At Work

How to Make Your Ministry Experience Matter in Any Job

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As a career coach at a state university, I regularly have students from Christian ministries come into my office for résumé reviews and practice interviews. During these conversations, they struggle to translate their experiences at their campus ministries into transferable life skills. They often ask, “What does leading this Bible study have to do with a job?” or, “Does this international ministry trip add any value to my résumé?” The answer is, as it nearly always is, “Yes it’s valuable, but you have to talk about it in the language that is relevant to the employer.”

Let me give a quick example. An education major lists, “Led a Bible study” on her résumé for a public school job. That school, likely, is not looking for a Bible study leader. However, they are looking for teachers who have experience creating curriculum and lesson plans, teaching, managing group dynamics, and who can create a flyer advertising upcoming events. Did you do any of those things as part of leading your Bible study? Yes? Great; say that.

I realize that this is a fairly simplistic example and some situations will call for more nuance, but the fact remains: the skills that you have gained in ministry are often transferable to an employer’s needs. In fact, they are the eight secret ingredients for which the employer is looking. Well, maybe the ingredients themselves are no secret, but the fact that these transferable skills are part of the very fabric of a biblical worldview and ministry experience seems to be one.

I am going to let you in on these not-so-secret ingredients (which I will refer to as “competencies” and “transferable skills”). In future posts, I will provide practical examples of how you may have already developed a couple of these through your ministry experiences and how you can articulate these throughout your job search. But first, let me say this: the source that identified these eight transferable skills is based on national research.

The Eight Competencies Necessary for Any Job 

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) is the leading source of information on the employment of the college-educated, as well as hiring and trends in the job market. They track starting salaries and recruiting and hiring practices, as well as student attitudes and outcomes. NACE reports that “the career readiness of college graduates is an important issue in higher education, in the labor market, and in the public arena.” They have developed a definition of career readiness, based on extensive research among employers, and identified eight competencies that indicate a person’s preparedness for the workforce. 

It would be discouraging to find out that these eight competencies were specific skills that are achievable only by uniquely gifted individuals (e.g. “Must be knowledgeable of xyz software development…and love calculus”) or that the competencies somehow contradicted your personal values (e.g. “Must be willing to prioritize work over personal life at all cost”). The good news is that these competencies directly align with a biblical worldview:

  1. Career & Self-Development
  2. Communication
  3. Critical Thinking
  4. Equity & Inclusion
  5. Leadership
  6. Professionalism
  7. Teamwork
  8. Technology

In future articles, we will explore a couple of these competencies and how they are developed in Christian ministry.

Editor’s Note: This article is adapted from the new booklet Qualified: How To Think About Your Ministry Experience In Relation To Your Job Search by Jeff Eads, available now on Amazon.

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