How to Write a Successful Resume for Church Jobs

Each year the staff at ChristianCareerCenter.com and ChurchJobsOnline.com sees hundreds of resumes for church jobs (senior pastor, associate pastor, youth pastor, campus pastor, worship leader, etc.) and jobs with ministries (web designer, social media manager, house parent, teacher, copywriter, pilot, accountant, human resources manager, etc.)  

An estimated 80% of those resumes do not effectively showcase the candidate’s skills and experience and are not targeted for the job that applicant is pursuing.  This is unfortunate, as good candidates may never get to the interview stage for church and ministry jobs that are of interest. 

Your resume for church and ministry jobs is a summary of your qualifications. Think of it as an expanded business card.  You use a business card to introduce yourself, or to leave behind as a reminder of who you are, and what and whom you represent.  In this case, the product/service you represent is you! 

Just as you would never rely on a business card to sell your product or service, you should never rely on your resume alone to get you the job. The resume is your introduction to prospective employers, telling them about your education, work experience, abilities, and accomplishments.

Ultimately, its job is to prove to a church staffing committee or a ministry recruiter that they should take the time to interview you. To accomplish this, your resume needs to clearly showcase that you can meet their needs and expectations.

Many churches and ministries have reported receiving hundreds of resumes when they advertise church openings; therefore, most churches and recruiters spend only 6-30 seconds skimming over the average resume. In that brief time, your resume will make either a positive or a negative impression on the employer. 

These days, larger and even medium-sized churches also analyze resumes using automatic tracking systems (ATS) that scans for the needed skills or experiences. For your resume to be considered, it must "hit home" immediately by including the keywords for which the software has been programmed to search.

An excellent resume when applying for church jobs and ministry openings clearly states your qualifications (in descending order of importance) for the position for which you are applying.

You will need to spend several hours thinking, writing and rewriting. There are no shortcuts to writing an excellent resume. Since at times it will form an employer's first impression of you, it must be an example of your best thought and effort.

Here are 14 Steps to Writing a Winning Resume for Church Jobs and Ministry Openings:

1. Define your objective or branding statement.

 A resume for church and ministry jobs will be most effective when it is focused. If you have determined a specific objective, include the job title or a brief statement describing the position desired. It is best to state your objective at the top of your resume. Here are some examples of objectives:

A position as a senior pastor

A position as a youth pastor where I can disciple youth in their relationship with Christ

Associate Pastor 

There are some resume writing experts who recommend not having an objective on your resume. If you choose to not have an objective, then we recommend that you use a branding statement that can be centered at the top of your resume under your contact information. Here is an example of a resume with a branding statement. And here are some examples of branding statements:

Experienced Senior Pastor

Experienced Senior Pastor with 11 years of increasing responsibility in congregational leadership

Experienced Human Resources Director

Experienced, Capable Human Resources Professional Focused on Employee Job Fit, Workforce Optimization, Management Training Strategies and Cost Saving Solutions

Proven Operations Manager

A highly motivated, experienced professional with skills in marketing, e-commerce, relationship-building, promotion and management.

2. Choose the most appropriate format.

Depending on the church or ministry job for which you're applying, you will need to choose either a chronological or a functional format. A chronological resume is an arrangement of your qualifying experiences and training listed in reverse chronological order. A chronological format is most effective when you are applying for a position that is similar or directly related to work you have done previously.

A functional resume highlights your skills and lists your qualifications in their order of importance regardless of the time of occurrence. 

In a functional resume, you make use of the skills and duties from all of your work history (paid and/or volunteer), education and leisure activities which relate to and qualify you for the job objective. Use the functional format if you plan a career transition, or if you do not have specific work experience related to the job you want.

While there is no perfect style or format for a resume, most people find having a template to start with makes resume writing much easier. Here are templates that you can use to produce a Word doc resume:

Chronological resume template for recent college graduate.

Chronological resume template for experienced worker.

Functional resume template.

3. Write 10-20 skill statements

These should prove you can do the job you are targeting in your objective (or at least prove that you can learn how to do the job quickly). Regardless of which resume format you are using; you will attract employers by describing the skills you have that will produce the results they need. Ultimately, the only thing that interests the employer is the results that you can produce.

The following bulleted items are illustrations of skill statements that demonstrate quantified and specific results:

  • Launched quarterly evangelistic endeavors using activities such as “Neighbor Night," which ministered to over 500 neighbors.
  • Restructured lesson plans and developed a parent participation strategy that resulted in a 79% success rate in a reading program for disadvantaged children.
  • Successfully spearheaded a Capitol Funds Campaign to retire mortgages totaling $400k on two buildings within a two-year period.

As you can see, each skill statement starts with a transferable skill name:  launched, restructured, and restructured. These words connote action. The skill statement then describes how the transferable skill was used and, most importantly, what result was achieved. 

Please note that while it is not always possible to quantify results, strive to give at least a subjective description of the results you produced. 

To analyze the skills that are going to be most important to focus on, use Indeed.com to research three to five jobs for the job title you are targeting. Identify the skills that are consistent within the job postings. These skills are the ones that you will need to emphasize in your resume. Besides the transferable skills (as noted above), also look for the knowledges a candidate needs and the personal skills (sometimes called “soft skills” such as diligent, hardworking, organized, outgoing, etc.) that the employer wants in the candidate who is hired.

Writing skill statements may take you two or more hours to complete.  But keep in mind that the work that you do in writing your skill statements will help you not only to write a good resume, but will also be valuable in interviewing, where it is important that you are able to prove you have the skills that are important to the employer. 

4. Write a draft of your resume.

Once you have written your skill statements, you are ready to begin a resume draft by placing those skills in the chosen format. For a chronological format, your skill statements will go into a section entitled “Work Experience” or “Professional Experience.”

For a functional resume, you can also use the title “Professional Experience” or “Relevant Experience. Use past tense for previous activities, experiences or acquired skills.  Use present tense to refer to ongoing or current activities. 

If you are using a functional format you will also want to have a “Work History” section to provide the names of the companies for which you have worked, where they were located, the job titles you held, and the dates you worked at each company.

5. Develop a “Highlights of Qualifications” or “Summary of Qualifications” section to begin your resume.

The purpose of this section is to gain the employer’s attention by highlighting some of your key qualifications for the position. This section can include such things as: total number of years of relevant experience; key accomplishments; content skills that you have (for example computer knowledge); and personal skills (such as hardworking, honest, flexible, loyal, etc.).

Here are three examples:

OBJECTIVE:Senior Pastor

HIGHLIGHTS OF QUALIFICATIONS

  • 15 years’ experience founding and leading churches that are focused on bringing people to Christ, growing members as disciples and showing the love of Jesus to the community and world at large.
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills. Demonstrated ability to prepare and deliver compelling sermons and lessons that help individuals apply God’s Word in practical ways to their lives.
  • Proven organizational, leadership, and interpersonal skills; able to motivate and train staff members to excel in the use of their gifts as servant leaders.   leadership, and
  • Strong ability to create compelling visions and goals for church growth and outreach.
  • Faithful, loyal, passionate, empathetic, warm, friendly and sold out to Jesus Christ.

JOB OBJECTIVE:  Church Administrative Assistant

HIGHLIGHTS OF QUALIFICATIONS

  • Strong organization and planning skills.
  • Excellent record of dependability and reliability.
  • Effective telephone communication skills.
  • Experienced in the use of computer programs including Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop.

 OBJECTIVE:Office Manager or Program Manager

SUMMARY OF QUALIFICATIONS

  • Ten years of administrative and management experience. Responsibilities have included human resource functions such as training, hiring/firing, and employee supervision/evaluation; facilities management; scheduling, time cards, payroll; accounts receivable and accounts payable; purchasing and inventory control.
  • Fast learner, detail-oriented, able to prioritize effectively with little or no supervision. Enjoy working in busy environment with multiple task demands.
  • Creative and flexible in organizing and planning. Excellent monitoring and follow-up skills.
  • Strong people skills; highly effective in promoting a positive, productive work environment. Reputation for work excellence and high-quality service to customers/clients.
  • Computer skills include Microsoft Office; Quattro Pro; ACT; Staff Trak.

6. Place your name, address, phone, e-mail and LinkedIn (with a customized URL) at the top of your resume

Use a phone number where you can be reached or where a message can be left. An employer may not call a second time. Keep the message on your voicemail brief and professional. Use a professional email address such as [email protected]

If you currently only have a more casual email address such as [email protected], create a new email account for your job search. If you have a customized LinkedIn URL you can also include this beneath your email address.

7. Place your educational information strategically.

Generally, your education should be first under your “Highlights of Qualifications” section only if it is your most important qualification to date for the job for which you are applying or if possession of a requisite degree (or degrees) is a requirement for your job target.

However, as your education recedes in time, it also recedes as a factor in your current qualifications.

In reverse chronological order, list the institutions you attended, their locations and dates of attendance or graduation. (If it has been more than 10 years since you received your last degree, you may not want to list dates.) 

It is not necessary for a college graduate to indicate the high school attended, unless there is some aspect of that experience that particularly supports your objective.  Include degrees received, academic major(s) and/or areas of concentration.

Job applicants with limited work experience may also want to mention such things as special academic honors, student activities, certificates, etc.

8. Include other information only if it is relevant to your job target.

Other factors that can be included are professional memberships, publications, special honors, qualifying licenses, interests, civic activities, etc. Remember, however, that you only want to include information that helps prove you can do the job. The resume is not a forum for telling your life story.

9. Edit your resume

While doing so, remember the following: there is no perfect format so choose the one that best represents you for your specific job target; there should be a reason for everything you include; after your objective, organize information in descending order of importance; use correct spelling (have someone proofread your final copy even if you are a good speller); do not abbreviate; avoid jargon, and, as a general rule, limit your resume to one or two pages.

10. Make your resume visually appealing.

Highlight key information by using boldfaced type or CAPITALIZING or underlining it. Bullets (large dots) are effective in drawing the employer's attention and eye to competencies, accomplishments and/ or achievements. Use white space for eye appeal and easy reading.

11. Check your resume for ATS Do’s and Don’ts.

While you want your resume to look good, you also need to be aware of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). These days your resume may automatically land in the employer’s ATS. 

 Your resume then has information scanned, "parsed" or pull out by the ATS.  It then produces a digital candidate profile where the church staffing committee or recruiter can search the ATS by keyword and get a list of resumes that best match the qualification that the employer is seeking.

There are specific things you can do to help ensure that the ATS places your resume into the “yes” pile for the church staffing committee or recruiter as they search for the right candidates to interview.

  • Avoid abbreviations. Most ATSs aren’t programmed to recognize abbreviations like MDiv or DDiv.  Instead, you will want to spell out abbreviations and then use the common acronym in parentheses.  For example (MDiv) Master of Divinity.
  • Do not use lines, multiple columns or tables in your resume. While some ATSs can read lines and table, there are others that can't, so it is better to play it safe.
  • Avoid stars, diamonds, and check-boxes; instead use standard bullets. (In Microsoft Word, the bullet options are found in the “Paragraph” section of the ribbon.) Standard bullets can actually help the ATS to read the information in your resume.
  • Use standard fonts like Arial, Cambria, Calibri, Verdana and Times New Roman. Your resume is not the place to use fancy fonts.
  • Check your grammar and spelling. Of course, you want to do this regardless, but it is important to know that an ATS will recognize spelling and grammar mistakes.  Use the Word document spell and grammar check, but also carefully read your resume at least twice for mistakesIt is tempting to ask several people you know to give you feedback on your resume.  In reality, this can confuse you and lead to an ineffective resume.

12. Get feedback from the right people.

It is tempting to ask several people you know to give you feedback on your resume.  In reality, this can confuse you and lead to an ineffective resume.

There are really only three people that you should ask to review your resume:  One, someone who knows how applicant tracking systems work. Two, someone who is a grammar and spelling expert. And three, a certified career counselor/resume expert who reviews and writes resumes for clients. 

13. Custom tailor your resume in 5 minutes or less

This applies to all the jobs for which you are applying. A one-size-fits-all resume will not be successful in landing you interviews.

So, how do you custom tailor your resume? The best place to start is by analyzing the job description.  Identify the transferable skills along with the content skills (knowledges) and personal skills (soft skills) that the church or ministry is seeking.

Next, in your summary of qualifications, make changes so that your resume reflects that skills and knowledges that the church is seeking.  A tool that you can use online for this analysis is jobscan.co. 

14. Are you feeling stuck writing your resume?

Do you want to maximize the effectiveness of your resume for producing interviews? Do you need help deciding on what job(s) to target? 

Consider hiring a career counselor to help you target the right jobs, critique your resume or build a professional resume for you.  Learn more and schedule a career services consultation.


© Article copyright by Kevin and Kay Marie Brennfleck, www.ChurchJobsOnline.comand https://www.ChristianCareerCenter.com/.  All rights reserved. The above information is intended for personal use only. No commercial use of this information is authorized without written permission.

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/GlennCarstensPeters

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