REVIEW: Don’t Just Send a Resume

Five years ago, after attending seminary and moving to west Texas for work, I began searching for a job in pastoral ministry. All of my work experience leading up to this was as a corporate professional in the oil and gas industry, so when my wife and I both agreed that it was time to transition into ministry, I just did what I had always done when looking for a job. I sent out resumes to any and every church position that fit within my desired parameters. This led to me being in conversations with multiple churches at once, and, to my shame, there was even a church that I completely ghosted and left in a lurch after I took a position. I’ve since repented and made amends with the leaders of that church, but the problems and sin that resulted from my recklessness could’ve been avoided if I wouldn’t have imported my experience in landing a job in a cut-throat industry into my search for a ministry position. The two processes are not at all the same. What I needed was a guide, someone who had been through the various complexities of the pastoral candidating process and could provide me wisdom and guidance about how to best maneuver search committees, salary negotiations, and multiple interviews (“You want to meet with me again!?”). Four years too late for me, but hopefully right in the knick of time for anyone else looking to find the right job in a local church is Benjamin Vrbicek’s Don’t Just Send a Resume.

Vrbicek’s stated goal is “to get those who are trained to help—pastors—on the path to those churches who need their help.” He begins by centering the aspiring pastor’s attention on their identity in Christ, reminding them of the absolute necessity of prayer, and a healthy and robust reliance upon the sovereignty and goodness of God. He then covers an exhaustive amount of material regarding the job search process, everything from the basics of cover letters and resumes to the nitty gritty details of compensation negotiations. I was also grateful to see advice for men pursuing pastoral positions who had no previous pastoral experience, something that I’ve not seen discussed outside of random blog posts. The last chapters of the book are devoted to helping a current pastor/employee finish well at their current job, start well at their new one, and admonishes pastors to overflow with gratitude for the privilege of being called to such a high and noble calling. 

The author recounts his own anecdotal experiences throughout the book, which only a few chapters in prove that he is more than capable of writing a book of this sort. But also interspersed at the end of each chapter are contributions from other various pastors and practitioners who give unique insights from their own experiences and expertise in the subject related to that chapter. To cap it all off, there are two helpful appendixes that supply the reader with a checklist of actions to take when working their way through the job search process, which acts somewhat as a summary of the book and contains a bulleted list of all the main ideas behind each point made in the book, and then a very helpful list of questions for a candidate to ask a potential employer, which is in and of itself a very valuable resource I wish I would’ve had access to years ago.

The writing is concise, clear, and doesn’t contain any unnecessary fluff. But one especially unique aspect of Vrbicek’s book is his consistent pointing of readers to the Gospel. Granted, Vrbicek’s book begins with several foundational chapters discussing the Gospel, union with Christ, God’s goodness and sovereignty, etc., but those ideas aren’t limited to the opening chapters. Vrbicek doesn’t relegate the Gospel to a mere prolegomena and then move on to the practical stuff; he spreads the Good News throughout the entirety of the book, and often in places where the reader would least expect.

He centers the reader upon the Gospel right off the top: “The gospel offers green pastures and still waters, which is the only reliable remedy for the nauseating vertigo caused by a life and world in constant flux.” In a conversation on networking, Vrbicek “un-greases” an otherwise slimy feeling process by rooting it in the unity we have with one another brought about through the Gospel: “…if there’s anywhere that networking is appropriate, it’s among Christians…the body of Christ, the household and family of God, the vine and the branches, the sheep of God’s flock. What do all these share? Interconnectedness.” Understanding that the world has been reconciled to God through Christ, Vrbicek can offer advice like “God made money, and though we tend to abuse it…God’s not uncomfortable with the material world. He made it and called it good. So don’t shy away from talking about money…. Godly people can talk about money in godly ways.” There’s a thick, God-centered, Gospel-informed mood throughout the entire book.

This gives the book some unique strengths in a few ways.

1) Anybody expecting to transition into a ministry position—whether for the first time or moving from one church to another—will be reminded again and again that their success in life is not found in effectiveness for Christ, but in faithfulness to Christ. Many pastors, either current or aspiring ones, can fall prey to the idea that their success in ministry is something measurable and trackable, when in reality, God’s approval of a minister of His Gospel is not based on any human metric, but will be judged on matters of the heart: consistency, faithfulness, Christlikeness—qualities that only the Holy Spirit is ultimately able to measure reliably. Dependence upon the Gospel, rather than skill or rhetoric, is the crucial attribute needed in many pulpits today. Pastors will get that from Vrbicek’s book.

2) Don’t Just Send a Resume, if utilized rightly, will be a resource that a man will turn to many times over the course of a job search, making it a great resource for pastors keep on their shelves and to recommend to young men in their church who are called to ministry. On most occasions, if the church is doing their proper due diligence, the job search process will be lengthy, and time will take its demanding toll. But as the prospective pastor moves through each stage of the hiring process and references this resource, time and again he’ll find not only the practical advice needed to navigate the moment, but also a constant reminder that he has been eternally rescued by a good God who is working all things for his good. This will be especially important for the prospective pastor who progresses along the process far enough for optimistic anticipation to set in only to hear the dreadful “no.” Vrbicek’s insistence on remembering and playing the Gospel will provide a soft, comforting landing to those who feel knocked off the top rung right as they’re nearing the top.

3) The unapologetic blending of Gospel truth with practical wisdom found through Vrbicek’s book makes it not only a great resource for pastors, but also for pastor search teams and personnel committees. At the time of this writing, my church is in the process of hiring a Family Pastor. We’ve received many resumes and aspiring candidates, but the men that have stood out the most are those who have demonstrated qualities that are rooted in a sure confidence in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We’ve read over the boilerplate resumes that didn’t have any care or attention paid to them and realized that care and attention are two qualities we value in a pastor. Pass. We’ve received the cover letters that betray an almost overwhelming desperation for work that make it seem as if confidence and trust in God’s goodness and sovereignty aren’t being depended upon by the hopeful candidate and realized that if those qualities aren’t present when the pressure is on, then what will happen when the pressures of pastoral ministry are piled on him? Pass. Vrbicek’s book is helpful not only in pointing prospective pastors to the Gospel so that they can be shaped and molded by it, but it’s also helpful to those who are in the position of choosing who that next pastor will be, helping them to see the qualities that are of utmost importance in their desired pastor.

And that’s what Vrbicek’s book does well. This book springs forth from a heart that is consumed with eternal matters of utmost importance. Don’t Just Send a Resume is concerned with far more than resumes and cover letters and interview strategies. In the long run, this work will serve in helping bring together pastors and churches who are committed to what will ultimately still matter ten thousand years from now. It’s always best to judge a book by its stated purpose, and Vrbicek’s desire to help connect good pastors with good churches is well-accomplished.

So, prospective pastor, hopeful pastoral candidate, rejected pastoral applicant, tired aspiring pastor—don’t just send another resume. Grab a copy of Vrbicek’s book, glean from his wisdom, apply the principles and strategies he prescribes, and rest in the Gospel of grace that is the foundation upon which your life, Christ’s church, and this book are built upon. Then send that resume.

This review first appeared in a modified form at 9Marks.

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