What pastors 'between churches' can do to find their next pulpit


Building out your resume is just one some key areas pastors can work on in finding their next place of ministry, says a Georgia Baptist Mission Board missionary. THINKSTOCKPHOTO.COM/Special Building out their resume is just one of some key areas pastors can improve in finding their next place of ministry, says a Georgia Baptist Mission Board missionary. THINKSTOCKPHOTO.COM/Special

Earlier this week associational missionary Bobby Braswell of Middle Baptist Association shared his thoughts on how pastor search committees can increase the success of their process. From the other side of that relationship, there are steps pastors currently without a church can take to better present themselves to those committees.

This by no means eliminates the element of God’s guidance in preparing a pastor for a specific church and vice versa, says Marcus Merritt, Georgia Baptist Mission Board Church-Minister Relations director. But, it does help keep those ministers active in honing their calling, constantly preparing themselves for their next position of ministry and remaining equipped in season and out of season.

“The most glaring thing pastors need to work on is their resume,” states Merritt. “Many people feel they’re proficient on a computer, but that doesn’t mean they can put a professional resume together.”

The biggest offense, adds Merritt, hints at the stereotype of the longwinded-preacher. Wordiness, not to mention a Gatling gun’s amount of bullet points, can send a resume to the bottom of the pile.

“Resumes shouldn’t be longer than two pages, maybe another if a testimony page is included,” he says. Those pages aren’t just words, either, as graphics can help a resume’s look.

Another step that can help tremendously is to enlist a professional writer to prepare the resume. Church-Minister Relations can direct those interested to professional writers who typically charge less than $100.

Making a connection

Today many first associate Church-Minister Relations with serving as a mediator/counselor to churches in conflict, but back in 1971 when it was established, the department’s primary role was to help churches find pastors. “Roy Hinchey, secretary of evangelism, would have paper copies of resumes and send those to three or four churches at a time who were looking for pastors,” Merritt explains.

That same year Hinchey was sharing resumes via the post office and in person, Ray Tomlinson, an American computer programmer, sent an individual message across a specific network for other users. “Electronic mail”, as it was called then, was still a couple of decades removed from revolutionizing the way we communicate, but almost as soon as Hinchey dropped the first envelope-clad resume from his newly-formed department into the mailbox that method was slowly-but-surely on its way out.

Though print resumes are still fine, another option Merritt stands by is a resume-sharing tool available through Church-Minister Relations. After reaching the department’s site, click on “Resume Services” for directions on how to create a resume that can become available to churches in ten different state Baptist conventions, including Georgia. All ministry positions, bivocational and full-time, are represented.

“Through that resource, ministers create a username and password before filling out 15 pages of detailed questions,” explains Merritt. “Churches do the same thing through another portal, and the computer matches up what’s compatible.

“Yes,” he laughs, “it’s basically eHarmony for churches and pastors.”

Both sides are unable to see profiles for the other, he adds, so that churches aren’t “shopping” for pastors and comparing candidates. Another stipulation is that pastors have to go back to the site at least every six months and update their profile. As far as the number of states in the search range goes, a minister can narrow down his field of locations to as small as a third of a particular state, depending on how important location is for him.

What specific things can ministers currently without a church do to help reach their next ministry position? Merritt suggests:

  1. Never resign a church with nowhere to go. “It is more difficult to find a position when a minister is perceived to be ‘out of work.’"
  2. Avoid ministry gaps on a resume. “If a minister has not served as pastor in a couple of years, his resume should reflect what type of ministry he is currently doing (pulpit supply, itinerant evangelist, staff evangelist, etc.). For example, ‘2013 - present ... Staff Evangelist at First Baptist Church Mayberry.’"
  3. Attend local Associational ministers meetings. “Attend state convention annual meetings, evangelism conferences, etc. Networking is vital for every minister, especially those who are looking for their next assignment from the Lord.”
  4. Make sure social media posts are not negative. “Pastor search committees look at Facebook, Twitter, etc. If they see posts that are critical of the pastor's previous church, or unprofessional in any way, they will likely not consider him to be a serious candidate for their church.”
  5. Seek the assistance of a professional resume writer. “It is the best $100 a minister can spend! Also, I am happy to assist ministers with their resumes if they need it.”
  6. Utilize our online resume sharing service: "Go to the Church-Minister Relations website and click on the Resume Services tab."

“I would also encourage ministers to contact my office about the Transitional Pastor Ministry and the interim pastor ministry,” he says. “We routinely get requests for both. Call me at (770) 936-5362 or email mmerritt@gabaptist.org for more information.”

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