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Creating an Unforgettable Résumé for Lead Pastor Openings


A résumé is one of the most important things God will use to bridge your present with your future. It is a bridge of creditability to those who do not know you. But it is more than that. It is also a bridge between you and your future partners in ministry, namely your future board and congregation. That bridge must be built with the timbers of credibility, endorsement, and a history of effectiveness. Let’s start by answering some important questions about résumés.

Are Résumés Scriptural?

I have heard some take a hyper-spiritual approach to résumés and dismiss them as carnal, unscriptural, or even unspiritual. However, the Bible records several occasions where Spirit-directed assignments were brokered though letters of recommendation (Nehemiah 2:7-9; Ezra 7:21; Acts 15:22-31; Philippians 2:29). Scripture also records instances where men of God presented a summary of their qualifications and ministry experience in order to gain credibility (Acts 26:1-29; 2 Corinthians 3:1-2; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Galatians 1:1; Philippians 3:4-8). What we know today as a résumé seems to be a combination of these two, a bridge to give you credibility with those who may not know you. Although the Bible does not clearly mandate how one presents their qualifications, the fact that we must is firmly established.

What Is the Purpose of a Résumé?

You must understand and have a laser-purposed résumé. There are five basic purposes of a résumé:

1. First impression. To establish an impressive and memorable first impression.

2. Snapshot. A quick presentation of your qualifications, leadership distinctives, and ministry experiences (no more than two pages).

3. Stir interest. To create greater interest in you as a candidate that results in a personal interview.

4. Bridge. To provide easy access to additional information about you on the Internet or your social media presence.





5. Distinguish. To enable you to stand out from the crowd as an immediate front-runner. Three things make a stand-out résumé: graphic design, brief but colorful language, and a memorable personal/family photo.

What are the Common Obstacles to an Unforgettable Résumé?

If you are going to create an unforgettable résumé, you will need to overcome obstacles. Following are the most common:

1. Honesty. Your résumé needs to be an honest reflection of your pastoral ministry experiences, numerical size, and contributions; and your references need to be people who actually served as your supervisors.

2. Lack of focus. One résumé will not work for several different ministry opportunities (campus pastor, lead pastor, or associate pastor). Your résumé should be tailor-made for the specific church with whom you are seeking an interview.

3. Wordiness. A résumé is not an exhaustive encyclopedia of your history but a concise and specific snapshot of your ministry experience. In the words of William Vanderbloemen, “Every good résumé should be brief, bright, and gone.” Keep yours between one and two pages.

4. Philosophical clutter. Contrary to popular belief, pastoral search committees are not interested in résumés that are weighed down with wordy vision, philosophical declarations, or objective statements. That comes later. Right now, they just want to know about your accomplishments, ministry preparedness, and qualifications.

Eight Ingredients of an Unforgettable Résumé

1. Stand out. Your résumé must distinguish you from other applicants and possess “stand-out” qualities.

• Visual appeal. Create a résumé that is colorful, clean, and uncluttered. The formatting should be clear, simple, and easy to read. The font should be consistent, elegant, readable, and between 10-12 points. The absence of margin and “white space” makes your résumé look cluttered, verbose, and unappealing. Following are a few helpful online résumé creators/templates that can help you do this:






• Splash page. Consider creating a résumé in the form of a blog or splash Internet page. This will enable you to create a “one-stop” location for information about you and your ministry. It will also allow you to make it more personal with a video greeting, links to your digital résumé, bio, and pictures plus links or embeds to your preaching, social media channels, and “samples” of past articles, visioning, and other resources you created. Personality assessments or mission statements, letters of recommendations, and professional memberships can also be included.



• Pictures. Be sure to connect a face to your name by including a quality color photo of you and your family on the résumé. If you do not have one, invest the time in taking a memorable one.

• Electronic PDF. It is imperative that you save your cover letter and résumé as one (1) PDF document that can be easily emailed and forwarded with one easy step. Word, Pages, pictures, and other document forms shift things around depending on the font and software version of the reader’s computer. The best way to preserve the appearance of your résumé is to save it as a PDF in order for everyone to see it the same way with the same pagination.

• Provide Internet links. It is becoming more common for search committees to require Internet links to your preaching, writing, and social media BEFORE they distribute your résumé to other members of their team. Be sure to provide these on your résumé so they do not have to ask for them. Creating a personal blog or splash page that acts as your online interactive résumé is a sure way to make a good impression as a prepared and forward-thinking leader.

• Cover letter. Résumés tend to reflect a candidate’s qualifications more than their spirit. Use your cover letter as a way to show your heart and soul. It should be modified each time you apply for a different opening to ensure that it appeals directly to the position you are seeking. The letter itself should be no more than four paragraphs.

o First paragraph. Explain why you are excited for this new chapter in your life or why you are a cultural fit for this church. Tell them about your family and be sure to mention things about the church and community for which you are applying. This communicates your interest in them and the community in which they live.

o Second paragraph. Give a quick summary of your résumé and how your experience aligns with the qualifications of the position. You can also think of it like you are answering the question, “Why would you be a great fit for this job?”

o Third paragraph. Add a quick personal bio of you and your family.

o Fourth paragraph. Close with a “thank you” for the search committee’s time and consideration. Also include how you can best be reached even if you have already included your contact information in the resume’.

• Lead pastorish. A resume’ that highlights skills and experiences that are simar to those of a lead pastor.

o Vision implementation. Articulating and sustainign an inspiring vision and showing people how to make it happen.

o Content creation. The primary role of a lead pastor is to create content, write sermons, Bible studies and visionary story telling.

o People mobilization. Recruiting, mobilizing, training and inspiring volunteers.

o Finance savvy. Able to raise funds, make budgets and mobilize financial resources to achieve vision.

o Executive perspective. Ability to see the big picture and how the pieces fit together.

2. Personal and contact information. Be sure to include your current contact information at the very top of your résumé in a clear and obvious placement. Include your full name, email address, home mailing address, and personal cell phone number. Be sure your email address is an armed hyperlink so someone reading your résumé from a computer need only click it to send you an email. Be sure to put your name, age, and level of credential (certified, licensed, or ordained).

3. Tell your ministry story. Your résumé should briefly list your recent and relevant history with a summary of accomplishments. When it comes to presenting your ministry experience, there are generally two ways to do this. A chronological list presents your past employment in reverse chronological order starting with the most recent and working back. A functional format is more suited for a significant career transition because it highlights skills and qualifications in the order of importance regardless of the time of occurrence. Because pastoral search committees want to see history, progression, and skill development in your ministry, the reverse chronological format is most effective.

• Employment. Where you have been employed (church name, city, state) and what you have done (portfolio or job description at each assignment) in the last seven (7) years. Keep your list of responsibilities under each job entry under six bullet points and remember to be concise and use specific adjectives to help a search committee understand the depth of your role. For example, a statement like “spent 20 hours a week preparing sermon series” is much clearer than “preached youth service each week.”

• Enrichment experiences. Relevant experiences in the last ten (10) years that uniquely qualify you to serve as a lead pastor. These might include internships, mentoring experiences, specialized training, or significant denominational assignments.

• Accomplishments. List the spiritual, numerical, or financial accomplishments the Lord has helped you achieve at each ministry assignment. Numbers stand out; vague adjectives do not. Instead of writing that you have helped “significantly increase spiritual maturity,” state exactly how much. Avoid spiritualized generalities and give specific numbers or percentages when referring to growth. It has been said that “the best predictor of future performance is past performance.” Showing your prior successes will encourage pastoral search committees to believe in your future successes.

o Show ways you have met or exceeded the expectations of your job.

o Show an initiative you started or helped lead.

o Tell the results of your leadership.

o Show something you did that you were not asked to do.

o Show the ultimate profit margin in your church work.

The most important thing to remember is to share what you have done, not what you “would do.”

4. Highlight qualifications. Your résumé should list developmental experiences that further qualify you as a lead pastor. This would include the following items which should be listed in reverse chronological order (most recent first):

• Educational accomplishments. Diplomas, degrees, majors, and the names and addresses of the institutions you earned them from. Do not include grades or GPAs unless 4.0.

• Ecclesiastical preparation. Level of credential (certified, licensed, or ordained).

• Training. Completion of additional or advanced training in the form of internships, certifications, seminars, cohorts, or specialized training.

• Acknowledgements. Official honors or awards, community service acknowledgements, or recognition associated with ministry.

• Peer or ministry involvements. Participating on outside but related teams, committees, or boards associated with ministry.

• Associations. Partnerships, memberships, or participation in peer-related groups.

• Proprietary software. Proficiency in church-based software such as Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office, Premier, After Effects, ProPresenter, Aplos, QuickBooks, etc.

5. Summarize skills. Provide a brief list of skills and competencies you have mastered and become known for. The listing should be brief and could include:

• Competencies that seem to follow you no matter where you are or what you do.

• Natural talents that come easily and naturally for you but harder for others.

• Spiritual gifts that have been confirmed though years of service.

• Attributes or characteristics that embody your personality or leadership style.

• True value and ways you have consistently benefited ministers and ministries you have worked for in the past.

Be careful not to use phrases that have become antiquated, overused, or have lost their meanings. Employing words other than hardworking, responsible for, proactive, participated in, and detail-oriented will help your résumé stand out and be unique.

6. Build a bridge. Remember that the purpose of your résumé is to build a bridge for others to quickly and easily learn more about you. Following are some ways to do that:

• Write a cover page. The cover page is NOT your résumé but a warm letter introducing yourself and your interest in exploring God’s will as their new pastor.

• Include links on your résumé to your sermons, writings, and additional information about you. It is becoming more common for search committees to require Internet links to your current ministry, preaching, writing, and social media BEFORE they distribute your résumé to other members of their team. Be sure to provide these on your résumé so they do not have to ask for them.

• Build a digital page. Creating a personal blog page that acts as your online résumé is a sure way to make a good impression as a prepared and forward-thinking leader. It is also a super smart way to make sure ALL members of the search committee have access to more about you. Gmail allows you to create a free blog and YouTube account which would be a really easy way to do this.

• Customize. Customize your résumé for each particular church or position you are applying for. This helps your résumé connect with them, be relevant, and show an interest in them, their church, and their community. For example, if a church is in a rural community, be sure to mention experiences you have had in that same context. If a large part of their city works for the medical industry, be sure to include any relevant experiences you have had ministering to that demographic. Résumés that are too general can give the impression you are looking for anything and everything under the sun.

7. Provide references. Your résumé must connect the search committee with those who can legitimize your qualifications, character, and achievements. Stating that “references are available upon request” creates an unnecessary step for search committees and communicates that you may have something to hide.

• List references. List your references, an honest description of their relationships to you, and their contact information (email, cell number, current title, and place of work).

• Inform references. Keep your references informed of the fact that you have listed them and where you have applied. This will help them know what calls are a priority when they are returning calls. Be sure to let your references know what particular skill or experience you are wanting them to legitimize. It will help them be more prepared for the contact. If you have solid references and show a willingness to share them, that will go a long, long way. Not listing them or making it difficult for busy deacons to get them creates more questions than answers.

8. Edit for excellence. Before you send your résumé, take a day’s break from it and then go back and do an edit screening. Following are some practical tips to get that done:

• Proofread. Get your résumé spell-checked by one or two others. Proofread every word, fact, and date. Catch spelling errors, typos, misaligned bullet points, and margins. You want your résumé to stand out for the right reasons. Do not forget to check any URLs that you used to make sure they are live and working properly.

• Fact-check. Do a “fact-check” on your information. Make sure dates, places, names, contact info, and any numbers quoted are accurate.

• Content check. Do a quick content check to make sure you have included only the most necessary, relevant, and valuable information related to the lead pastorate at this church. Ask yourself the following questions:

o Did I include assignments or positions so far back in my past that the résumé presents me as a novice with experience unrelated to a lead pastorate?

o Could I read this résumé from the pulpit in my present ministry without being embarrassed?

• Relevance. Use terms that most accurately reflect the context of your past experiences. For example, student pastors with a youth ministry of 30 might be amazing with students while a student pastor with a ministry of 300 might be amazing with volunteers and parents. Context matters much more than position titles.

• Humility. Instead of taking personal credit for ministry success, speak of it with humility and gratitude.

• File format. When saving your résumé as a PDF file, be sure to save it using a file name that makes your résumé stand out. File names such as “Résumé_Jones_Bill_2021.pdf” will stand out much more and be easier to find on a computer than a name that only has meaning to you.

• Email address. It is important to use a professional email address. An unprofessional or overly casual email address such as golflover666@mail.com is not going to help you.

• Church requests. Most churches will advertise a job opening with specific instructions for interested applicants. Be sure to follow every one of them. Not following directions that were important enough for the search committee to list is the quickest way to get your résumé placed in the “hold” pile. This is perhaps my greatest frustration with résumés.

• Update. Update your résumé once a year—not because that is how often you should look for a job but because that is how often you should evaluate your commitment to personal and ministry growth and be able to list meaningful accomplishments.

You can download a PDF version of this article at http://www.agspe.org/Unforgettable_Resume.pdf

This article originally appeared here.

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Gene Roncone was elected to serve as the District Superintendent/Network Pastor of the Rocky Mountain Ministry Network in April of 2019. However, he is often said to prefer the title of "helper." As the District Superintendent, Gene leads the Network and provides support, resourcing and training for nearly 170 churches and 600 ministers serving over 44,000 constituents. In addition to serving as the Network Pastor, Gene serves on the Board for Church Extension Plan, which is a ministry providing premier financial and administrative services to the churches and districts of the Assemblies of God and their constituents. Prior to serving as Network pastor Gene was the Lead Pastor of Highpoint Church for nearly 17 years and gave leadership to a network of Christian ministries and outreaches with different locations throughout the city of Aurora, Colorado. Prior to Highpoint, Gene served for six years as the Church Development Director/Assistant to the Superintendent in the Northern California/Nevada District Office. Gene also enjoys podcasting and has authored several books including, Rise Up, Isolation in Ministry, Explore the Call, Prevailing Over Impossibility and A Season for Legacy. Personally, he enjoys reading, wilderness camping, and spending time with his wife, Rhonda, their adult children and grandchildren.