A Guide to Writing A Pastoral Resume

A pastoral resume can be difficult to write and develop. Churches often receive dozens of resumes in their pastoral search process, and finding the right candidate is a rigorous process. 

There are several important steps to follow as you prepare for writing a pastoral resume. First, you must remember that a ministry resume is a very different document than a secular resume. Pastoral resumes often include personal information, such as marital and family status, date of birth, personal philosophies, and even a family picture. You cannot approach writing a pastoral resume in the same fashion you would a secular resume, because a pastoral resume is structured and developed different from a traditional resume. Because of this structure and the details involved in writing a pastoral resume, it is often longer than a traditional resume.

Personal Information

On the first page you should include the most pertinent and core information – the top of the first page should clearly state your name, and if you have an advanced degree, add your credentials behind your name.

Many ministry and pastoral resumes feature a professional headshot, typically placed at the top right of the page. Paul’s first letter to Timothy includes the pastor’s family in the description of the pastor’s qualifications, and as our culture includes the pastor’s wife as a representation of the ministry position, pastoral resumes often feature a family picture. Including a family picture also personalizes your resume.

Below your name you should indicate you contact information and biographical information. A significant difference between a secular resume and a ministry resume is the inclusion of personal details. Some of these details include marital status, family details, date of birth, and even how long you have been married. Especially from a secular point of view, and living in a very politically correct society, these details may seem inappropriate or irrelevant, but Scripture has very specific requirements for pastors; including physical maturity, spiritual maturity, and leadership in his marriage and parenting.

Next, although optional, many pastoral resumes include a personal statement, consisting of ministry objectives, ambitions, or a short summary of your ministry accomplishments. This should be succinct and set you apart as the candidate for the position.

Educational Information

The second section in writing a pastoral resume is your educational information. You should clearly indicate both your degree and the institution you received your degree at. Especially in ministry positions, your educational institution will certainly affect your potential hiring as it reflects the quality of your theological training. Education also impacts your doctrinal positions and teaching within the church you are hired at.

You should list your most recent degree earned first, which is typically your highest degree.

Ministry Experience

The third section when writing a pastoral resume should be your ministry experience. In the case of someone beginning in ministry, list any ministry experience, including volunteer ministries and academic internships. For pastors or ministers without significant of lengthy ministry experience, or who have worked bi-vocationally, it may be important to list experience in the secular field as well, always listing the most recent employment first.

Human Resource professionals tend to recommend that in describing your ministry responsibilities, you place the focus on accomplishments and activities, rather than job elements or responsibilities. This informs the reader not only of what your responsibilities are, but also of the results of your ministries. Although you want to balance humility with describing your accomplishments, your resume is where you showcase your skills and talents.

Ministry Philosophy

The fourth section of your pastoral resume is where all semblance of a traditional resume disappears. Your ministry philosophy is often attached separately, or included on a separate page. Ministry philosophies are typically broken down into several sections, such as:

-   Conversion and Call to Ministry
–   Philosophy of Preaching and Teaching
–   Philosophy of Leadership
–   Philosophy of Counseling

Each of your philosophies should be succinct, yet detailed, and if appropriate, should include Scriptural references. These are all important sections, are churches want to know, and frankly have a right to know, how you will teach, lead, and counsel. Be sure to personalize these statements.

Doctrinal Positions

Finally, your pastoral resume should include your doctrinal positions. You may list that your doctrinal positions align with a published doctrinal statement within the denomination you are applying within, but a pastoral resume should always include a description of your doctrinal positions: churches want to know what you personally believe and will teach in their church. Do not make the mistake of trusting another’s references. Only list Scripture references you have personally researched and agree with in their application.

Odds and Ends

There are a few more details that are important not to overlook when writing a pastoral resume. Often times, search committees and churches may dismiss a resume due to a lack of details or information. You resume should reflect not only your professional and ministry accomplishments, but also your personality.

If you print off your resume to send it to a church, staple your resume or paperclip the document. This is an easy step to ensure that the pages are not separated. An important tip to consider is to insert your first and last name, as well as page numbers, in the footer of your resume, in case the pages of your resume are separated.

Do not use graphics, pictures, or excessive colors in your resume. Your formatting should be simple and elegant, subtle and not obtrusive. Consider using heavier paper or paper designed for resumes.

A contemporary trend is to make references available upon request. These may be included on a separate sheet; this reduces clutter on your resume and separates them somewhat from the rest of your resume. Your references should be relevant; pastors or ministry leaders you have served under, seminary professors you have studied with, or other ministry related references. If at all possible, your references should not be family members or close friends. Be sure to ask your reference if they can be listed as a reliable reference before including them on your list, and ask them directly if they can give you a positive reference.

Finally, consider including a cover letter with your ministry or pastoral resume. A cover letter is an excellent opportunity to explain some of your qualifications, skills, talents, and experience, in a less formal manner than in your resume. Your cover letter should be written well and signed personally.