Seven Ways Pastors and Church Staff Find Jobs

This post may cause some of you to feel uneasy. I have to admit I’ve had some of those same feelings writing it. I prefer to think of pastoral ministry as a calling more than a job. And I sometimes cringe when I write about seemingly secular solutions to Christian work.

Nevertheless, over the life of this blog the past several years, I have received countless inquiries from men and women seeking positions in churches. Many are frustrated because they feel like their applications or resumes go into a digital black hole. They never even hear from many of the churches.

So I asked a number of pastors and church staff about the processes they experienced in getting a new position in a church. To be transparent, I need to explain that a church pursued some of them without any initiative on their part. The vast majority, however, took specific actions that ultimately led to their being called or hired.

My questions were conducted informally, but I still think the responses are telling. Here are the top seven responses in order of frequency.

  1. They used an informal network of persons to recommend them for the position. That network included friends in ministry, denominational workers, and church members at the specific church that had the opening.
  2. They made certain their resumes stood out. They accomplished this feat in three ways. First, they asked knowledgeable persons to help them shape the resumes, and to proofread them carefully. Second, they looked at other persons’ resumes to see what everyone else was doing, so they could do something unique. Third, they made certain the resume addressed very specifically the position they sought.
  3. They sought an influential person to recommend them. Because the person recommending the candidate was influential to the decision makers, the candidate was more likely to be given more serious consideration.
  4. They made certain that their reputations were good in the world of social media. One pastor shared with me that he has not been able to find another church because of his negative reputation on his blog and other social media. More and more churches are doing a social media search on a candidate before ever contacting him or her.
  5. They actively monitored sites that provide job postings. Denominational groups offer some of the sites. Others are independent, and include ministry search firms.
  6. They asked for help from their denomination or seminary. These entities are not as active in ministry placement as previous years; but they still can be very helpful to a candidate.
  7. They were persistent. One candidate told me she had her application in over 20 churches before she ever heard from anyone. She persisted by submitting a resume to a different church for a position almost once a week. That determination finally resulted in a great position in a church.

Some of the pastors and staff I contacted were appointed to their positions by a denominational authority, so their process differed from the seven items I note above. Let me hear your responses to these seven approaches. If you feel comfortable, share with us how you got your current position.

photo credit: photologue_np via photopin cc

Posted on January 12, 2015

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Leveraging your personal network is so important when it comes to job hunting. It’s easy as life gets busy to forget to nurture your network, but checking in with people regularly is not only kind and caring, it helps when seasons of transition come along. Don’t be the person who only reaches out when you need something. Regularly care about others. Add value. Ask if they need an introduction to someone you know!

    I know for me job sites have also been helpful. is a smaller job board, but it often has a good mix of both church positions and faith-based nonprofit opportunities.

  • Alice Hanson says on

    I am on a search committee for a progressive but conservative inner city Congregational church in a medium sized midwestern city. We have an excellent interim but he is in his 70’s and not a candidate. After 2 years of searching with very few applicants we are getting discouraged. We are a loving, church family of “refugees” from Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Catholic, Pentecostal, Congregational, Quaker, (and one agnostic) faiths. We accept that we are sinners and instead focus on God’s love and our total trust in Him.
    Everyone on this site seems to be on the other side of the fence. How do we find one another and get acquainted? We can’t afford head hunters and have exhausted other options.

    • Have you tried advertising the position on Facebook groups and websites? That may bring in a fresh batch of candidates. Also, 1st impressions are many times incorrect. Have you thought about revisiting some of your earlier candidates and giving them another look?

  • David R. Hill says on

    I am currently seeking a position as a Minister of Music, Education or Sr. Adults. This search has gone on for about a year now with only one church even contacting me. I started in Music Ministry when I was 20, part-time and served a church during my college years, and then another church during my Seminary education. After serving 10 years in part-time positions, I have now served 30 more years full time in Music and Education positions. A couple of years ago the church I had served as Music Minister for several years, called a new Pastor who was half my age. From the moment he arrived he set out trying to get rid of me. He considered me as being too old to carry out the vision he had for the church. After 2 years of being bullied and belittled, I resigned with no place to go.
    I am 60 years old and don’t feel as though God is done with me yet. I am not at a point that I am comfortable with retirement, or am I financially ready for it yet. During the past year, a local large church has hired me part time to play trumpet in their orchestra, and I have found additional income giving trumpet lessons in the local district. But I still have that burning in my heart to serve full time in Ministry somewhere. At my age, most churches discount my 40 years of experience, and my skills as a teacher and a musician, and write me off, just because of my age. This is making my search very frustrating, and discouraging. I have had the opportunity to “supply” a couple of times as music leader this past year, and to lead worship for a 3 day revival meeting, all which were very fulfilling to me. But right now I am going through whatever doors of service the Lord is opening, and trusting His leadership.


    • David,

      I just turned 40 and am having the same battle. Two recruiters have told me I am too old to lead worship anymore and should either learn children ministry or switch careers. Sad, but true…

  • My experience is probably more different than any of your experiences. I was volunteering at a church for a year, when all the sudden some major leadership changes occurred, 2 staff members left the church almost simultaneously. So there I was volunteering, and the Pastor told me I was hired. He didn’t ask me to pray about it. That should have been a red flag. A few months pass they hire somebody else to fill the spot of the other person who left the church. And then they started ganging up on me. Telling me I wasn’t a leader, all kinds of things that were not true. After 11 months of that torture, the church also helped me find the job that was suplimenting my income. I stepped down because they were bringing somebody else in over top of me. They wouldn’t let me teach new songs, it was ridiculous, they talked down to me, and down about me to the members, and they had spy’s working against me in the area of ministry I was over which was worship. This was at a church, a flipping church. After 11 months of there crap, I stepped down. And they told the manager at the company I was working at to fire me. So like a good deacon he did just that. Never mind I was there top sales guy the whole time I was there. So after that experience, I took a little hiatus from church in general. After 6 months I got another position at a church that loves me, I didn’t have to submit my resume to either one of the churches. The difference was the pastor I serve under now asked me to pray about taking the position. It’s a lot smaller of a church, the pay isn’t a great but it’s not about the money, or fame. I’ve been at this church for almost 2 years. And I think I have another year in me to be here. Have learned to take things, day by day, week by week, month by month, and year by year. That’s what you get when you wait on God.

    • I went to a Bible college right out of high school, but God didn’t give me a position in ministry till I was 29 years old. 10 years after I started Bible college. And after 11 months of torture it took 6 months of counseling from other worship pastors, and senior pastors all over the world to get me ready for my current position. The church I was at had 500 people, the church I’m currently at has just over 30. Big difference in size, but like I said its not about money or fame. It’s about serving God, doing His will, and blessing others.

  • I have found this resource helpful when searching for ministry positions:

    Maybe it can help someone else as well

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