Tips for Your Ministry Resume

I've told you before about some of the resumes I've received as I try to hire various staff positions. Sometimes they're funny, and sometimes they're downright sad. But, if you're a person who is looking for a ministry position, here are a few tips: 

1. If the position is listed online, bank on the fact that the prospective ministry will receive at least 100 resumes. Yours has to stand out, but stand out professionally. If you use the Microsoft Office Template for your resume, you will end up in file 13 with the other 75 identical resumes. 

2. Make sure your resume reflects your instincts. If you are not a person who believes that numbers indicate success, it doesn't make any sense to list how many people have started coming to your ministry since you've been there. I figure out how you measure success by what you tell me you have succeeded on your resume. 

3. Include a picture. And not one that you snapped holding your iPhone in front of your face. It's not that prospective employers are shallow, but that they're often relational. When they're able to see your face, they're much more likely to want to learn about you. If you married up (like me), make sure your wife's picture is included beside you. If a guy can talk a cute girl into marrying him, there must be something worth following-up on. 

4. Include a professional email address. If you're applying to work with our adults, and your email address is "" you will not be receiving an interview, plain and simple. 

5. List the important stuff first. If a prospective employer is looking at hundreds of resumes, and you save the best stuff for the back page, he's not going to ever see it. Figure out why a prospective employer needs to hire you, and make sure it's the first thing he sees. 

6. Take your time on each resume. I know it feels like the odds are better for you if you send out 200 resumes, but they aren't. The odds are better for you if you take time to research each opportunity, single out the ones you're most interested in, and take some time tailoring your resume to show how you would be a good fit for a specific position. In my entire life, I've never sent the exact same resume to two locations. You shouldn't either. 

7. Along with #6, do your homework. If I was applying for a job at, and don't make sure my resume includes the word "leader," "creativity," "relevance," and "life-change," I could bank on never getting a call back. If I was applying for a job at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA, but didn't include the words "doctrine," "exposition," or "theology," I would have wasted a stamp. It took me 5 minutes of "googling" to figure out what words were important to those churches - they're on the website over, and over, and over. We're not talking about being dishonest - but if those are things I value, I want the church I'm applying to to know that in the language they speak. 

8. Send what they ask for. If a church asks for a teaching sample, don't send them a resume and then email them asking if they want a teaching sample. You've already proven you can't follow simple directions, and you won't get the job, even if you're uber-qualified. 

9. Make the resume personal. Applying for a ministry position is different than a corporate position. When you're applying for a corporate position, people want to make sure you can do the job and meet the bottom line. That's true in ministry, but what people really want to know is whether or not you're the kind of person they could follow. They want to know about your qualifications, but you may be the guy who counsels them in the hospital, or does their funeral. They want to know what you do for fun, and what you named your dog. They don't want to know everything about you, but they want to feel like they know you. 

10. Be creative. It stinks to read 100 resumes, so when you see a resume worth reading, it's refreshing. I've called guys back who were waaay under-qualified for specific positions just because after seeing their resume I was compelled to meet them. Often I don't hire them for the position I'm seeking to hire, but I never forget them - and they'll be the first person I call the next time. 


Deb said...

Chris, still loving your blog; one of my daily stops. I'd love to follow up on your posts re "truth" but that's for another day. Today I'm wondering if you would elaborate on "creative" and "stand out" resumes. This is difficult one for those of us who are non-creatives. There must be a fine line between stand-out and over-the-top; between creative and cheesy. Help?

Chris Freeland said...

Hey Deb! Great to hear from you. I think of you guys and pray for you guys at CBC often - would love to hear how things are going.

You're absolutely right - I get some resumes that go overboard. Your resume should reflect you - so if your resume goes way over the top, I get the idea that you will as an employee.

By "creative" or "stand out" I don't necessarily mean "flashy." I mean a resume that demonstrates the person who sent it put some thought into their resume.

Maybe the best approach would be trying to put yourself in the seat of your future employer. If you were hiring the position, what kind of thing would you want to see in a candidate? Bring those kinds of things out in your resume - either using text or by setting it apart.

A good, sharp, crisp picture does wonders for a resume, and automatically makes it stand out.

Those are just a couple of ideas... do they help at all?

Tony Wheeler said...


Thanks for the tips here. Really helped me to think outside of the corporate resume box.

Been trying to write a really good ministry resume...well I submitted a really crummy one and then thought about what that had to have been like. File 13, I'm sure.


D said...

This gave me some great insight as I am reworking my ministry resume and it looks nothing like it did before.