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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

ASK MMI: Do Pastors Lie On Their Resumes?

Resume3 Here's another question in to MMI:

Someone writes, "I just recently saw the resume of the former pastor with whom I'm familiar.  While I in no way want to argue or cause problems for this man, there are several things in his resume that concern me. They are not outright lies, but they stretch the truth quite tightly.  It was a great wake up call to re-examine my resume to make sure I am speaking not only truth, but with integrity.  How do you handle your resume?  Is it more than just “not a lie”?  Are we as pastors as guilty as the secular world in padding our resumes?

FOR DISCUSSION:  What do you think?  (Especially those who've hired recently and seen alot of resumes...do you feel people padded their resumes at all?)

Do you have a question you'd like us to feature on the blog?  Please email me at trhoades@mondaymorninginsight.com.

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October 18, 2005 in ASK MMI: Your Ministry Questions Answered | Permalink

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Well, seeing as Pastors seem, in general, to be no better in general than anyone else at living up to the demands of morality, why should it be surprising that some lie on their resumes? This raises the question: Is it fair to expect pastors to better moral exemplars than anyone else? Certainly moral perfection is impossible for anyone other than Christ, so how should we manage the moral imperfections of pastors in a Christian way?

Posted by: Marty | Oct 19, 2005 8:14:27 AM

I am currently on my first Pastor Search Committee and am wading thru over 200 resumes (thanks to the posting on churchstaffing.com). Call me gullible, but because it wouldn't occur to me to lie on my own resume, I would never expect other to lie on theirs, even though I am sure it happens. In my opinion, intentionally lying is totally wrong and if found out, reason for yanking that resume from the "possible pile".

There is an underlying spiritual issue that would make a pastor pad the paper - justice for past slights? lack of recognition for hard work? insecurity? Frankly, as a search committee member, I don't want to delve into that person as a potential for my church. If found out it wouldn't be tolerated in the secular world would it? I hope not, but I fear so to an certain extent.

But what is interesting is that some pastor applicants feel the need to put EVERYTHING on the resume which is burdensome for those of us who have to pray and read them all. (Some others put next to nothing and that's rough too.) Perhaps in all those bullets itemizing everything they've done at every church they've ever visited since they were saved, there is a bit of embellishment, or maybe it's just the readers' not being able to realistically see (discern)all those points for what they are.

Now of course the person could totally embellish a resume, including false information, but I think it is the burden of the search committee to research that man thoroughly, including not just his references but asking those refs to give other, unlisted references - third party info, if you will. And in today's society it is an unfortunate part that even pastors must have background checks.

With regards to Marty's comments about moral imperfections in everyone as well as pastors, when I am reading these resumes my mind is not focused on "Is he telling the truth", but on where our committee has identified God's will for our church, and how these great men coincide with that. We are all aware the pastors are people (or should be). But for those who provide nothing but "the fact's ma'am, just the facts" I am left at a loss as to whether to actively pursue them or not. Everything could be totally true but I just don't have enough info to go on! The ones whose resumes are 20 pages long and include a published manuscript as an addendum, I struggle to wade through. Sorry gentlemen, I do have a life.

What I am looking for in a resume is not necessarily the facts but it is the "spark". Not flash, but that spark that says that man has got the passion and the desire to...(insert whatever your church is moving toward). To tell you the truth, I find this spark most often in the cover letter, which I think is a greatly underused asset to the applicant.

I can compare a hundred of these resumes and come up with 75 who are right on the money in terms of what our church desires for experience, education, doctrinal beliefs. But (and I'm sorry if this hurts) those who emailed their resumes and didn't include a cover letter get stuck at the back of the pile. That c.l. is so valuable to the average Joe/Jane churchgoer on the search committee. It tells me their hearts -it can explain why there is a gap in jobs, it can explain why they've been married 15 years but have a 22 year old child (and explain it to our satisfaction - like the divorce happened way before salvation).

Cover letters can reveal the heart of the men and that's what I want to see in a resume, not just academia galore, or "I pastored 3 churches with over 2 million in budgets". La de dah. There are a hundred just like that person. But as far as honesty is concerned - I can read honesty in a cover letter, and I can read trumped up hooey.

I am going to be relating to this pastor for, hopefully, a LONG time. I want to begin relating the moment I have the resume in my hands because, let's face it, after the 30th resume YOU ALL LOOK THE SAME (except for the wackos, and sorry to be blunt again, but there are some real cases out there). You are all committed men of God with lovely families and you're talented and nice and working toward personal holiness. All that extra "Philosophy of ministry" stuff is fine to an extent, but a limited one. But I don't know you personally yet. Where I more readily see the lack of sincerity/hype/self-aggrandizement is in your cover letter. Where I can see your heart for your passion is in that letter.

I've come to terms with the fact that God doesn't yell in my ear like I'd wish, and won't light up a certain resume like the burning bush, so I rely on my imagining that person with me, telling me about himself and his God, couched in the words of his cover letter, and supported by his resume.

Sorry, Todd, I know I totally veered off the subject of lying on resumes. I've just seen SO MANY I have no idea who lied and who didn't. I want to know a pastor's heart, not just his qualifications.

Posted by: Abbey | Oct 21, 2005 7:58:33 PM

hey guys
Just as deceptive is leading the congregation to believe you are "vanilla" in your ministry style, when actually you are planning to be "rocky road." This could be why tenures are so short among ministers at particular churches. If a pastor has an agenda, he needs to let the church know.

Posted by: Trey Gambill | Oct 31, 2005 9:02:28 AM

Having a bi-vocatinal ministry it is the route of the flesh sometimes to bend the truth a little. BUT... the only person who eventually be hurt is that individual who had 'padded' the resume. In my secular job, there are some experiences I did not have but I had to be nationally credentialled to preform my job. If I lied, I could have gone to jail! Having responded to church requests for pastors and reading the 'examples' given by organizations who specialize in resumes, one can see the temptation to 'pad'. Unless you are willing to pioneer a work as I am currently doing, the tendency is to follow society and 'lie' [did i say that - yes I did for that what it is....a lie!]. I believe that the church has placed experiences and past accomplishments over the calling God has placed on a man or woman of God. I do agree that with many resumes as my brother noted above, the choice gets more difficult with each letter of request. As the old cliche goes "all that glitters is not gold!" So what do we do.....if one is called of God, God will place that individual in a flock where they will be able to effectively minister, even if that means a congregaton of 3 or 4 four and two are the pastor and his wife! One last comment, there are resumes where the name of a church attended tends to sway the selection committee either to or away from that individual. We all should let go and let God! God Bless all. Have a Blessed Christmas to all who read and let us all remember that Jesus is Lord!

Posted by: bill | Dec 5, 2005 10:00:07 PM

I came across this while browsing around (in Todd's absence), and was surprised to find so few comments on it. I'm not sure what to make of that - is it essentially a "non-issue", is it too close to home for anyone to want to touch?

I've been in the midst of a transition from secular business to full-time ministry for a little over a year. It's been hard for a number of reasons, primarily (I think), my lack of paid experience in a church. One of the biggest challenges I've had is the transition in thinking as I prepare my resume. I don't believe that I have ever lied or even stretched the truth on a resume, but there is certainly the perceived need to present myself in the best possible light. In both a resume and an interview, that means emphasizing strengths and minimizing weaknesses. In fact, I've had professional career counselors coach me in how to present a weakness as a strength!

I've never felt comfortable doing that in a church situation, whether in a resume or an interview. Part of it, I'm sure, is the fact that I'm older and more confident in who I am - and who I'm not - so I'm more able to recognize when an opportunity might not be the best fit and more willing to say no to it myself.

I'd really be interested in hearing what others - on both sides of the "hiring table" - have to say about this.

Posted by: Randy Ehle | Feb 20, 2006 11:52:53 AM

When I interviewed for this ministry position (which just I began in November. I was transitioning from another ministry where there had been some conflict.. (I know that doesn't fit some of your theology, but there was CONFLICT and it was ministry!)
In the interview, the committee asked me some questions that I could have skirted with PC answers and still been truthful, but I chose to be really BLUNT.
Short version of the story is that as they checked with my references (Former and current pastor of that ministry and current elder and an accountability partner)... they heard the same story from all four of them that I had told.
That brutal honesty is one of the MAJOR reasons they quit looking for weaknesses. I was honest about mine and they felt that they could trust the rest of my answers.
So here I am, up to my neck in another ministry after 3 months, with no regrets or surprises on eiether side.

Posted by: Jeff | Feb 20, 2006 1:03:36 PM

Jeff, The word(s) PC hit a nerve with me, not trying to be a PC at all, I believe that you may have hit a strong chord.

Many of us come from some kind of previous work and that was the proper thing to do, be PC. Even if it meant skirting and embellishing the truth or a lie.

It comes down to character in your heart. I have been working with my resume for about six months and have yet found the 'perfect' resume. I want to tell the prospective reader a little bit about me and the KSA I have to offer them, but I end up with a book...

I think most employers look for some very specific things, and a short and sweet resume can't say it all. And they overlook the perfect 'fit' for their position.


Posted by: Jay 2.1 | Feb 20, 2006 1:51:23 PM

I was talking with a seminary placement director a couple weeks ago and he gave an interesting twist on the resume. It certainly won't work for everyone (he's 71 and has probably 40 years of ministry experience behind him), but I like the idea.

A few years ago a church was interested in him as an intenional interim pastor. They asked for a resume - which he hadn't had in 15 or 20 years. Instead, he gave them the names of three churches he had served (or leaders at those churches) and said to call them...and ask for the names of his three biggest critics at each church, and call THEM. The church did that...and he got the position.

I want to be confident enough in who I am - and who I am not - that I can give someone the names of my biggest critics, not just my fans, as references!

Posted by: Randy Ehle | Feb 20, 2006 1:57:17 PM

The pastor before us lied EVERYWHERE on his resume. He was even ordained via the internet. The church did not check out his references or history and he lasted 6 months. Even the sermons he preached were copies of someone else. He practically destroyed the church.

When we were candidating for the position, the church went back 25 years into our history, a little extreme but we had nothing to hide and were supremely glad of that!

I know this is an extreme example. But a salesman can put a sales job on a church, if they don't do their homework or see through it.

So, to answer the question, as I am beginning to ramble here...Yes, ministry applicants DO lie on their resumes, even in ministry. I think the Bible calls them "wolves in sheep's clothing".

Posted by: Jan | May 26, 2006 12:50:42 PM

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