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Tips for Seminarians Seeking a Pastoral Call

Charlie Wingard

Charlie Wingard

Associate Professor of Practical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary Jackson and Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Yazoo City, Mississippi

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1. Don’t procrastinate. Become a candidate for ministry in your denomination as early as possible. Follow your candidates committee’s instructions to a tee.

Don’t  put off candidacy and its requirements until the end of your seminary career. If you do, you will complete your seminary requirements, but be unready to accept a call because you’ve failed to submit to your denomination’s ordination requirements. That may mean you are many months away from accepting a call. Show respect for your denomination and love for your family by staying on track.

PCA students need to keep in mind the following:

  • You must be a member for at least six months of a church in the presbytery where you want to come under care.
  • You must also be endorsed by the session of that church before it is possible to become a candidate and intern.
  • Prior to ordination, you must complete a presbytery internship, which must last at least 12 months.
  • The process to be ready to be ordained requires a minimum of 18 months to complete, and, for most candidates, is closer to 30 months.

    RTS Jackson students: Presbytery Credentials Committee will host an informational lunch at Patterson’s Porch on Thursday, September 21, at noon. If you are even remotely interested in ordination in the PCA, then you should make plans to attend.

2. Prepare your resume carefully. Proofread and get someone else to proofread. Expect your prospective employer to verify each detail. Be accurate. The care with which you prepare your resume is one indicator of the care you will take with the work your future church entrusts to you.

3. Circulate your resume widely. Ask minister friends if they know of openings. Not every position is listed on your denomination’s website, and some positions may be coming open and not yet announced.

4. Compose a cover letter (or email). Attach to each resume a cover letter addressed to the person or committee responsible for receiving your resume. Tailor each cover letter to the position. Proofread and get someone else to proofread. Ask a friend in business to critique your cover letter before you send it. Your cover letter creates your first impression.

5. Include references. Include their names in your resume. Don’t make the pulpit committee ask for them.  Make sure you have obtained permission to use their names, and that their contact information is correct.

6. Keep your resume current.  Double-check all contact information for you and your references.

7. Be thoughtful. Acknowledge all inquiries with a handwritten thank you note.

8.  Be prepared. At interviews, either preliminary or when formally candidating

  • Wear a suit.
  • Take two handkerchiefs, one for yourself and one for someone else, if needed. A gentleman is always thinking of others.
  • Answer questions as briefly as possible. Don’t ramble.
  • Answer all questions directly and honestly.
  • Ask the pulpit search committee questions and listen intently to their answers. A good pastor is a good listener.
  • Sit up straight. Look at people when they speak to you. Manners matter.
  • Stand up when ladies enter the room. You are a gentleman.
  • Write thank-you notes to the entire pulpit committee. It’s an honor to be granted an interview.
  • Write thank-you notes to anyone who helps you during your visit. For example, if you’re meeting with a committee at someone’s office and his assistant gets you a drink while you wait, send the assistant a thank you note. Acknowledge the kind service to you.
  • In emails, use formal elements of style, like “Dear Mr. Adams” and “Yours in Christ, Charlie.” Use good grammar. Punctuate properly. Use upper case letters at the beginning of a sentence and wherever appropriate. Avoid slang. Check your spelling.

9. Disclose. If you have been under church discipline or have ever had any problems with the law, you need to tell the pulpit search committee. If you fail to disclose and the committee obtains the information during their reference and background check, they will question your honesty and wonder what else you are withholding. Your candidacy will almost certainly come to an end.

10. Engage people. When you are candidating at a church, speak to everyone, and especially to the children. Learn names.

11. Be grateful. It is an honor to be asked to candidate. Be thankful – to God and the congregation.

12. Treat your wife as your partner. Discuss together, pray together, decide together. You are a team.


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