Since 1997, ChurchJobsOnline.com has helped churches to find the right pastors. We have also provided career counseling and job search assistance to many pastors.
Churches differ in terms of their size, theology, denomination and location, yet there are consistent traits and skills that churches seek. Although not comprehensive, here are ten traits/skills that churches are seeking in the Christian candidates applying for their pastor jobs.
1. A Vibrant Faith
Churches want a pastor who is a faithful follower of Jesus. They are not looking for perfection, but instead they are seeking applicants who have an authentic faith that has been developed through the highs and lows of life. Congregations want to follow a pastor who has experienced spiritual doubt, fear and failure and yet has trusted God throughout their life. An authentic faith can empathize with church members and lead them into a richer faith.
A vibrant faith also means that a pastor is known for practicing spiritual disciplines (prayer, Bible study, worship, fasting, and others) that help the pastor to grow in their relationship with Christ. This type of faith is contagious and will encourage those attending church.
2. Spiritual Gifts
Churches want applicants who know what their top spiritual gifts are and how they relate to the pastor opening. Spiritual gifts related to the pastor opening might include:
Shepherd/Pastor – Ability to nurture and direct the spiritual growth of a group of believers (Ephesians 4:11).
Teaching – Ability to comprehend and communicate biblical truths, enabling listeners to learn and apply God’s word.
Leadership – Ability to set goals for the future, and to influence and direct others to accomplish God’s work (Romans 12:6,8).
Interview questions might also include asking candidates about the spiritual gifts that they desire to develop.
3. Personal Skills
Personal skills, also known as “soft skills,” are skills that are more inborn rather than developed. The personal skills that most churches seek for a pastor position would include skills such as being warm, friendly, empathetic, a good listener, problem solver, enthusiastic, gentle, persistent, ethical and trustworthy. Most of these personal skills relate to working with people individually and in groups.
Churches need candidates who already have the personal skills that are needed for the job. For example, church leaders don’t want to try and teach a newly hired pastor how to be “enthusiastic” if that skill is needed for the job. They instead, they want a pastor who already has this personal skill.
If you are a Christian seeking pastor opening, look for personal skills in the job description. Then you can include any of them that are true of you in your resume and cover letter. Of course, during an interview a search committee is going to want to see your personal skills on display. So besides describing how your personal skills help you to minister to a congregation be sure to demonstrate and give examples of how you have used the needed personal skills.
Demonstrating key personal skills also help to make a great first impression during an interview. Since first impressions are formed in the first 30 seconds to 2 minutes of having met you at an interview, your personals skills (such as being enthusiastic, friendly and having a sense of humor) can help you to make a great first impression.
4. Transferable Skills
Transferable skills are skills that are developed in work, school and life. They are skills that can transfer from one job to another. Depending on the type of pastor job, transferable skills may include preaching, leading, problem solving, counseling, encouraging, managing, teaching, and others.
Transferable skill names are action words and typically begin sentences in a pastor job description such as “Preach and teach the practical truths of the Bible” or, “Direct the church in an effective program of evangelism.”
5. Content Skills
Content skills are knowledges that help people to do particular jobs like being a pastor. Content skills for pastors can include knowledge of the Bible, spiritual gifts, Christian education, small group development, evangelism, and spiritual growth. Content skills can be learned through formal education at a seminary as well as on the job and through internships. You can also gain content skills through conferences, online classes and reading books.
Content skills identify where ideally a person would like to use their personal skills and transferable skills. For example, a pastor might ideally want to use their personal skills of being warm and loving; transferable skills of counseling and teaching; and content skills of knowledge of the Bible within a church setting. Of course, those skills could also be used in other ministry setting such as mission organizations.
If you want help defining your personal skills, transferable and content skills, the CareerFitTest.com includes assessments for the three skill groups. The CareerFitTest.com will also enable you to use your results to explore jobs, make career decisions, write a winning resume, answer interview questions successfully, use the best strategies to cut your job search in half and ace the interview/salary negotiation process. Learn more.
6. An Understanding of Weaknesses
Church staffing committees desire pastors who are mature enough to know what their weaknesses are and are wise enough to ask for help when needed. A pastor may also commit to improving particular weaker areas to enhance their ministry.
While a pastor needs to be competent in the use of personal, transferrable and content skills that are needed for the job, they don’t need to be adept at all the skills that are needed to run a church.
7. An Understanding of Primary and Secondary Callings
Being a pastor is a hard job. To succeed there needs to be a clear calling from God. While all of mankind has a primary calling to salvation and discipleship (following Jesus), we also all have secondary callings. Secondary callings are life roles such as being a husband, wife, son, daughter, sister, brother, father, mother, neighbor and a worker. The worker role is what we describe as one’s “vocational calling.” A candidate for a pastor position needs to clearly feel that God has called them to be a pastor for their “vocational calling” to be successful.
A church will want to see that a candidate works to keep their primary calling primary through intentional personal spiritual disciplines such as prayer, Bible study, worship and fellowship. They want candidates who “seek first the kingdom of God” to keep their primary calling primary.
The “vocational calling” to be a pastor should be confirmed by references that a candidate provides and by the answers to interview questions. Those seeking pastor openings should be able to clearly describe a mission statement for following Christ (primary calling) and for being a pastor (secondary calling). They should also be able to describe their other secondary callings (husband, father, neighbor, etc.) and how they intentionally live out these callings. God doesn’t call any of us to be workaholics but instead calls us to a variety of secondary callings.
Churches want candidates who can clearly describe the needs that they feel called to meet. If you are applying for pastor openings, you can more effectively communicate your primary and secondary callings by writing mission statements that include the top skills (transferable, personal and content skills) needed for the work and the needs that you feel called to meet as a pastor.
8. A Passion to Share the Gospel
Churches want a pastor who is intentional about sharing the Gospel. They want pastors who don’t see the Great Commission as an abstract concept or something that others are supposed to do. The right pastor should be intentional about personal witnessing as well as sharing the good news in the pulpit on a regular basis.
9. A Visionary Servant – Leader
A visionary servant leader pastor ensures that the vision of the church is translated into clear goals as a part of a strategic plan for achieving those goals and visions. The pastor needs to equip, empower and encourage each member to take actions at an individual level and as part of the body of Christ.
It is also important to remember that the pastor is not the only key for church vision. The pastor will not have all the answers. As a servant leader, pastors need to be humble and accept that they do not have all the visions needed for meeting needs inside and outside of the church. Other servant leaders in the church can contribute to helping focus the church in living out its mission.
10. A Powerful Communicator
Having excellent verbal and written communication skills will allow the pastor to not only share visions and goals but also influence and motivate a congregation to live out that vision individually and as a body of Christ. The biblically-focused pastor, through the Holy Spirit, will be able to speak the truths of God into people’s lives that gives them encouragement to be persistent in their callings, peace in the midst of earthly struggles, and joy in knowledge of forgiveness of sin.
These are some of the key traits that pastor search committees seek in candidates. As you search for pastor jobs be sure to note the traits that individual churches are seeking for their pastor positions. If you have these traits be sure to describe them in your resume, cover letter and any other candidate materials that are requested. And when you are asked to interview, remind yourself of the personal, transferable and content skills that you want to communicate and the stories that prove you have those skills. This will help search committees to see who you are and how you can help meet the needs of their church.
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