Tips for RTS Students: Seeking a Pastoral Call

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1.Don’t procrastinate.

Become a candidate for ministry in your denomination as early as possible. Follow your Candidates and Credentials Committee’s instructions to a tee.

Don’t put off candidacy and its prerequisites until the end of your seminary career. If you do, you will complete your degree, but be unable to accept a call because you’ve failed to follow your denomination’s requirements. That may mean you are 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.
  • This process 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 the Patterson Student Center on Thursday, September 28  at 11:30 a.m. If you are even remotely interested in ordination in the PCA, then you should attend.

2. Prepare your résumé carefully.

Proofread and have 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 résumé widely.

Ask minister and other church leader 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 a cover letter to each résumé, addressed to the person or committee responsible. Tailor each cover letter to the position. Again, proofread and get someone else to proofread. Ask a friend in business to critique your cover letter and résumé before you send it – this is your first impression to the search committee.

Please let me know if I can help you in preparing your résumé and cover letters. I am glad to help.

5. Include references.

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

6. Keep your résumé 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. A shepherd leader cares for the entire flock.

11. Be grateful.

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

12. Watch what you post on social media.

A pastoral search committee may review your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and blog posts. If you use them as platforms for engaging in partisan politics or public policy debate, the committee may hesitate to proceed with you further. After all, pastors must serve Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, as well as those that hold conflicting view on public policy, and the committee may conclude that your posts will create an obstacle to ministering to people whose views differ from your own.

13. Treat your wife as your partner.

Discuss together, pray together, decide together. You are a team.

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