3 Easy Formatting Tips to Help Your Ministry Resume Stand Out

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The idea of formatting a resume can be an intimidating concept and often an overlooked step, especially if that resume has not been dusted off in quite a while. In church culture, we emphasize first impressions. Many churches have first impressions teams, and to take it one step further, some churches even have first impressions pastors. Formatting a resume is that first impression within looking for a job. Just as we value and emphasize the importance of first impressions at church, we need to do the same with our resume. Here are three tips to help ease that stress and anxiety while intentionally formatting your resume.  

1. Condense Down

This is the first one listed because this is missed so often. A resume is what starts a potential conversation but it is not the whole conversation. It is easy to get overly eager and want to put everything into a resume; however, the best thing to do is keep this simple. There will absolutely be a time to talk through one’s call to ministry, talk through theology, or view a collage of family pictures. Your resume does not need to take that avenue. Think of it like this: if a website is not “user-friendly” people will often spend just a little bit of time on it before giving up and going on to something else. In many ways, if a resume tells too much, it shows nothing, and some key information that you would like to highlight gets overlooked. Be intentional with what you would like to highlight and save the rest for a potential conversation down the road. 

2. Be Current Forward

Resumes are not like novels. The person reviewing or reading your resume is not looking to go through an origin story or to have some built up suspense. The best way to avoid this is to be current forward. Tell us about your current or most recent ministry experience out of the gate. Don’t begin with where you started, but instead start your resume with where you are or where you have most recently been employed. This will help the person reading get an immediate idea for your ministry experience as opposed to having to dig. 

3. Break It Up

As I mentioned above, resumes are not novels, but they do tell a story. In school, we were told to avoid run-on sentences at all costs. We do not want our resume to feel like a run-on sentence. There are simple, little things that can be done like using italics, bolding, and spacing that will help draw people’s eyes to the most important aspects of your resume. People want to see dates, job titles, company/church names, educational experience. Let these things pop from the resume. 

In ministry, you quickly understand that each church is just a little bit different in how it operates, and culture is never the same in two places. The same is true in pastoral searches. Each search is unique in its own way. A job listing is always information from a 30,000-foot view, and those who are reviewing those resumes are on the ground level living out that ministry and culture. If you have been told that the church isn’t moving forward with your candidacy, don’t take it as an indictment on you. This often reflects the competitive nature of these searches. With that said, these three simple tips will help get your resume in the right direction and will allow it to stand out in a good way! Just as we value first impressions in ministry and in life, we should also value the first impression our resume makes. 

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