Book Review: Don't Just Send a Resume, by Benjamin Vrbicek
Five years ago, after attending seminary, I began searching for a job in pastoral ministry. All of my work experience until that time was as a corporate professional in the oil and gas industry. When my wife and I both agreed that it was time to transition to ministry, I did what I had always done when looking for a job: I sent out resumes to any and every church position that looked appealing.
I eventually found myself in conversation with multiple churches at once, and, to my shame, I even ghosted a church that had been interested in me after I took another position. I’ve since made amends with the leaders of that church, but the problems and sin could’ve been avoided if I wouldn’t have imported my experiences 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 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. I needed Benjamin Vrbicek’s Don’t Just Send a Resume.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?
Vrbicek’s goal is “to get those who are trained to help—pastors—on the path to those churches who need their help.” But before jumping into the weeds of the pastoral search process, Vrbicek instructs aspiring pastor’s to focus on their identity in Christ, reminding them of the necessity of prayer, and a healthy and robust reliance upon the sovereignty and goodness of God. After these edifying reflections, he then considers the job search process; offering advice on everything from cover letters and resumes to compensation negotiations. I was also grateful to see advice for men pursuing pastoral positions who had no previous pastoral experience, something I’ve not seen frequently discussed. 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 end of each chapter also includes contributions from various pastors and practitioners who give unique insights from their own experiences and expertise. Additionally, two appendices provide a checklist pastoral candidates should take in the job search process. These appendices not only provide a summary of the book, they also contain a list of questions candidates should ask a potential church— a valuable resource I wish I would’ve had access to years ago.
MORE THAN A JOB MANUAL
Perhaps the most compelling aspect of Vrbicek’s book is the way he consistently points readers to the gospel. As noted, Vrbicek’s introductory chapter focuses on union with Christ, God’s goodness and sovereignty, and prayer. But those ideas aren’t limited to the opening chapters. He sprinkles the good news throughout the book, even in the midst of discussing practical issues regarding searching for a ministry position.
For instance, Vrbicek writes: “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, he “un-greases” a sometimes slimy feeling process by rooting “networking” in the unity we have with one another 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.”
Vrbicek also offers sage advice on salary negotiations:
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.”
Vrbicek provides these types of meaningful, theological-informed reflections throughout.
Vrbicek’s book has a number of helpful features. Let me highlight two.
First, Vrbicek reminds everyone transitioning into a ministry position—whether for the first time or moving from one church to another—that their success is not found in effectiveness for Christ, but in faithfulness to Christ. Many pastors, even aspiring ones, can fall prey to the idea that their success in ministry is something measurable. But in reality, God’s approval of a minister is not based on any human metric. Pastors will will be judged on their consistency, faithfulness, and Christlikeness—qualities only the Holy Spirit can reliably measure. Dependence on the gospel, rather than skill or rhetoric, is the crucial attribute needed in many pulpits today.
Second, if you have young men in your congregation looking for ministerial employment, Don’t Just Send a Resume is a great resource for them to read not only at the beginning of their journey, but throughout. Particularly for those who feel discouraged in their search for a ministry position, Vrbicek’s insistence on remembering the gospel and the character of God will provide a comforting word to those who feel overlooked or frustrated at God’s providence.
Don’t Just Send a Resume addresses far more than resumes, cover letters, and interview strategies. It’s a thoughtful reflection on how the gospel shapes our understanding of our journey into local church ministry. 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.