Is it OK for pastors to engage in self-promotion while job hunting? Christians are called to be humble and often feel uncomfortable conducting the “self-promotion” that is needed for successful job search activities. As we provide career counseling to Christian men and women, they often struggle with talking about their strengths as it feels like boasting.
When working with clients who are targeting ministry jobs, they often describe how writing down their career accomplishments for the purpose of writing a resume and interviewing feels inappropriate as a Christian. This view often negatively impacts what they communicate in their resume and during interviews, and may unnecessarily prolong their job search. So, what do Christians need to consider to develop a productive and biblically sound perspective on self-marketing in their job search?
When we work with those who are job hunting for pastor jobs or other ministry employment, we address how they can successfully “showcase” their qualifications (skills and experience) and prove that they can meet the needs of the church or ministry. With the proper perspective, Christians can promote themselves effectively in their job search, performance evaluations, and business marketing while maintaining their sense of humility. The following are three keys that represent a biblical view of representing oneself for pastor or ministry employment.
1) Recognize that you serve others best when you give them an accurate picture of what you can do for them.
You do not serve a prospective employer well by under-representing your skills and experience. This may be a well-intentioned, yet erroneous and detrimental understanding of “humility.” Employers cannot read your mind. If you genuinely believe that you could do well in a given ministry position, you best serve the employer by helping them to gain a full understanding of what you can do and how you can be of benefit to the church or ministry. In doing this, you provide the employer with the information needed to make a good decision about your suitability to meet their needs.
2) Acknowledge and remind yourself daily that you are God’s handiwork. Your abilities, therefore, are not your own, but are valuable gifts God has given you to use in serving others. You are God’s workmanship and all that you can do ultimately comes from the talents that God has given to you. While you may have invested time, energy, and money in developing your gifts, becoming educated, and/or mastering a craft, the potential to do anything comes from God.
In his book, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis presents a conversation between two devils in which they are discussing the “Enemy” (that is, God), their “patient” (the Christian they are tempting) and “the virtue of Humility.” Lewis contrasts a false view of humility with God’s perspective:
By this virtue, as by all the others, our Enemy wants to turn the man’s attention away from self to Him, and to the man’s neighbors….You must therefore conceal from the patient the true end of Humility. Let him think of it not as self-forgetfulness but as a certain kind of opinion (namely a low opinion) of his own talents and character…. Fix in him mind the idea that humility consists in trying to believe those talents to be less valuable than he believes…. By this method thousands of humans have been brought to think that humility means pretty women trying to believe they are ugly and clever men trying to believe they are fools….
To anticipate the Enemy’s strategy, we must consider His aims. The Enemy wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the, fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. The Enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbour’s talents-or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall. He wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognize all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things.
God created you; you are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14). It is false humility to pretend otherwise. Christian humility acknowledges the value of who God has created you to be and what He enables you to do, but always keeps in mind the Source of your gifts and abilities and the purpose for which He has given them to you.
3) Strive to be a humble servant leader.
The New Testament tells us that we are called to have an attitude of service in whatever we do, because we are ultimately serving God: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…” (Colossians 3:23); “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men…” (Ephesians 6:7).
When you think about your professional ministry goals, do you focus on what you want to get from the ministry role, and church or what you want to give to them? Focusing on serving others in your work is a spiritual safeguard against becoming prideful or arrogant. Also, by focusing on the needs of the ministry or church, you will be much more successful in answering interview questions.
So, is it OK for Christians to engage in talking about their skills, abilities and gifts during a job search? Yes, as long as you are truthful; focus on how you can serve the prospective church/ministry; and, recognize that all you can do ultimately comes from the hand of God. Whether you are job searching or seeking to grow in your work, with this perspective you can engage wholeheartedly in self-marketing as a means of opening doors to new opportunities in which God is calling you to use your gifts.