So, you think you can pastor…?
“So, I read up on this Reformed Theology thing…and I think I’m on board…”
The friendly, goateed face smiled across a plate of half eaten scrambled eggs and toast as if seeking my approval. Inwardly I cringed. The amiable, Jesus loving fellow had applied for a pastoral position at BLDG 28 and this was my version of an interview. Had he been a newcomer to our church, without a focus on the paid position, I would have understood his statement and walked him, over time, through the theological convictions of our church. However, he was not some bloke who had just wandered in from off the street or even a regular church goer searching for a new congregation in which to worship. He was a pastor, looking for a staff position where he would be teaching and discipling folks in line with Scripture and the doctrinal position of B28.
It rapidly became clear to me that this gent was desperate for a paid ministerial position at any congregation and was simply pumping out resumes instead of researching the churches to which he was applying. I wish I could state that this was an isolated incident with just one minister but to my bewilderment and frustration there have been many. Driven by concern and a bit of mental anguish I’ve compiled a list – for friends, fellow pastors in search of long term ministerial employment, and, hopefully, anyone moving forward who would state interest in serving on the staff at BLDG 28 – of advice for Jesus-loving dudes who are seeking God’s direction, vocational ministry, and a solid faith community in which to land.
(1) Be in covenant relationship/membership with your current local church. In the past 24 months I have traipsed through this candidacy process with hundreds of dudes searching for who God is leading to our church (two separate pastoral search processes). I am forever astonished at the vast number of fellows who apply to be in church leadership at our church (or any church for that matter) and yet they have not even made a formal commitment or covenanted with their present local congregation. How disconcerting should it be to any Pastoral staff or search team to receive your resume, as a fellow pastor interested in partnering with their ministry, and yet it seems that you have an aversion to committing to your current local church. The Biblical evidence supporting church partnership should be compelling enough for any Christian – particularly one seeking vocational ministry – to link up with a fellowship of believers; but additionally if any dude is even considering full time ministry he has to realize that his failure to partner with a church will be a huge red flag to most discerning leaders.
(2) Serve in your current context. I hear prospective ministers frequently state – as an excuse for not leading a home group or serving the local church – that family time is too demanding and their schedule is simply too swamped. What they fail to understand, or at least see in that moment, is that a pastor must be able to handle the crazy rhythms of family, schedules, and ministry, and that a failure to find that rhythm and serve in his current context will turn most search teams off. The speed of life escalates rather than slows down in healthy, disciple making ministry, and it takes the Holy Spirit and a brother who is called to keep the multiplicity of things he oversees in harmony. Serving in your present “layman” capacity reveals that you are willing and able to do just that.
(3) Give financially to kingdom work. Several young pastors I have encountered state that money is just too tight but they will give their time to the church. Bro, the church pays for your time and even if they didn’t you wouldn’t be excused from the New Testament principle of giving generously and joyfully of your first fruits. Don’t expect a church to bring you on board to shepherd and instruct the body if you are not investing financially in seeing the vision and mission of your current church move forward.
(4) Be real. I receive resumes all the time from men who have long, flowery King Jimmy lingo woven throughout. Seriously, no one (or hardly anyone) talks like that. If you are applying to be a minister in an Amish community, a preacher in an Independent Baptist church, or perhaps a cult leader, then spitting vocab from the bygone centuries is perfectly acceptable. If not, then just be real (not unprofessional), but real. Pastors, for the most part, want to see authenticity. We desire to witness genuine passion and a love for Jesus, not frothy, superfluous verbiage.
(5) Maintain a presence on social media. I’d say close to a quarter of the men who have expressed interest in working with BLDG 28 have little to no presence on social media. Ignoring this aspect of ministry communicates a couple of things: (A) You are failing to see the enormous Gospel influence you could have on hundreds of people through the tool of social media and (B) you might be somewhat culturally disconnected as social media is the common place at which millions of Americans reside.
(6) Be specific and relational with the churches you’d like to serve in. Pastors can often tell when resumes are simply being blasted out in mass production to a plethora of churches. If one such resume floats across my computer screen I instantly slide it to the side. Asking questions that the church website clearly answers also shows a lack of specific interest, as does spelling the “hiring” pastor’s name incorrectly (it has happened). Instead of all this, be engaging and relational with churches to which you are applying. Express specifically why you are interested in that particular church and why you might be a good fit (without being braggadocios). ALWAYS send a picture and the more candid the better. Olan Mills snaps great photos but while they make lovely gifts for grandparents they don’t necessarily show as well to many churches.
(7) Study the church to which you are applying. I realize that this is impossible to do if you are blasting resumes to every church from Connecticut to Cali (which again, I would discourage), but if you are serious about serving the body, unifying the church, and preaching the truth then be sure to read up on any church’s doctrine, philosophy, leadership, and vision before you jet out a cover letter. A prospective pastor should know his doctrine well and be completely in line with the church he is desiring to serve.
So, take this for what’s it’s worth. I can only speak for myself and the other pastors I chat with, but I would think that these principles would apply in most ministry settings. That’s all I’ve got. Glad to get that off my chest.