We’re in that wonderful, scary, faith stretching season of looking for pastoral labor post-seminary. We graduate in May and we’ve been on the hunt since mid summer. Here are some of the things I’ve found helpful that I thought other seminarians might be able to use as we all search for a calling.

  1. I think the most important thing to remember in this season is that its the Lord who calls you to a Church, people to be sure are involved in that, but ultimately its his sovereign timing and ordering that brings it to pass. That means that denial needs to be redefined in your hearts, and discouragement has a God it can trust in.
  2. Prayer, and more prayer, and after making a decision even more prayer than you gave before. “Your job in life is prayer,” this is a phrase a pastor shared with me a long time ago and it remains ingrained in me.
  3. Start as early as you can on the relational networking side of preparing for entering ministry and put resume’s out to churches as far as a year in advance, yes that far in advance. What this does is generate momentum and personal knowledge and experience of the hiring process. I was actually turned down for a job a year before I graduated from seminary, I had an interview that early and it taught me helpful lessons I use now in the tougher time of interviewing.
  4. Know your resources that are most available to you in this season. Most seminaries have job lists, use those and be sure to work through with your spouse what areas you believe the Lord is calling you to. Also use ministry job list sights, there are several out there at the punch of the keys, google it. Lastly, do not over look the most valuable helps in finding needs in the Church, your own ministry contacts or past churches. In this area the Dean of Practical Theology in your seminary is a good person to talk with, as well as the Dean of Men at your seminary and other denominational leaders; by all means use your personal relationships to the max. These are invaluable assets and often times its those tools that connect you to a new job, not a random open position posting in cyber world.
  5. Know how to present yourself to the church your applying to, part of this requires you to understand enough about them so that you can present yourself in the most attractive manner. This isn’t getting a resumee facial, this is listening intently to those you’re considering serving and sacrificing for the next ‘….’ years. The other part of this requires you to know yourself and your wife well. What’s the tangibles that you can point to in your lives that relate to the position your applying to, what’s specific about your philosophy of ministry, what are the larger sentiments that summarize you that you want to have the prospective church leave with.
  6. Related to this last point, know what particulars are important on a Church/Ministerial type of resumee. I for instance front my experience on the resumee first, and I list out elements of the context of that experience like size of the church, area its located in – urban, suburban, rural, particular sin issues of the church or culture, age of church and present state like a church plant or older church with possible ingrown issues, and particular strengths of that community. If there is someone notable like a famous pastor, teacher, or missionary attatched to that church i list it. After my experience, my wife writes her portion of experience, calling, education. Only after both of these do I place my education or publications or other related information like homeletical philsophy. What this does is tell the church what I value and how I value it.
  7. Understand the process of review. In my denomination a pastoral search committee typically has four to six months to find a pastor. This means if I’m applying just as they post the position it will be at least another three to five months before they narrow the selection down to four to eight candidates who they will give phone interview to. In relation to this realize that your resume will probably be on the desk with upwards of 40 others – most of them with MDiv degrees (learn how to lay out your experience and accomplishments well). If you make it past the phone interview into the face to face one (which only 3 of the original upwards of 40 candidates do) make sure your wife accompanies you and that both of you work through possible interview situations before you arrive, it will help.
  8. Unfortunately most candidates in my denomination only get one or two interactions with the calling church before they make the decision to accept the call. What this means is that you both must pay attention to your surroundings intently on your visits. Often times at the end of the face to face interviews they will give you the opportunity to ask questions to the search committee, now is the time to raise the areas that are most important to you. For me its family first, missional vision of the church second, church leader relationships third, and finances last. There are things that you need to be able to observe and be warned by as you ask questions. There ought to be biblical guardrails clear in your mind and heart that help you as a couple through this part of the questioning.
  9. One last piece of advice, never allow the process to put you at odds with your spouse. This season seems made to do that at times, don’t let that happen. Loving and honoring your spouse and the integrity of her person must come first, they’ll be times where you may want to control this processess – don’t try to do that, and definitely don’t try to use her to do that. (Don’t forget to rejoice throughout this season, God has set it aside in your life to worship and enjoy him in it, its a time of worship and consecration).

I try and remind myself that this whole process is about discerning whether or not I’m the best candidate for them and they are the best fit for my wife and I’s personal gifts and passions God has given us.