What Not to Do: Top 10 Résumé Mistakes from My Recent Children’s Minister Search


You can tell a lot about someone by their résumé. This is something I learned by looking at almost one hundred of them for my church’s search for a new children’s minister. (By the way, God sent us someone, and he is awesome.) A couple were great. A few were good. But many of them were bad. Like Cleveland Cavaliers minus LeBron bad.

When I was serving for a premier catering company in Chicago during my undergrad days, there was a phrase we used to throw around regarding the presentation of the plate: they take the first bite with their eyes. I’ve found this axiom to be true in so many contexts of life, not least of which the résumé.

The following ten mistakes were on résumés actually submitted, oftentimes on more than one. I’m sure no one who reads this blog would commit a faux pas such as is listed below when applying for a church position, so I post these for entertainment purposes only.

1. Don’t use exclamation points! And don’t use three in a row!!! This doesn’t convey excitement. It looks cheesy.

2. Don’t use a selfie if you are going to include a picture. Selfies are never, ever good in general. On a résumé? Yikes. Get a professional headshot taken.

3. Don’t use Clip Art pictures or any ornamentation from Word 95. In this day and age, Clip Art is the equivalent of digital finger painting. It says I have a preschool level grasp of graphic design.

4. Don’t include your high school under “Education” on your résumé. (No comment.)

5. Don’t ignore the filename of your résumé. I received résumés named “Counseling” and “Youth Pastor” for a children’s ministry position. I may be just another fish you’re firing at in the job hunt barrel. But don’t let me know it.

6. Don’t send a form cover letter to accompany your resumé. Some cover letters didn’t mention anything about why they would make an effective children’s minister. Instead, it contained a menagerie of non-specific ministry-speak, which told me this was a canned letter sent with every résumé, no matter what the position. Write a cover letter for each individual position you are inquiring about.

7. Don’t use three different fonts on your application. You don’t want to give someone a headache before you’re even working for them. If you are going to use more than one font, only use two, and keep one for headings and the other for the body.

8. Don’t use Comic Sans as the font for anything in your application packet. Like selfies, Comic Sans is never okay. (Neither is Papyrus.)

9. Don’t overdo personal information. I received more than one résumé that put the names and ages of parents and siblings in the first section of the document. I’ve got nothing against both your parents being in their late 50’s, but that information just doesn’t set you apart from other applicants in a good way.

10. Don’t include Microsoft Word under “Computer Skills”. HTML, CSS, or Photoshop? Absolutely. Word or PowerPoint? No, thank you. Those are kinda expected.

I know that I never met the people who submitted these less-than-stellar résumés. I don’t doubt that they are nice, godly people. Some of them might have even made good candidates. But the résumé, application, and cover letter does not only communicate a person’s experience and skills, it also sets expectations for the kind of work someone does. And many applicants set expectations of casualness, lack of social awareness, and immaturity through what they wrote and how they presented it.

(Image credit)


  1. If you send a form letter as a cover, and work hard at making it sound personal and freshly written, proofread it before you send it so as to not miss any of the blanks you need to fill in. A cover letter that we got during a search for a youth minister spoke glowingly of how he was certain that the Holy Spirit was telling him that he would a very good fit for ” [church name] “.

    • Eric McKiddie says:

      Oooh. I didn’t get a Holy Spirit trump card in our search, but if I had, that definitely would have made this list.