Congratulations! You are either graduating from Dallas Theological Seminary or a graduate! To help you navigate your transition into ministry and avoid potential pitfalls along the way, we have tried to anticipate your questions. We might not address all the specifics that apply to your situation, so please feel free to contact us personally. We consider it a privilege to speak with you!

So where do you begin? Let us take it step-by-step.

Step 1: Pray

Pray for God’s wisdom and guidance as you make decisions regarding your future ministry. Spend significant time in God’s Word and pray as you seek his direction. If your spiritual disciplines have slipped, get back on track. Make time with Jesus Christ the priority in your life (John 15:4–5).

Step 2: Gather your Thoughts

A number of questions may kick start your focus. 

“I’m about ready to graduate. When do I start the process?” 

Career Services encourages you to begin the placement process during your final year of seminary. Beginning the process anywhere from six to twelve months prior to graduation is normal. 

“I’m currently in a ministry. When is it time to leave?” 

First, realize for those currently in ministry, a transition will probably take twelve to eighteen months. So plan accordingly! Second, remember in any ministry transition, God often releases you from your current ministry before he calls you to another. Have you been released from your current ministry? Search God’s heart and timing regarding your current ministry situation. 

“When should I tell church leadership I am considering a transition?” 

You should probably talk to leadership when you know God has released you from your current ministry and you are seriously talking with other ministries. The ideal time to tell leadership is when you have made a decision to pursue another ministry and a departure date can be established.

Step 3: Contact Career Services at Dallas Theological Seminary

Career Services exists solely to assist and direct you, providing you with resources that aid you throughout your search process. Visit https://alumni.dts.edu/career-services/for-graduates/ to see how Career Services can support you. Begin thinking through clarifying questions. Where do you feel called to serve? What area of the country best fits your calling?

Step 4: Prepare your Resume

A key ingredient for a successful ministry search is your resume. Ministry resumes are different than business resumes. They not only represent what you can do but who you are. Make sure your resume is personal. A ministry resume should be three to four pages, showing where you have served and your passion for ministry. Make sure your resume highlights what you want it to highlight. Does it accurately reflect your personality, strengths, desires, philosophy, and passion for ministry?
Once you have completed your resume, sign into the DTS Job Board and upload your resume under “My Documents.” Once uploaded, Career Services will review your resume and send edits for your approval. Once Career Services approves your resume, it is uploaded to your public profile on the job board. Once you publish your profile, you can share your profile with potential employers that interest you, and every time you apply for a job via the Job Board MOL, the MOL will automatically pull your resume from your profile, making it easier and faster to disperse your resume.

Your references should include people from a variety of backgrounds who can give personal accounts of your character and what you are like in a ministry setting. Career Services is ready to help you craft your resume. Recommendations and examples as well as resume editing are available at https://alumni.dts.edu/resume-cover-letters/.

Remember that during this time any thought of a transition is probably tougher on your family than it is on you. Keep your spouse close and allow him or her ample time to voice any fears or concerns. Spend a lot of quality time together.

Step 5: Practice Honest Self-Reflection

Do some honest self-reflection. Where have you been in the past, and where would you like to see yourself in the future? Who are you? What are your natural abilities? What are your spiritual gifts? What is your experience? What might be a good fit in a new ministry setting? Where have you seen God use you in the past? Talk to your spouse, close friends, and other ministers for honest feedback. Be honest with yourself. This is not a dream sheet indicating where you would like to serve but a realistic appraisal of how God has used you in the past. 

After some honest self-reflection, ask where you want to be in the future. Is God leading you to a different pastoral role? Has he given you the desire and qualifications to do something different? As part of your self-reflection, clarify your position on certain issues you know will come up in future conversations. Some of these questions might surface due to something you discover in your resume. Other questions might surface due to issues the church has faced over the years. For example, what is your position regarding divorce and remarriage? How do you view church government?

Step 6: Access the Ministry Opportunity Listing

As a last-year student or alumni, you receive access to the full-time job board, our Ministry Opportunity Listing (MOL)(https://alumni.dts.edu/find-a-job/). This listing includes all new and relisted opportunities in churches, schools, missions, and para-church organizations received by the seminary.
Here is how it works:

• When a church or organization contacts Dallas Theological Seminary with a full-time ministry opportunity, its information is collected and posted on the MOL.
• When the ministry opportunity is posted, a search for a match between the ministry and candidate begins. You can upload your resume to your profile. Uploading your resume can catch the eyes of potential recruiters!
• You can follow up with ministries who check out your resume and send your resume to those ministries that intrigue you.

This process has proved effective and successful for both ministries and candidates. Ministries like it because they receive initial resumes quickly for evaluation. They then receive more resumes over the following weeks from individuals who have shown interest in the ministry opportunity.
Candidates like it because they know their resume is being sent out when appropriate. Plus they are able to see all the ministry opportunities Dallas Theological Seminary receives and to send their resume to potential employers. The MOL also allows you to scan the board for jobs, saving those listings that interest you as you go along so you can return to them latter. You can also follow ministries that interest you, so you can stay up-to-date on their listings as they appear. You cane also share your profile with those employers that interest you as well as create shareable links to your MOL profile to platforms like X (whatever) or LinkedIn. The MOL will also generate lists of job openings based on your views, career interests, and major.
We also list other job boards for you to investigate at
https://alumni.dts.edu/find-a-job/. If interested in serving within a particular denomination, contact the denomination about using their placement system. If appropriate, provide your family and friends with a copy of your resume, and let them know you are looking for a ministry.

Step 7: Be Proactive

Regularly check the MOL and proactively send your resume to possible opportunities. Include a personal cover letter. A well-worded email stands in place of a cover letter. Information about cover letters is available at https://alumni.dts.edu/resume-cover-letters/.
After a week, it is appropriate to call the contact person to see if they have received your resume and if you can provide any additional information.
This is what may be happening on the ministry’s end:

• Usually, they take the first wave of applications and sift out the ones that are obviously not a good fit. Hopefully they will contact any candidates who did not make it past the first cut.
• If interested, the ministry may send you a questionnaire to gather more information. These questionnaires can sometimes be quite extensive. Save your responses since you may use the same answers for multiple questionnaires with different ministries.
• After they have received the completed questionnaires, the ministry will narrow the potential candidates down to approximately five to seven people.

• With the five remaining candidates, they usually call for a phone or video interview. Career Services has a list of questions for both the ministry and candidate to help them think through issues to discuss. These questions can be used during the initial interview and the candidating process, available at
https:// alumni.dts.edu/interview-preparation/.
• After the phone interview, they may ask for preaching samples and start checking references.
• The next step is face-to-face meetings. Either they will travel to you, asking you to meet at a neutral site, or have you visit the church.
• If all goes well, the next step is candidating following their constitutional procedures.

Pay attention to your interactions with the church. Watch how they treat you and how they conduct the interviews. Notice the little things. Are they sensitive to your needs? Notice the questions they ask, and the questions they do not ask. Make sure the church matches your style and personality. Remember you are going for a good fit, not a fast fit.

Remember, church searches take time. They are not intentionally trying to be slow; it is the nature of the process. It takes time to disperse all the material to everyone who needs to see it and then get everyone together to make the next decision. So, be patient.
“What is the average number of resumes that applicants send out before being offered a position?”
A couple of variables come into play. The more experience you have, the more opportunities you will likely receive. The more open you are to considering any opportunity, the more likely you will be called to a ministry in a short period of time. If you send your resume out to thirty or forty ministries, you will most likely be in a very good position to receive a call. It is typical to hear back from 10 percent of the ministries where you send your resume, so do not be alarmed or get discouraged. You may need to expand your geographical considerations and/or your desired ministry options to stimulate more interest.

Step 8: Evaluate Materials

Once a ministry has contacted you for an interview, they will likely send you information or direct you to their ministry’s website for you to review. This might include their complete doctrinal statement, constitution and bylaws, budget, a detailed job description, ministry philosophy, and their vision and mission statement and core values.
Pay attention to the materials they send. Are there areas of disagreement? How much money did they allocate for giving over the last five years? Remember you are going to live and die by the constitution. Make sure you understand how it works and what it says. The likelihood of their constitution being changed is very remote.
Gather information to aid the interview and decision-making process.

• Doctrinal statements should be in agreement.
• What biblical qualities and spiritual gifts are they seeking? Your discernment of what they are truly looking for is extremely important to ensure a compatible fit for you and your family.
• Have a clear understanding of the job description and the expectations of the leadership.

  • Know the strengths and weaknesses of the church. What challenges does this church face in the future?
    • What is leadership planning for the next five years? What are they working toward, and how do you fit into their plans?
    • What is the history of the church? Remember you are committing to a church that brings its own set of baggage. Notice what they emphasize. Do they talk more about their spiritual growth or their budget and church building?
    • What is the community like? Is it growing?
    • What is the average profile of a church member? Describe this person. Does that description match the demographic God is calling you to serve?

Step 9: Candidate

The formal candidating process involves a number of contacts with a variety of people. You will probably be in meetings with at least the search committee and the board. Depending on the position, you may preach at a morning or evening service or teach a class. In all these interactions, the leadership observes how you handle yourself, your communication style, and how the congregation receives you.

At this point in the process, you may be the only candidate they are considering. It is very reasonable to inquire about the timeline for making a decision and transition.

Be prepared to provide any financial information concerning indebtedness or background information to obtain a background check. Your life at this stage becomes an open book for evaluation.

Remember your primary goal is to minister to the people and not just candidate for another job. Also remember if you have eight or ten people sitting around a table, you have eight or ten different expectations to meet. When they state the church is interested in evangelism, what exactly does that mean? Are they interested in being equipped to do the work of evangelism? Or are they interested in you doing all the evangelism? Alleviate as many surprises as you can! Observe what is happening during your candidating period.

Keep praying! 

Step 10: Evaluate the Call

At some churches or ministries an individual has the authority to offer a position. At others, the vote of the congregation to call a minister is required. Ask the leadership prior to the vote what they view as acceptable. As a general rule, in most voting situations where the congregation is involved, the senior pastor should receive at least a 90 percent positive vote in order to accept the call. The church constitution might accept a smaller margin. Feel free to contact Career Services to discuss your unique circumstances. 

Carefully evaluate the financial package. Is the financial package commensurate with the giving and median income of the church? Will this financial package require your spouse to work? How is your family situation going to change in the future? Are additional children planned? How are you planning to pay for college, replacing your automobile, and saving for retirement and health needs?

If you are a finalist and the church has yet to discuss compensation, you should ask a member of the search committee for information. The salary discussion should flow naturally out of a realization that you are a potential match. Career Services has resources available to help you determine the average salary for various positions in every region of the country. It is very common for churches to be unaware of salary changes over the years. A good general benchmark for a geographic area is the yearly income for a school principal who holds a master’s degree. Make sure you include all benefits. Find information about compensation and a compensation report tool at https://alumni.dts.edu/compensation-guidance/.

If married, listen to your spouse! He or she will have insights you might not possess. This decision must be a joint decision and completely agreed upon by you both. Be intentional about praying together concerning this opportunity. 

Step 11: Accept the Call

In any decision-making process there are usually objective and subjective factors that influence the decision. Objective factors include location, type of ministry, direction of the church, size, and the people extending the call. Subjective factors involve your own spiritual life and giftedness in the Lord. 

Trust God with your decision. Make the best decision you can with the information you have at the time. Choose what you believe to be the best decision for you and your family.

Once you formally accept the call, bring closure to your current ministry and celebrate your new beginning. Take advantage of any time off during the transition. Make the move, rest, get settled, and adjust to life in your new area. If you have a family, they will also appreciate this time to orient themselves to their new surroundings and daily routines.

Prepare yourself for all the unexpected expenses that accompany a move. Be emotionally, spiritually, and physically prepared for unique situations that arise. Some (but not all) ministries may help pay for all or a portion of your relocation cost. You can ask for relocation assistance but certainly do not demand it.

Step 12: Begin your Ministry

Now that you have officially started your new ministry, where should you focus? The temptation is to study hard, prepare for sermons, and present an action plan for the next three months. While important, do not make these your primary focus. Build relationships with the leadership and the congregation. Let people know you are there to serve and minister to them. Do basic visitation. Unless the ministry has asked you to make significant changes, take the first year to build trust, understand the people, and absorb the ministry’s yearly cycle. 

Remember you are a servant of Christ, and he has placed you where he wants you. It is a privilege and honor to serve fellow believers in church and ministry settings. Remember to maintain a healthy balance between ministry and family time to prevent burnout. 

Know that the Career Services Office at Dallas Theological Seminary is always here to encourage, engage, and equip you for ministry. Be faithful. Press on, and finish the race well.

Available Resources

Career Services at Dallas Theological Seminary can assist you with the following topics:

  • Career Advising
  • Resume Development and Cover Letters 
  • Mock Interviews and Interview Questions
  • Compensation Considerations
  • Job Transitions 

Contact Career Services at careerservices@dts.edu or 214-887-5106. Explore our website for more information (https://alumni.dts.edu/).