Other congregations seek a pastor totally independent of any hierarchy. They seek, interview, and vote in a totally autonomous fashion. Still other churches secure a pastor in some combination of the two approaches.
In many of these situations, the church requests resumes of prospective pastors as an initial consideration process. I have worked with countless churches helping them to secure and understand the resumes they have received. Indeed I have looked at thousands of resumes. Many of them are excellent. Others are, well, not.
Allow me to share with you seven of the more common resume mistakes I see. Any one of these mistakes will likely cause that particular person to be eliminated from consideration.
1. Sloppy resumes. These sloppy resumes have careless grammatical and stylistic errors. Capitalization is random and spacing is unpredictable. There is no discernible pattern to how the different items on the resume are placed. Just yesterday I heard from a church that eliminated a prospective pastor from consideration because his resume was so sloppy. “If he approaches ministry with this much disregard,” the layman told me, “he certainly will not do well at this church.”
2. Unverified statistics. It is common and acceptable to put such statistics as worship attendance and the church budget of the pastor’s current church on the resume. Make certain that the numbers are accurate. Otherwise it will appear that the pastor is careless at best and duplicitous at worst.
3. Bad photos. Not all pastors choose to put a photo on a resume. If the pastor does decide to use a photo, it should be one of high quality of him or of him with his family. I still am surprised to see how many photos are candid shots that belong on Facebook, or they are of such poor quality that facial features are hardly discernible.
4. Poor presentation of family. The mistakes here are usually one of two extremes. Some pastors leave off their family entirely. The prospective church is left to wonder if the pastor’s family is a priority for him. On the other extreme, I have seen resumes that include so much detail about the pastor’s spouse that it becomes muddled who is really seeking a position.
5. No sense of prioritization. Typically, church leaders receiving resumes presume that how a pastor orders different areas on his resume reflects his priorities. If education is presented first, that is his priority. If family is noted first, that then becomes the perceived priority. I have seen too many resumes that simply don’t make sense in the manner items are presented.
6. Failure to note ministry accomplishments. Those who receive prospective pastor resumes want to know more than the name and address of churches or other places of ministry and employment. They want to know what was accomplished during that tenure. Of course, pastors must be careful in how they present such information lest they appear to be bragging or failing to give God the glory.
7. Failure to explain gaps in date. If a pastor has a two or three year gap on his resume, he needs to explain it. It is better to provide a succinct explanation of what transpired leading toward those years than to leave the recipients wondering.
What have you noticed about pastors’ resumes? What would you add to my list?
Pastor to Pastor is the Saturday blog series at ThomRainer.com. Pastors and staff, if we can help in any way, contact Steve Drake, our director of pastoral relations, at Steve.Drake@LifeWay.com. We also welcome contacts from laypersons in churches asking questions about pastors, churches, or the pastor search process.