Just before everything closed due to COVID-19, our church hired an associate pastor. At the final elder meeting prior to his candidating weekend, I overheard a side conversation between two of our elders. One said, “So, I’m reading about this coronavirus thing. I don’t think it’s just going to go away.” The other responded, “Yeah, you might be right. Looks like a pretty big deal in China. Let’s toss it on the agenda for the next meeting.”
The next scheduled elders meeting was two weeks away. Like most churches, we didn’t wait. We had to call an emergency meeting on Saturday morning and then cancel church for the next day.
During the lockdown, I’ve often thought about how kind God was to our church in allowing us to complete the hiring process before everything screeched to a halt. But during the lockdown, I’ve also thought about how difficult it would be to find a job in a church right now. Never before have more pastors had the potential to be caught in limbo between churches, or between seminary graduation and a church position.
Never before have more pastors had the potential to be caught in limbo between churches, or between seminary graduation and a church position.
When I graduated seminary, I entered a difficult job market, and I had a tough time finding a position. The housing bubble had popped, causing the economic recession of 2008 to 2010.
Churches weren’t hiring.
If a church had three pastors and one departed, the church learned to get by with two. And if a church was growing and needed to add staff, they just stretched thinner. At some point in my search process I remember saying to my wife, “You know that list we made, the one with our dream job in the dream city? I’m throwing it in the trash. I just need to find a job—forget the right job.”
Maybe you feel the same way. I wrote a book to help struggling pastors make a godly transition, especially when the job market is bleak. I won’t share here everything I wrote in that book, but I do want to briefly mention 10 tips for finding a ministry position during a difficult time.
1. Confirm whether it’s time for a transition.
Before you move, you need to know whether you should move. Try not to get near-sighted about this. Don’t let a few annoyances sour you. Consider your passions and gifting, think with a clear head, consult those you trust, and, above all, seek the Lord.
2. Include a short, custom cover letter and follow up by phone.
It’s easy to send an email and simply attach a resume. But don’t. Easy won’t make you stand out. Invest the time and do it right. Create a professional, custom cover letter for each church. And after you send your cover letter and resume, phone and tell them about your interest.
3. Include high-quality pictures and a family bio.
Most candidates don’t do this. Churches find it extremely helpful to have a quality picture and a family bio. If you do this well, you’ll stand out from the crowd.
4. Stay positive regarding previous job transitions.
We all have a tale of woe. Save it for another day. Stay positive early on.
5. Build and leverage your personal network and know where to find job openings.
Knowing how to network in a godly and efficient manner will help you find a position. Be sure to scour job boards. The website Church Staffing tends to be the best place to look for ministry jobs. Recruitment firms such as Vanderbloemen Search Group and The Slingshot Group also have job postings, as does The Gospel Coalition. Other places to look for openings include church denominations, church-planting networks, Bible colleges, and seminaries.
6. Over-prepare for job interviews.
Practice by doing a mock interview with friends or elders. Pastors are often not as good at interviewing as they think they are. And even if you are good at it, why not improve?
7. Ask lots of questions.
The church isn’t the only one doing the interviewing. You’re also interviewing them. They will appreciate questions because it shows you’re thoughtful (not desperate) and interested (not aloof).
The church isn’t the only one doing the interviewing. You’re also interviewing them.
8. Send more samples of your work.
You impressed the church with your professional cover letter, resume, and a limited sample of your work. Now it’s time to send them a little more.
9. Don’t get desperate.
Don’t sacrifice your principles when your prospects seem bleak. Don’t accept a call to a toxic church just to pay your bills. There are other ways to make ends meet.
10. Don’t be afraid to talk money.
Discussing money is often considered taboo. But it shouldn’t be. Godly people can talk about money in godly ways. It’s important and shouldn’t be awkward. Be honest about your family’s needs.
It’s a Challenge
I fully understand the challenges of finding a church position. I lived that reality.
I’d love to give you a guarantee that if you do X, Y, and Z, then you’ll find a ministry position. No author or strategy, however, can guarantee placement. But maybe these tips will spark hope inside you that a healthy transition is possible, even during our challenging times. For with God, all things are possible.
The Gospel Coalition