April 30, 2012

Finding a Church Job: Resumes and References


This is part 7 of a blog series called Finding a Church Job.

This post is for those of you looking for straight forward practical advice. You’re getting my personal opinions and what I would look for in “do’s” and “don’ts”. Lucky for you though you aren’t just getting my thoughts.

In italics you get to hear from my wife who works with college students professionally and has helped student prepare their resumes.

Resumes and Cover Letters


  • Be specific. Tell them exactly what kind of role you want and why.
  • Keep it short: If there is a staple, I’m not reading it.
  • Get creative. Not annoyingly or distractingly so, but don’t just give me all text. Include a picture, table, chart, etc.
  • Lead with what makes you most qualified.
  • Be clear about what you did in past roles.
  • Follow up a week after submission if you haven’t heard anything. Continue to periodically do until expressly eliminated. Churches are bad at follow up, but normally know it.
  • Include links to online profiles. Ministry is a relational job.
  • Give them more than paper. Include links to a video of you preaching, leading worship, promoting an event, or any other presence you have online. About.me or other online resume sites are great.
  • Tailor it to the job. If you are sending multiple resumes out, don’t just copy and paste.
  • Use the job description as a guide.
  • Always write a cover letter. You can give more info and introduce yourself.
  • Bullets are better than paragraphs. Always start with an action word.
  • Proofread. Proofread. Proofread. 
  • Include professional development. i.e. conferences, seminars, published work, etc.


  • Elaborate past the basics on your degree. If they want to know they’ll ask.
  • Include every job you’ve ever had. The past three or four should be fine.
  • Try to hide age or inexperience. It’ll be obvious as soon as you walk in the door for your interview.
  • Use comic sans.
  • Go crazy with the design. You have some freedom in your layout but not much.
  • Use an odd email. Good for you for staying committed to browneyez471@juno.com but don’t put it on your resume. Open a gmail account with your name and move on.
  • Start every line with the same action word. Such as: “Responsible for” or “Worked with”.
  • Get too crazy with font choice. Avoid larger fonts.
  • Submit the same day you write it. Sleep on it and be certain before you apply.



  • Get their permission first. A great reference can get spoiled when they are caught off guard by a follow up call from a search committee.
  • Choose wisely on when to inform your current employer (particularly if they are a church) you are looking and if possible use them as a reference. First of all you never want to burn a bridge. Second the church looking at you will want to and should talk to them, this way you get to pick who it is.
  • List multiple ways to contact them.
  • Explain to your references what kind of job you are applying for.
  • Include former bosses and former volunteers.
  • Include your relationship.
  • Have 3-5 references.
  • Match reference page format to resume and cover letter.


  • Use a family member. I assume your mom believes in you.
  • Be afraid to ask for a reference.
  • Use the line “References available upon request”. Only give if asked for, see job posting.
  • Have a majority of short-term references.

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