11 Keys to Writing an Effective Resume for Church/Ministry Jobs

By Kevin and Kay Marie Brennfleck


Your resume for church jobs (senior pastor, associate pastor, youth pastor, campus pastor, worship leader, etc.) is a summary of your qualifications. Think of it as an expanded business card.  You use a business card to introduce yourself, or to leave behind as a reminder of who you are, and what and whom you represent.  In this case, the product/service you represent is you! 

Just as you would never rely on a business card to sell your product or service, you should never rely on your resume alone to get you the job. The resume is your introduction to prospective employers, telling them about your education, work experience, abilities, and accomplishments.  Ultimately, its job is to prove to a church staffing committee or a ministry recruiter that they should take the time to interview you. To accomplish this, your resume needs to clearly showcase that you can meet their needs and expectations.

Many churches have reported receiving hundreds of resumes when they advertised church openings; therefore, most churches and recruiters spend only 6-30 seconds skimming over the average resume. In that brief time, your resume will make either a positive or a negative impression on the employer.  These days, larger and even medium-sized churches also analyze resumes using automatic tracking systems (ATS) that scans for the needed skills or experiences.  For your resume to be considered, it must "hit home" immediately by including the keywords for which the software has been programmed to search.

An excellent resume when applying for church jobs clearly states your qualifications (in descending order of importance) for the position for which you are applying. You will need to spend several hours thinking, writing and rewriting.  There are no shortcuts to writing an excellent resume.  Since at times it will form an employer's first impression of you, it must be an example of your best thought and effort.

Each year the staff at Church Jobs Online see hundreds of resumes.  An estimated 80% of those resumes do not effectively showcase the candidate’s skills and experience.  This is unfortunate, as good candidates never get to the interview stage for church and ministry jobs that are of interest.  In this article, we want to share the key steps that will help you to stand out from other ministry resumes.


Here are 11 Steps to Writing a Successful Resume For Church/Ministry Jobs:

  1. Define your objective or branding statement. A resume for church jobs will be most effective when it is focused. If you have determined a specific objective, include the job title or a brief statement describing the position desired. It is best to state your objective at the top of your resume.  Here are some examples of objectives:

A position as a senior pastor

A position as a youth pastor where I can disciple youth in their relationship with Christ

Associate Pastor 

There are some resume writing experts who recommend not having an objective on your resume.  If you choose to not have an objective, then we recommend that you use a branding statement that can be centered at the top of your resume under your contact information.  Here is an example of a resume with a branding statement.  And here are some examples of branding statements:

Experienced Senior Pastor

Experienced Human Resources Director

Proven Operations Manager

A highly motivated, experienced professional with skills in marketing, e-commerce, relationship-building, promotion and management.

  1. Choose the most appropriate format. Depending on the church job for which you're applying, you will need to choose either a chronological or a functional format. A chronological resume is an arrangement of your qualifying experiences and training listed in reverse chronological order. A chronological format is most effective when you are applying for a position that is similar or directly related to work you have done previously.

A functional resume highlights your skills and lists your qualifications in their order of importance regardless of the time of occurrence.  In a functional resume, you make use of the skills and duties from all of your work history (paid and/or volunteer), education and leisure activities which relate to and qualify you for the job objective.  Use the functional format if you plan a career transition, or if you do not have specific work experience related to the job you want.

While there is no perfect style or format for a resume, most people find having a template to start with makes resume writing much easier.  Here are templates that you can use to produce a Word doc resume:

Chronological resume template for recent college graduate.

Chronological resume template for experienced worker.

Functional resume template.

  1. Write 10-20 skill statements that prove you can do the job you are targeting in your objective (or at least prove that you can learn how to do the job quickly). Regardless of which resume format you are using, you will attract employers by describing the skills you have that will produce the results they need. Ultimately, the only thing that interests the employer is the results that you can produce. The following bulleted items are illustrations of skill statements that demonstrate quantified and specific results.

Launch quarterly evangelistic endeavors using activities such as “Neighbor Night", which ministered to over 500 neighbors.

Restructured lesson plans and developed a parent participation strategy that resulted in a 79% success rate in a reading program for disadvantaged children.

Successfully spearheaded Capitol Funds Campaign to retire mortgages totaling $400k on two buildings within a two-year period.

As you can see, each skill statement starts with a transferable skill name:  identified, initiated, restructured, designed and developed. These words connote action. The skill statement then describes how the transferable skill was used and, most importantly, what result was achieved.  Please note that while it is not always possible to quantify results, strive to give at least a subjective description of the results you produced. 

Writing skill statements may take you two or more hours to complete.  But keep in mind that the work that you do in writing your skill statements will help you not only to write a good resume, but will also be valuable in interviewing, where it is important that you are able to prove you have the skills that are important to the employer. 

  1. Write a draft of your resume. Once you have written your skill statements, you are ready to begin a resume draft by placing those skills in the chosen format. For a chronological format, your skill statements will go into a section entitled “Work Experience” or “Professional Experience.” For a functional resume, you can also use the title “Professional Experience” or “Relevant Experience. Use past tense for previous activities, experiences or acquired skills.  Use present tense to refer to ongoing or current activities. 

If you are using a functional format you will also want to have a “Work History” section to provide the names of the companies for which you have worked, where they were located, the job titles you held, and the dates you worked at each company.

  1. Develop a “Highlights of Qualifications” or “Summary of Qualifications” section to begin your resume. The purpose of this section is to gain the employer=s attention by highlighting some of your key qualifications for the position. This section can include such things as: total number of years of relevant experience; key accomplishments; special knowledge that you have (for example computer knowledge); and personal skills (such as hardworking, honest, flexible, loyal, etc.). See examples:


JOB OBJECTIVE:  Church Administrative Assistant


  • Strong organization and planning skills.
  • Excellent record of dependability and reliability.
  • Effective telephone communication skills.
  • Experienced in the use of computer programs including Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop.


OBJECTIVE: Office Manager or Program Manager


  • Ten years of administrative and management experience. Responsibilities have included human resource functions such as training, hiring/firing, and employee supervision/evaluation; facilities management; scheduling, time cards, payroll; accounts receivable and accounts payable; purchasing and inventory control.
  • Fast learner, detail-oriented, able to prioritize effectively with little or no supervision. Enjoy working in busy environment with multiple task demands. Creative and flexible in organizing and planning. Excellent monitoring and follow-up skills.
  • Strong people skills; highly effective in promoting a positive, productive work environment. Reputation for work excellence and high-quality service to customers/clients.
  • Computer skills include Microsoft Office; Quattro Pro; ACT; Staff Trak.
  1. Place your name, address, phone, e-mail and LinkedIn (with a customized URL) at the top of your resume. Use a phone number where you can be reached or where a message can be left. An employer may not call a second time. Keep the message on your voicemail brief and professional. Use a professional email address such as If you currently only have a more casual email address such as, create a new email account for your job search. If you have a customized URL you can also include this beneath your email address.
  2. Place your educational information strategically. Generally, your education should be first under your “Highlights of Qualifications” section only if it is your most important qualification to date for the job for which you are applying or if possession of a requisite degree (or degrees) is a requirement for your job target. However, as your education recedes in time, it also recedes as a factor in your current qualifications.


In reverse chronological order, list the institutions you attended, their locations and dates of attendance or graduation. (If it has been more than 10 years since you received your last degree, you may not want to list dates.)  It is not necessary for a college graduate to indicate the high school attended, unless there is some aspect of that experience that particularly supports your objective.  Include degrees received, academic major(s) and/or areas of concentration. Job applicants with limited work experience may also want to mention such things as special academic honors, student activities, certificates, etc.

  1. Include other information only if it is relevant to your job target. Other factors that can be included are professional memberships, publications, special honors, qualifying licenses, interests, civic activities, etc. Remember, however, that you only want to include information that helps prove you can do the job. The resume is not a forum for telling your life story.
  2. When editing your resume, remember the following: there is no perfect format so choose the one that best represents you for your specific job target; there should be a reason for everything you include; after your objective, organize information in descending order of importance; use correct spelling (have someone proofread your final copy even if you are a good speller); do not abbreviate; avoid jargon, and, as a general rule, limit your resume to one or two pages.
  3. Make your resume visually appealing. Highlight key information by using boldfaced type or CAPITALIZING or underlining it. Bullets (large dots) are effective in drawing the employer's attention and eye to competencies, accomplishments and/ or achievements. Use white space for eye appeal and easy reading.
  4. Check your resume for ATS Do’s and Don’ts. While you want your resume to look good, you also need to be aware of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). These days your resume may automatically land in the employer’s ATS.  Your resume then has information scanned, "parsed" or pull out by the ATS.  It then produces a digital candidate profile where a hiring manager or recruiter can search the ATS by keyword and get a list of resumes that best match the qualification that the employer is seeking.


There are specific things you can do to help ensure that your resume goes into the “yes” pile for the manager or recruiter as they search for the right candidate:

  • Avoid abbreviations. Most ATSs aren’t programmed to recognize abbreviations like MDiv or DDiv.  Instead you will want to spell out abbreviations and then use the common acronym in parentheses.  For example (MDiv) Master of Divinity.
  • Do not use lines, multiple columns or tables in your resume. While some ATSs can read lines and table, there are others that can't, so it is better to play it safe.
  • Avoid stars, diamonds and check-boxes; instead MBA use standard bullets. (In Microsoft Word, the bullet options are found in the “Paragraph” section of the ribbon.) Standard bullets can actually help the ATS to read information in your resume.
  • Use standard fonts like Arial, Cambria, Calibri, Verdana and Times New Roman. Your resume is not the place to use fancy fonts.
  • Check your grammar and spelling. Of course, you want to do this regardless, but it is important to know that an ATS will recognize spelling and grammar mistakes.  Use the Word document spell and grammar check, but also carefully read your resume at least twice for mistakes.


Professional Career Coaching, Job Search & Resume Writing Assistance

Would you like a professionally prepared church/ministry resume that can dramatically increase responses and interviews from church employers? You only get one chance to make a good first impression.  Make sure that your resume gets attention from employers by powerfully showcasing your skills and experience!  


© Article copyright by Kevin and Kay Marie Brennfleck, All rights reserved. The above information is intended for personal use only. No commercial use of this information is authorized without written permission.