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Church Staffing: The Resume

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There is no standard way to create a resume. Indeed, each resume says something about the one who created it. Sadly, many resumes tell those who receive them “I may be a good person, but I lack vision and the ability to communicate effectively.” Mostly, the resume that is poorly organized and hard to follow is the one that says this, even if the content and the references are good.

Here are a few thoughts, for what they are worth, about your resume.

Stylistically, be brief. Churches know what it is to serve on staff, so don’t give every detail of every event you coordinated. They won’t read it, and that hurts you. List the highlights. If your highlights are that you organized a trip to Six Flags, I hope that you are not submitting your resume for the position of Staff Administrator. I’m sorry to say, that is probably not enough experience. No more than two pages is a good rule of thumb. Remember that the resume is just a filtering device. They will get into the depths of who you are if you strike a chord with them at first blush.

Also, only include your picture if it is a flattering picture. Seriously. I have seen many resumes with pictures that ruled the person out immediately, because it was unflattering. Should that matter? Probably not, but it does. On the other hand, if you can’t understand how to present yourself in a way that removes obstacles, then that says something to the committee, doesn’t it?

Include these things:

Personal Information – The church wants to get a sense of you and your family gives them some history that informs that in a brief but meaningful way.

Education – The committee may not have a minimum standard or they may, but one way for your resume to be filtered out is by not answering questions that they will have for every candidate. Education is a question that will be asked of everyone, so answer it up front.

Experience – Again, be brief. List positions held, dates served and major accomplishments. I only put years, eg. 1999-2001 as opposed to the full dates of hire. I find that this is enough information without being too much information. Also, I can’t remember all of the start and stop dates from 21 years ago and I never recorded them. It’s never mattered to any committee and it sure doesn’t matter to me.

Vision Statement/Ministry Philosophy – This is the personal touch that you are trying to use to find some resonance with the search committee. A lot of guys I know use this paragraph to say things that will go over with just about anybody. They look not to offend. I do the opposite, and it has brought me times of no contact or responses from folks that are “not interested.” While it may be frustrating at the time, I console myself with the thought that they would part ways with me later, or that if they did call me, we might not get along. I also console myself with the thought that the committees that have shown interest are greatly interested. I have set myself apart in their eyes and I always seem to rise to the final person or group. In fact, since taking that direction, I don’t recall ever being dropped by a church, though I have turned some down. They knew who they were getting and it really helped.

Also, make sure it fits the napkin test. It must be concise enough to be understood and yet written on the back of a napkin. That’s communication.

References – I know some guys that furnish references on request. I furnish them up front for two reasons. If they want to know more about me, then that is a good thing and I don’t want them to have to overcome a barrier to do it. Also,my hand picked references should be great opportunities. By the way, never put someone down as a reference without first asking their permission and also without knowing exactly what they will say about you. I ask my references to tell me what they would tell a committee if they called, and then a quiz them as best I can. If you are unsure, don’t list them. The quickest way to have your resume work against you is for you to encourage the committee to call someone who undermines you.

The second reason I furnish references up front is that who I put on the resume says something about me. I not only list the name and the contact, but I list how we know one another. Then I am sure to list people who have worked over me, under me and alongside me, as well as lay people.

Alright. Any questions? Any additions? Any challengers? Take your shot.

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5 Responses to “Church Staffing: The Resume”

  1. Marty Duren
    on Jun 4th, 2008
    @ 9:50 am

    I would add one thing: order your resume from strength to weakness. If your strength is your education, hit it hard and heavy right after your name and family info. If it is weak, then put it after mission statement, philosophy of ministry statement, experience and the kitchen sink.

    Leading from your strength on your resume should be reflective of leading from strength in ministry.

    Also, we are currently in a search and have had a lot of opportunity to evaluate resumes. For what it is worth:

    1. Use a good template that breaks the sheet up some.
    2. The entire resume should be 2 pages or less.
    4. Submit a digital photo, preferably separate from the resume.
    5. DO NOT place the resume in the body of an email; ALWAYS send as an attachment.
    5. Name the resume file, “[My Full Name] Resume.” Do not use initials, first names or abbreviations that mean only something to the candidate. When a person is using a computer file, he/she wants to see a name for easy identification.
    6. Include references, you are right on this. Does a person really think that we aren’t going to call??
    7. If you are applying from another continent, you’d better have the Holy Spirit as a reference, complete with phone number.

    Good thoughts, Art.

    Marty Durens last blog post..Got any ideas on this church sign?

  2. bloginafogpastor
    on Jun 4th, 2008
    @ 1:44 pm

    I would adjust your suggestion a bit. From the corporate standpoint I look for what I would call “Experienced Based” Resumes. Most people make their resumes a nice obituary.

    Here is my suggestion: Do not list your jobs as “Experience” but as “Positions”. Have another section that is labeled “Experience” where you will describe what you have actually done. Break it down into specific accomplishments/activities using descriptive and active verbs. If possible make it an “I did this and it resulted in this” format.

    For example: “Managed an implemented all staff scheduling for a team of “X” employees leading to (a productivity increase/less turnover etc…)..

    Researched, planned and executed a strategy to reach multihousing projects in a church of “X” resulting in the growth of Sunday Morning Worship of “x”.

    Even volunteer experience can be used: “Directed a team of 10 other volunteers to begin and coordinate an outreach ministry to the homeless at a local park allowing our church to reach a group with which we previously had not connected.”

    I can tell you that in hiring at the company and in considering staff at church we look for people who can show us what they have done and what they have learned from it.

    I will step out and volunteer if anyone out there needs help with their resume. I will help the first 5 that I hear from. I have no formal training but I have done this myself and I have helped people in my church which enabled several to be very successful in their career search. Email me a copy of your resume at brycechu@mssblue.net. I must be crazy! I am leaving Sunday for the SBC so be patient in getting a response.

    Art, I hope this is ok to make this offer to help a few folks. If not, feel free to delete or edit me. Also, someone out there might be brave enough to let us all improve their resume online.

    bloginafogpastors last blog post..Memorial Day 2008

  3. art rogers
    on Jun 4th, 2008
    @ 5:20 pm

    Let me just say “amen” to Marty’s list with special emphasis on 3,4,5 and 5 junior.


    You are more than welcome to offer, and I hope some folks take you up on it. Seeing some of the Resume’s coming in, I really hope you can help some folks.

  4. David Phillips
    on Jun 4th, 2008
    @ 6:14 pm

    I really like Marty’s suggestions except for #2. Here’s why…

    I want to weed out people who get my resume. I want people who get my resume to actually go…”Not for us…to radical”. Because I don’t even want to talk to churches that aren’t interested in creative, entrepreneurial ministry. So I intentionally layout the kind of things we have tried to do to keep those phone calls from coming from First Traditional Baptist Church in somewhere, USA.

    To do that takes more than 2 pages, at least with my experience :-D though any more than 4 is too much…

    There was a guy who did some preaching for me as an unpaid associate for a year…He moved to help our church plant. He talked to our DOM and handed him a 10 page resume…He was told to cut it down…it came back in 8 pages…he was then told to get it to a maximum of 4…it just about killed him to do that. And note: this guy had zero experience apart from preaching once a month at our church and doing some counseling from time to time.

  5. Marty Duren
    on Jun 5th, 2008
    @ 6:50 am

    Following your name, your resume should simply read:

    I’m not providing my phone number–you can’t handle me anyway.

    Marty Durens last blog post..Got any ideas on this church sign?

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