Churches are smart. They realize that the possibilities of hiring a youth pastor (or even getting one on the phone) during the summer are slim to none, and hold off posting their jobs and interviewing candidates until the fall. Which means that for those of you in the market for jobs (hopefully not because of a tragic bobbing for pickles in lemon pudding accident), it’s time to work on your youth ministry resume. After having hired several youth pastors and talking to several youth ministry friends who have done the same, I have developed ten tips to help you put your best foot forward in your resume.
- Check Your Grammar and Spelling: I wish I didn’t have to write this, but the number of horribly written and misspelled resume’s I get every time I post a job makes me mad. Seriously, you are a grown human being. You should be able to either write complete sentences or find an English teacher to proofread your resume (or both hopefully).
- Ministry Oriented Objective (abbreviated): If you include an objective in your resume, make sure it expresses some of your core values as a youth minister, but KEEP IT SHORT. Your resume is about telling us about your experience, education, and skills. Wasting space on a wordy objective is just that: a waste of space.
- RELEVANT Experience: So you worked at Chick-fil-a when you were seventeen. I don’t care. I understand that you may not have been paid to do youth ministry for very long, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a lot of experience. If you are light on staff experience, add in your internships and volunteer experience. And title the section just what it is: Relevant Experience.
- Ministry Education: Though it is important to show that you finished (or attended) college, it is equally helpful to list any ministry mentor relationships with a single bulletpoint about how you developed as a minister. And don’t forget to list any youth ministry education conferences you attended (even as a volunteer) like youth specialties, etc.
- Skills Make You Shine: This is a great place for you to shine. Even if you haven’t done youth ministry for a long time, you have definitely developed skills that are VERY relevant in ministry. Don’t get too wordy but list your most ministry-relevant skills NOT covered in the earlier sections here including any special software (photoshop, pro presenter) at which you are proficient.
- Keep it to two(ish) pages: I know every site online tells you to keep it to one page, but they are talking about business. If there’s one universal thing I heard back from the people I asked about hiring youth pastors it’s this. There is nothing more frustrating then getting a resume that keeps it to only one page, but leaves you needing more information. So, Put your MOST impressive stuff (experience, education, skills, publications) on the first page and then supplement or complete that information on the second. Really impress on the first page so that they will want to read the second. Only split a section between pages if it is too long and un-editable. For example, if your experience spans more than three churches, just put the most recent on the first page and finish it out on the second.
- Bullets are Syrup: They make your resume great, but too much is… too much. If you are light on experience, add a couple more bullet points to show that you have the core competencies of being a youth pastor covered. If you have a lot of experience keep it to the two most important and impressive points for each job. And remember, these are bullet points not paragraphs.
- Collateral Material: If you are insanely great at something and people besides your mom have told you so repeatedly, include ONE sample as an attachment or link in your email.
- Your Cover Email: The days of mailing your resume off are long past, but you want to be careful about the email that accompanies it. Remember, this is your opportunity to make a great first impression. Keep it short. Three or four sentences should suffice: Hello, I found your here. I have these requirements you listed. I think I am a good match for you because. I look forward to talking to you soon. This is where you can also add a line about it being confidential if you have a crazy pastor who will fire you if you interview anywhere else.
- References Communicate Confidence: Though it is far from a requirement to include references with your resume, if you have people who you can trust to keep your job search on the DL, a list of references communicates confidence.
- A Physical Copy: Though the days of mailing your resume are over, take one printed on nice paper with you to the interview and hand it to them at the beginning. There’s something about the response to nice paper and clear print that puts you on a positive footing, and it looks especially classy to those older adults who never had to email a resume.
Now, go ahead and buy the pudding and pickles you have been thinking about since the first paragraph.
Jeremy Steele has been working in youth ministry for the past fifteen years and now serves as the Next Generation Minister at Christ United Methodist Church in Mobile, AL. He writes for Group Magazine, RETHINK Church and various publications and organizations. You can find a link to all the places he contributes on his website at JeremyWords.com.