How To Compose A Resumé

resume.jpegSince our church has been hiring for two positions, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to peruse 174 resumes in the last 7 or so weeks.


I say yikes because I recognize that each resume represents somebody’s life; somebody’s hopes and dreams perhaps. I don’t take any of them lightly.  I know that sending out a resume is like putting your profile on E-Harmony.  “I hope somebody likes me.  I hope somebody wants me.”  It’s really tough.  I get that.

And I agonize over every resume.  I really do.  But it’s about a MATCH, not about if you’re good or bad.  It’s does your profile match our God-given dreams as a church?

Still, I operate from this assumption: your resume represents you at your best. I expect that on your resume you’ve put your best foot forward. In essence, it’s all downhill from here.

It takes me about 60 seconds to reject a resume for things like misspellings or applying for the wrong job (we had several resumes for a youth pastor position… for which we are NOT hiring) or not being able to tell which job you’re applying for (we’ve had several ambiguous resumes; and the cover letter just said, I’m applying for your job opening… which one?). And be detailed enough to know that you are addressing the resume to a Ms, not a Mr. (Know many dudes named Holly?)

cheater.jpegOh, if you bypass Holly and send directly to me (without a personal relationship with me or clearing it with me) you lose points. It tells me you can’t honor somebody else’s system.

You gotta love God, believe in Jesus, read your Bible, pray, believe what our denomination believes and stands for… and be a decent person and not have a trail of relational carnage behind you… and not a resume full of 18 month stints… all that basic stuff. Assuming all that…

If your spelling is all good, and you’ve correctly identified a job we’re hiring for, and told us which one, you’ve made it past the first cut. Congratulations.

Please skip all the narrative about your life story. I will care, perhaps… but not yet. A word about your family is not required, though many people include it…. “get to know you” stuff.

All I care about next is one gigantic thing RELEVANT EXPERIENCE.

Irrelevant experience is, well, not relevant.

So, if you apply for our Community Life Pastor position (click here to see the description,) the central relevant experience is this: that you have led a NETWORK of small groups in a church setting to healthy spiritual and numerical growth. You have multiplied cell groups within a church. You have created systems that lead lots and lots of people on a clearly delineated path toward discipleship. That’s what our “ideal candidate” has on the resume.

We have many wonderful resumes of terrific people who make it really hard to figure out their ministry experience. Don’t make the person who reads your resume work so hard.

network.jpegWhat I’m NOT looking for is that you have merely been IN a small group; nor that you have LED a small group for a very long time. I want to know that you have led a healthy system/network of lots of groups. It’s not enough to be a leader; you need to be a leader of leaders. A recruiter. A systems person.

If you have that experience, then please highlight that (front-shift it) on your resume. Make sense?

It takes me about 3-4 minutes to decide that a resume does NOT show sufficient experience. I do agonize over each one. I do pray. I do seek the Lord. But the burden is on you to make your resume stand out from the pack.

I have a secret to help you do that… but first, the second position:


We’re also hiring for a Worship Pastor (click here to read the description). Here the relevant experience in leading a fairly complex worship, arts, and communication ministry in a larger church. That involves lots of non-musical stuff like budgets and schedules and recruiting. It also involves musical excellence and knowledge. It takes a good musician to recruit, retain, and even speak to good musicians.

Though it is important that you love God and are passionate about worship, that alone doesn’t qualify you. We have many resumes in which that’s about all the substance I can find. It takes a leader; a proven leader.

So, if you have that worship leader experience, please highlight that on your resume.

Now, here’s where it’s tricky: the X factor. That is some undefined factor that makes your resume stand out. I’d define it for you, but it’s undefined. So, any of the above is negotiable given the whole-package.

Except for speling. That is not negoshable.

Here’s are some secret tips:

  1. CUSTOMIZE YOUR RESUME TO MATCH OUR JOB DESCRIPTION. Do not send the same resume to 20 different churches. Read each job description, and modify your resume and cover letter. Be totally honest, but highlight how you are just the right person to do the specific job at our church. And USE OUR WORDS AND TERMS from our job outline, and even from our website (shows you’re going the extra mile to check us out), to show us just how perfect you are for the job.
  2. HAVE A PASSION. I received a resume today where a guy lists 15 passions. Uhhhh…. We’re not looking for a jack of all trades. We’re looking for a person passionate about small groups and discipleship, and passionate about worship and arts. Narrow it down. Is God calling you to “get a job in ministry” or is he calling you to “lead a church into the high praises of God”?
  3. crosseyedlady.jpegONLY INCLUDE REALLY GOOD PICTURES. Again, this should be you at your best. If you don’t have a really good picture, don’t send one. And go get one. And make sure your spouse says it’s really good. We have some pictures that I think are funny, and though they don’t automatically nix you, they certainly raise questions about professionalism, taste, hairdos and style.
  4. BULLET POINT IT. Please don’t make me read paragraphs of narrative about your life story and passion. The time for that will come. But not in a resume. Make the relevant stuff jump out. Don’t let your resume cause me to fear that if we were to work together, I’d be swamped by needless detail.
  5. TRUST. We really, really, really want to hire for these positions. If your resume shows relevant experience, we’ll be in touch. Honest. You don’t have to send reams of stuff about you. Let your relevant experience and training speak for itself, and trust that we’re smart enough to grasp it if you’re smart enough to write it.
  6. DON’T USE OUR JOB MAINLY TO MOVE TO OUR AREA. I am happy that you know or are related to people from our church, but I’m sure you understand that we can’t make that a factor in our decision.
  7. JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR THE FURTHERANCE OF GOD’S KINGDOM. Because that’s what ministry is all about, right? If it’s not a good match, you don’t want to be here. And we don’t want you here. And that’s all good! And that’s all healthy. There’s a place for you to thrive–even if it isn’t our church. Believe that God has a plan for you, and don’t give up just because it didn’t work out with us.

I’ll probably regret writing this, because we’ll end up hiring someone who violates everything I’ve written, and then you’ll blame me for steering you awry.

And that’s why there’s one more thing to say:

God is in control, and his ways are not our ways…


13 thoughts on “How To Compose A Resumé

  1. “DON’T USE OUR JOB MAINLY TO MOVE TO OUR AREA. I am happy that you know or are related to people from our church, but I’m sure you understand that we can’t make that a factor in our decision.”

    >I had my resuma all typped up an raedy too go!
    >Its bullittid to! like yuo wannit.
    >I was appplying for either jobs: “Smell Gruops: an/or :Worshup”‘.
    >Din’t Kno you have the nepatisum rule.
    >Dang leglists!
    >ken I sent it? anyways?
    >Say “hey: to mistur holly fromm bboobb. g,

  2. I would love to hear your thoughts on this

    I think there are some really counter-cultural, counter-intuitive and even counter-accepted-church-growth-facts types of things going on at my home church, I would love to hear how you perceive these things, given our similarities and differences…

  3. Oh, Hi Bob G!!! Tee hee, even if you’re not Dr. G’s brother, you’re really funny!! Loved the above! (Especially “Dang leglists!”

  4. Great post Bill. Resume writing is an important part of finding a job. I guess I’m confused as to what it says about the process of discipleship within any given church. I read Steve’s post & appreciate what he says; “6) If you are lacking the right people in your local community you don’t have a resource problem you have a discipleship problem.” This would be a great discussion for us to have.

    I guess I’m just surprised that in a church of 1400 people, two trained, willing people with Christ-like character are not already identified & ready to go; since, a correct doctrine of discipleship, should, naturally yield: Disciples.

  5. Hi Sean,

    I can’t really tell if you’re serious or not, so I’ll just answer you.

    Our church DOES have people waiting in the wings. We just have to find them. They live in our church’s branch ministries in Florida or Texas or Southern CA. We’ve been discipling them for many years. We use churches, seminaries, grad schools, colleges, mission agencies, discipleship groups, shelters… a whole host of disciple-making enterprises. It’s fairly extensive band of brothers and sisters. It’s a network.

    In fact, I was discipled by several far-flung branches of our ministry myself. Two formative churches, 3 formative colleges, 1 divinity school, 1 graduate school of world mission, and too many men and women–personal friends and mentors– to count.

    Because, you see Sean, one local church often doesn’t have the resources to fully train or engage a person for a lifetime of ministry. Isn’t that why you earned your Master’s degree at a place beyond your local church? I learned Greek and Hebrew at disciple-making enterprises of higher education because my little local churches couldn’t do it for me.

    Receiving discipleship from a variety of sources is as healthy as eating a variety of fruits and vegetables. It keeps me from an ingrown, parochial perspective.

    So yes, WE have successfully discipled our next worship pastor and our next Community LIfe pastor. We just haven’t found them yet.

    I thought you would be first one to applaud the unity of the Body of Christ. 🙂


  6. I am with you Bill, the Church is more than the local Church, however, doesn’t the reliance upon total strangers to raise our spiritual children seem a little impersonal? One of the amazing things I have learned in recent years is the wonderful depth of relationship that is available through community life in Christ if we will treat it like a family instead of a duty or a corporation…

    I guess I am a bit of an idealist…

    …I have a real problem with hiring from the outside. I would see it as neglecting my call to bring the men and women in my sphere of influence to maturity. I would see it as robbing them of their opportunities to grow and take responsibility for their own community. I would see it as giving someone I didn’t know (no matter how extensive the interview process) a place of authority. I believe someone’s authority is recognized after they have demostrated their responsibility within the context they will excercize that authority.

    Don’t take what I am saying as a personal attack, because there is room in the body of Christ for people to do things differnt ways; I would love to hear your thoughts on this stuff; why do you choose to do it the way you do? Have you considered what that says to the people in the local body you have been given charge over? What do you think it communicates to them? What are the hidden messages in the way Sean and I are advocating that you see and perhaps we don’t?

    I guess I don’t think that seminaries and classrooms, budgets, programs, etc. are necessary; in fact, I think they are often a hindrance to what God wants to do. Make disciples who will make disciples.

    …I love how Jesus says it here.

  7. Steve,
    I’m going to respond to your post above.

    First: With regard to differing church philosophies: Here’s 2 questions: Are people getting saved? (The national rate is 1 conversion per year per 75 church attenders.) And, “are saved people growing spiritually?” If the answers are “yes,” your philosophy is good.

    Second, even though you qualify your statements with “…don’t take this as a personal attack…” your statements are a clear personal attack.

    When you ask rhetorical questions like the following:

    “Have you considered what that says to the people in the local body you have been given charge over? What do you think it communicates to them? What are the hidden messages in the way Sean and I are advocating that you see and perhaps we don’t?”

    You are assuming the worst. You are assuming that he has NOT considered, that he does not care what he communicates, etc. You’re stating that your way is better. You’re not asking a question. You’re delivering a criticism in the guise of a question.

    When you equate Bill’s chosen path to a solution with “neglecting” and “robbing” the body, (of course you will deny this equation…), you are delivering another insidious criticism.

    FACT: Just because you go through a formal hiring process, and accept resumes, from outside your local church, THAT DOES NOT MEAN that you:
    1: Prohibit the application of members already within the local body
    2: HAVE NOT ALREADY SEARCHED YOUR OWN CONGREGATION FOR THE RIGHT PERSON. Sometimes the right person just isn’t there. Sometimes, even the BEST WRONG PERSON isn’t there…(I know you think that way.)

    I gotta tell you, I love this blog. I appreciate that it exists. But I get discouraged, and frustrated when I read challenges to every single attitude, thought, idea, doctrine, etc. that Bill shares here. It’s especially discouraging when those challenges are disguised in faux Christiany love.

    If you agree with him as little as it seems, why do you keep coming? It’s not a healthy dialog. It’s a smackdown against a guy who’s kind enough to keep pulling his punches.

    Dude, you’re wearing me out.

  8. Bob G – Amen, again! I kept wondering why I felt so frustrated and discouraged reading time after time just why Dr. G shouldn’t have written what he wrote – down to the minutest tad! It IS his blog, after all, and he did say he was going to express HIS opinion and thoughts. Steve does have his own blog (I’ve read some of it!), so he can spout to his heart’s content there.

    It would be such a relief if some of the bloggers on this blog could read and enjoy rather than always try to convince of their points of view! You can have them! Great for you! But, not all who read these opinions agree either. Join a debate team to express your views!! I don’t believe Dr. G started this blog to be a debater, but to use yet another avenue to reach the lost with the salvation message. An unbeliever would be hard pressed to find much that is appealing spiritually reading some of these “discussions.” Think about that, dear Christian friends, when you want to debate yet another entry by Dr. G!

    I’m not as kind as Bob G or Dr. G – I just want you to “shut up already!” Sadly, I don’t think I’m the only one who feels this was…..

    Dr. G – please continue expressing what you are lead to express on this blog site. I, too, and extremely grateful you have started it and have learned a great deal.


  9. I’ve been in a church where positions were only filled by “insiders.” What happened? I call it “inbreeding” and it isn’t always healthy.

    Someone from outside the local church walls brings new ideas and processes to the table, challenges current practices, and potentially improves the system.

    Yes, there is the unknown “stranger” factor, but I trust our leadership will practice due diligence in the hiring practice.

Comments are closed.