I read a lot of Personal Information Forms (also called resumes) for pastors seeking new positions and what’s impressive to some people is not necessarily impressive to people who read these things for a living. For example PNCs are sometimes impressed by the following:
- The list of Doctor of Divinity degrees from one or more institutions of higher learning listed under Formal Education.
- Photos of the candidate shaking hands with a famous person or teaching a class by the Sea of Galilee or preaching from a tall steeple church pulpit.
- A list of community honors from Father of the Year to Rotarian of the Year to Bank Employee of the Year (from those pre-seminary days.)
- References which include the names of Senators, CEOs, and Nobel Prize winners. Maybe they were members of the candidate’s previous churches – or they went to college together or they were Rotarians together back in the 90s.*
- Under hobbies and other interests, the candidate has noted that he’s climbed the Alps, written a couple novels, and solved ecclesiastical version of the Mid-East Crisis.
So, here’s my translation of the such an impressive resume:
- Doctor of Divinity degrees are usually given honorarily if the pastor spoke at a graduation service or served a congregation that donated money to that institution of higher learning. Former Moderators of the General Assembly have several of these by virtue of preaching at Presbyterian colleges and seminaries during our terms. We didn’t earn them. They are a kind gesture.
- Send a small head shot if you wish, but we don’t need to see that you met President Reagan once. Preaching by the Sea of Galilee might give somebody the impression that you are just like Jesus.
- Community Honors are lovely and it’s also true that you might have received honors – again – for speaking at an event or giving a chunk of money away.
- References should be people who can speak to your work. They’ve heard you preach, teach, administer, lead, and relate to people in an effective way. We don’t care if they used to run AT&T. [*Note: when I was in college and trying to get a waitress job at Hilton Head, I put Dean Smith down for a reference. He knew nothing of my hospitality skills but I was friends with his kids. I did help him with a load of laundry once. “She’s really good with Clorox.” And I thought his name could help me get a job. This was an obnoxious idea.]
- If you have a long list of extracurricular activities, I might wonder if you ever spend time with your family – or your own congregation.
Some pastoral candidates are good writers but they are less effective in person. Others might be charismatic but they are slackers. And still others might seem awkward in interviews, but they are The Real Thing and they’ve been seeking a new call for so long now that they are really nervous. (The guys who play golf with the mayor got all those other positions.)
There are some amazing pastors out there who are not considered “impressive” because they are too young or too old, too brown or too Asian, too female, too queer, too bald, too “community college” or too inexperienced. The truth is that they might also be extraordinarily impressive in the way they envision what your congregation could be if you are authentically interested in 1) being the Church and 2) changing the world for good in the name of Jesus Christ.
Ask good questions. Look for a spark. Enjoy the process. And please, please, please ask God to reveal the unexpected gems who are called to be your next Pastor.