Recently I’ve noticed that a number of people have hit my site looking for advice on crafting pastoral resumes. Either they’re fresh out of the gate seminarians who are writing their pastoral resumes for the first time or they’re more seasoned practicioners who are looking to see how people who may be in the same application stack as them are presenting themselves. 

It got me thinking, What are the steps pastors go through as they interview with churches? Here’s my answer;

3 steps in pastoral interviews

These three steps pretty much sum up pastoral interviewing. The first thing every candidate has to do is stand out because churches are considering a lot of qualified, capable people for the role. The second thing is connect deeper with the church, move beyond a positive first impression to a connection that makes them begin to think this could really be the person we hire. Lastly, every candidate has to find ways to stick to the end of the process, making their way through the stack of paper resumes to a few rounds of phone interviews to in person interviews and potential offers.

step 1 pastoral candidating

A friend of mine has said you can group pastors under three categories: 1) Priestly – pastors who have a deep passion for counseling, relational ministry, but don’t have strong administration skills and struggle to see the wider social issues their churches are surrounded by; 2) Prophetic – pastors who thrive in the area of cultural exegesis, who always seem to have their finger on the pulse of their social setting but have a much harder time with concrete steps in engaging individuals within it or leading programs; and 3) Kingly – pastors who flourish in leading teams, now how to vision cast with very particular concrete steps in mind, are highly detail oriented, but not very relationally engaging because they’re more task oriented than people oriented.

A good pastor will try to find the balance in all three. In my experience most pastors gravitate toward the first – Priestly. Because of that pastoral candidates who are applying for jobs need help in learning how to pitch themselves effectively. Pastors ought to realize that churches who’ve posted their employment needs on public websites have anywhere from 30 to 200+ applicants (these numbers are real and current). In this kind of setting, which in my experience has been aggravated by the economic recession, pastors searching for a call need to think about standing out. I’ve offered a few pointers above, some things in addition that I’ve found helpful have been developing a resume website, sharing my unique story, and offering churches ways to see that I have gifts beyond the normal ebb and flow of pastoral work. BTW in my opinion most pastors struggle with this step and never see steps 2 & 3 because of that. Great, gifted candidates get held back and churches miss out because of a common aptitude curve among pastors. Traditional paper resumes, MDiv’s, and a few years of experience simply doesn’t stand out when churches have hundreds of candidates. Pastors searching for callings need to do more. 

Step 2 pastoral candidating

Once you’ve stood out and they’ve kept your paper resume in the pile beyond the first cut (typically an initial phone interview indicates this) you need to begin working on connecting with them deeper. Part of the way you do this is in spending genuine time listening to who they say they are through their webpage, job application docs, and finding viral news sources about them through google searches, local blogs, and Facebook groups.

One of the easiest ways to show them there is a genuine connection is through a good cover letter. Another way to illustrate that there’s chemistry between the two of you is by giving them an additional document that shows you care about their area, their mission, and their personal history. I often, not always (depending on pace of the application), give the church a document I’ve created with Mac Pages. I personalize the layout with pictures of their area, stories about people they’re trying to reach, and how I believe my ministerial giftings and interest connect to them. I’ve found this to be a very helpful approach. Churches appreciate someone going above and beyond because it sends them a clear signal that you actually spent time considering them. That they’re not the target of yet another blindly crafted resume with the same email body but a new church name. As you might imagine church search committees are put off by that (wouldn’t you be).

Step 3 pastoral candidationThe final step is the step we all want to see happen: being able to stick to the end of the process and actually be interviewed in person. In my experience out of 10 phone interviews I do maybe 3 of them go to in person interviews. It takes a lot to get here: 2-6 months of careful dancing with each other. In the end this is the moment where the confirmation of fit and chemistry should really be made clear for everyone. Fit will be there or it won’t. If there’s a question about fit and chemistry thats left hanging after in person interviewing its probably good for each party after a reasonable amount of making sure its not just a communication hiccup to part ways. If however its a go then congratulations you have arrived to a new calling and now get to dig into the mission of God together with them!

Disclaimer: None of these steps built from experience and conventional wisdom ensure you’ll get the call. I may sound old fashion here but in the end I really believe its the Spirit who calls us to serve and connects us to where we serve. More than anything you do to candidate well with churches the most important thing you can do is seek the face of God in prayer. Never forget the journey as well as the destination belongs to the Lord.

May you honor Him well and truly find your joy in His sufficient Fatherly care of you!