One of the main difficulties of just starting out in any career – ministry included – is that job requirements often ask for experience or skills that you simply have not had the opportunity to attain. This can make it even more difficult to find employment in a field that is already narrow and competitive. There is the baffling question – how can you get experience if no one will give you experience? After running into this problem enough times, you may begin to ask yourself, “is it okay to apply for a job even if I am not qualified for it?”
In my estimation, the answer is yes – within reason.
In ministry, it is important for search committees to remember that God calls all sorts of people at all sorts of stages in life into ministry. I would be cautious of a search committee that was not at least willing to consider a candidate for no other reason than that they did not meet all the job requirements. God does not require perfection, and neither should churches.
I do believe that basic requirements are reasonable, and a candidate should heed these requirements. The most important example of this are doctrinal statements and lifestyle. If you are going to apply for a job at a church, you should probably believe what the church believes and live a Christian lifestyle. There are also some positions that will explicitly state that those who are unqualified need not apply. Do not fret over those churches and move on to another.
However, some areas may be a little murkier. Maybe the church is looking for a children’s minister and asks for 5 years of experience in children’s ministry, and you have 10 years’ experience as a kindergarten teacher at a Christian school. I believe that in the latter case, it is reasonable to go ahead and apply for the job.
But if you do decide to apply for a job where you do not meet all the qualifications, how should you do it? I do believe there are some steps a person can follow to keep their resume from being thrown out at first glance.
First, even if you do not possess all the necessary experience, be sure to include all relevant experience. Maybe your focus in seminary was on preaching but you were in the worship band and now feel called to lead music. List that experience.
Another thing to remember is that your cover letter is your friend. Let your cover letter explain why, in spite of your limited experience, you are an ideal candidate for the job. For example, I have never been hired full time by a church, but I founded and served as director of a Christian summer camp for three years. I make sure to explain how that experience has prepared me for ministry in every job I apply for.
In addition to communicating how skills attained from previous experience can serve you in ministry, be sure to also openly communicate that you are willing to receive any training and work toward any experience that is required. Perhaps the church requires seminary and you are not seminary trained, but are willing to earn a degree if you are employed by the church. Say so up front. This shows that you recognize your limitations, but are willing to grow.
I hope these pointers can help encourage you if you are in a job application rut. If nothing else, remember that by applying for a job you have nothing to lose. Apply for places where you feel God may be leading you, and trust God to do the rest!