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How to Land Employment in the Local Church: A Brief Overview

[special]Note: This is an excerpt from Benjamin Vrbicek’s excellent book, Don’t Just Send a Resume: How to Find the Right Job in a Local Church. This part is found in the appendix, in which Vrbicek provides a step-by-step process on how to land employment in the local church. This post is a macro overview of the book. If you’re a seminary student or if you’re looking for a job in the local church, I’d encourage you to get the book. Used with permission.[/special]

How to land employment in the local church

Introduction: Set the Proper Foundation

Don’t reinvent yourself; re-identify with Christ. Culture celebrates becoming whoever you want to be. This reinventing, however, is often done in an idolatrous way. God gives us major life transitions not for personal reinvention but rather to re-identify with who we are in Christ.

Pray without ceasing. There’s so much to do when looking for a job. If you don’t commit to pray, you won’t. You’ll just work and work and work. Stop. Sharpen the axe. There’s a forest up ahead.

Trust in the goodness and sovereignty of God. The job search can be a roller coaster. Of course, you should do your best to mitigate risk, but how will you know if a church is right? You can’t know, at least not entirely. But what you can do—what you must do—is trust in the goodness and sovereignty of God.

Know whether it’s time for a transition. Before you move, you need to know whether you should move. Try not to get near-sighted about this. Don’t let a few annoyances sour you. Instead, listen to your passions, think with your brain, consult those you trust, and above all seek the Lord.

Part I: Smoking the Curve

Chapter 1: Write Custom Cover Letters and Resumes

Always include a short, custom cover letter. It’s easy to send an e-mail and simply attach a resume. But don’t. Easy won’t make you stand out. Invest the time and do it right. Create a professional, custom cover letter for each church.

Choose the right resume style for you. There are many ways to lay out a resume. Most of the differences are merely artistic, but some are structural. You need to make sure you choose the resume structure that’s right for you, whether a business style or a skill-based style.

Chapter 2: Correspond like a Professional

With sermon audio and video samples, suggest a few of the best but give them several. It’s hard to know how much to send to churches. Early in the process, just give them your best two samples. Later in the process, you can give them more.

Include high-quality pictures and a family bio. Most candidates don’t do this. Churches, however, find it very helpful to have a quality picture and a family bio. And if you do this well, you’ll stand out from the crowd.

Select quality and diverse references. Employers expect your references to sing your praises. Make sure you select quality, diverse references so you don’t disappoint.

Consider sending a recommendation letter. If John Piper will not write a recommendation letter for you, you can still have a meaningful letter if you get one from the right person.

Use simple, professional formatting. Receiving a resume using six different fonts is a deal breaker. If you send a resume that doesn’t use professional formatting, churches won’t care if you have memorized the Greek New Testament.

Only send PDFs (not Microsoft Word documents). Make sure the hard work you did to make a professional document isn’t garbled by different versions of Microsoft Word or equivalent programs.

Send only one attachment. It’s very easy to accidentally misplace multiple attachments. You worked hard on your resume packet. Make sure it stays together.

Chapter 3: Gain the Legit Factor

Send communication from your personal e-mail account. If you send communication from either your current employer or school e-mail, you may lose stuff you’ll potentially want to save. Instead, use a professional but personal e-mail account.

Keep track of everything. If you start talking to multiple churches, the details will get foggy. Keep track of everything so you don’t call Pastor Steve, Pastor Stephen—or was it Stephen, not Steve?

If you are in a different country, work extra hard. There are significant hurdles to applying for a job while living in a different country, but there are several things you can do to make the leap smaller.

Make the follow-up phone call. After you send your cover letter and resume, you just wait for them to e-mail or call, right? No way. Not if you’re really interested in the job. Pick up the phone and tell them.

Stay positive regarding previous job transitions. We all have a tale of woe. Save it for another day. Stay positive early on.

Know whom, when, and in what order to tell people you are taking a new job. You don’t want to mess up the communication of your departure. Tell the right people in the right order at the right time.

Gain the legit factor. The legit factor means people believe your life not only displays the gifting of the Spirit but also the fruit of the Spirit. Therefore, the first priority of your life is to be legit—forget appearances. Work to have character made of gold, not iron pyrite, and strive to show this to your hopeful employer. Do this through your personal network, references, recommendation letters, and all-around integrity.

Chapter 4: Network and Search for Openings

Build and leverage your personal network. If you want a job, knowing how to network in a godly and efficient manner will help a lot.

Be intentional on your social media, blog, and website. The first thing an employer will do when they become interested in you is search your name on the Internet. What are they going to find on your Facebook page or Twitter account?

Know where to find job openings. Once you’ve put on your running shoes and gym shorts, you’re ready to run the race. Now you must find your way to the starting line.

Part II: Making the Move

Chapter 5: Understand the Hiring Process

Know how a church will hire you. Often, the hiring process is far more bewildering than it should be. Sometimes the church is confused, sometimes the candidate is confused, and sometimes they both are. As much as it depends on you, make sure you know what’s going on every step of the way.

Chapter 6: Over-Prepare for Interviews

Over-prepare for job interviews. If you don’t over-prepare, then you are under-prepared, and under-prepared candidates don’t get hired.

Learn names to make a personal connection. It’s so nice to have someone remember your name. Just as the Good Shepherd knows the names of his sheep, so should you work to learn names. It’s a skill that improves with practice.

Have a mock interview. You’re probably not as good at interviewing as you think you are. And even if you are good at it, why not get better?

Chapter 7: Evaluate the Transplant Criteria

Evaluate all the pastoral transplant criteria. There are many things to think about when considering what will make a new church a good match for you and your family. The wise candidate will evaluate all of them.

Chapter 8: Ask Lots of Questions

Ask lots and lots of questions. The church isn’t the only one doing the interviewing. You’re also interviewing them. Act like it. The church will appreciate it because it shows you’re thoughtful (not desperate) and interested (not aloof).

Speak to former employees. Talking to former employees can be helpful but tricky. If you do it, know what to ask and how to ask it.

Send more samples of your work. You impressed the church with your professional cover letter, resume, and a limited sample of your work. Now it’s time to send them a little more.

Know when to play the field and when to narrow the search. What if two or three churches all seem to like you at the same time? And what if you like them? This might be okay, but at some point you must narrow the search.

Don’t get desperate. Don’t sacrifice your principles when your prospects seem bleak. Don’t accept a call to a toxic church just to pay your bills. There are other ways to make ends meet.

Be gracious when you tell them “no.” Invariably, during your career you’ll be offered a job that isn’t right, and you’ll have to turn it down. When you tell them no, do so graciously. That’s how you want churches to treat you.

Prepare your family. If you are ready to move, that’s great. But you won’t have a healthy ministry over the long haul if your home life is a wreck. Your spouse and family come first, not the church. Spend the time and energy to prepare your family to move, not only on the physical side but the emotional side as well.

Chapter 9: Talk about Money

Don’t be shy or afraid to talk about money. Like networking, talking about money is often considered taboo. But it shouldn’t be. Godly people can talk about money in godly ways.

Part III: Finishing the Race

Chapter 10: Finish Strong

Before you leave, finish like a champ. It’s so easy to coast to the finish line. That’s not what Christians are meant to do. Christians run to the end, maybe even sprint.

Chapter 11: Restart Strong

In your first 100 days, start strong all over again. You don’t have to build Rome in a day—or one hundred days. But you do need to think about the things you want to happen over your pastoral tenure and how to begin working toward them from the get-go.

Chapter 12: Overflow with Gratitude

From beginning to end, overflow with gratitude. It is nothing short of ungodly to climb over others as you transition to a new job. It’s godly to gush with gratitude. Be godly, and be grateful.

Get the book on Amazon >>

You may also like: 

  1. 131 Questions to Ask a Potential Church Employer 
  2. How Do I Know if I’m Called to Pastoral Ministry? 



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