Write a Winning Resume and Cover Letter!

By Rebekah Bell

More often than not, the first form of contact a prospective minister has with a church is an email with two little files attached named “Resume” and “Cover Letter.” These two documents give churches their first impression of who a candidate is and what is important to them. Two pieces of power hold the power of the future. Will the candidate be further pursued and get a call back, or will these files be dropped into the trash bin?

Resume and Cover Letter anxiety is real. I used to bellyache over my Resume and Cover Letter. Was it formatted correctly? Did I put enough skills in each category? Is my education impressive enough? The anxiety was so intense that sometimes I would put off applying for a job simply because I was afraid of failing to write the “perfect” personal pitch before I even tried.

But it does not have to be this way.

Just like with all jobs, there are specific steps a potential minister can take to have the best shot possible at achieving their goals. What are some of these steps?

Keep reading to find out.

The Resume

Resume’s should be short, sweet, and to the point. There is no need to tell a church you are looking at about the job at the ice cream stand you worked at when you were in high school. (Not that there is any shame in working at an ice cream stand.) Instead, narrow down your work history to relevant experience for the job to which you are applying. Tell them about the time you spent interning at your local soup kitchen instead!

When listing skills acquired at previous employment, try and make your skills actions based. Instead of writing, “I am good with people,” try writing, “While employed here, I motivated others to achieve goals for the good of the whole company.” Strong verbs make you look like a person of action, who will get things done. Weak adjectives make it seem like you are grasping at straws.

Don’t forget to list other qualifications or education you may have, even if it doesn’t seem directly relevant to ministry. This may seem to contradict what I said above about job history. However, you never know how certain qualifications will give you an advantage over other candidates. Do you know how to speak Spanish? Maybe there is a large Spanish-speaking population in the community where your potential church is located!

Use a professional-looking template. When it comes to applying for jobs, simple and clean formatting wins the day. Look for templates that avoid using lots of color. In a resume, your name should appear at the top of the page, along with your contact information. Below, you should list things like your job history and skills. Avoid clip art and giant boxes of color. There are some templates online that can be copied and used for your resume for free.

The Cover Letter

Your Cover Letter is not just a place for a potential employer to get to know you. It is also a place for you to show off how much you know about them! This is a great place to mention why you are choosing to apply to this specific church or ministry and why you would be a good fit for them in particular. Research the place you are applying to ahead of time. What words do they use in their mission statement? Can you use those same kinds of words to describe your gifts and talents? The more you can work in, the better!

Your resume is also a good place to give a brief outline of your testimony regarding what led you to ministry. There is no need to tell your whole life story, that comes later, in the interview. But telling the story of why you are in ministry and what drives you will give a church a glimpse into why God might be calling you to them!

Use spell check! A cover letter, just like a resume, should be professional. Be sure to proofread, and have another person proofread behind you. The easier your cover letter is to understand, the better a chance you will have!j

I hope these tips can help ease the anxiety of applying to church work.

Now get up and get started!

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