Is it good to include church volunteer work on your resume? Is it helpful?
I’m going to commit a little resume blasphemy here. If volunteer service with a respected community organization is a key part of your life and something which is part of your “public identity”, you absolutely should mention it on your resume. This includes significant church volunteer roles, community service, and the Boy Scouts. These groups enhance your professional skills, relationships, and personal impact.
There are many reasons why a job seeker might want to include a volunteer service at the end of their resume. Some of them include; following the church service, volunteering in a local soup kitchen, volunteering at a local church, or doing a community service project.
The Potential Risks (of Church Volunteer Work on Resume)
Let’s talk about the potential downsides for a moment:
- There’s a small segment of the population who will judge you for volunteering with organizations who support your beliefs
- Certain HR bureaucrats in large companies squirm at you disclosing any information which places you in a protected class
By the way… anyone small minded enough to not hire you due to your beliefs is likely to be a horrific manager. The journey is long and there’s a lot of grey area in how they manage you, without HR protection.
Do you really want to work for an outright bigot who doesn’t accept or tolerate your beliefs? For whom volunteer jobs are a bad thing? Sure, you can sue them for discrimination but that’s an emotionally draining waste of time. Just move on…
I’m not seeing this as a huge loss, personally….
The Potential Upside
While there are risks of disclosing volunteer service, there are some notable advantages.
First, community loyalties run deep. Remember the first round of the resume review process will be decided by the top few candidates from a very large pile of resumes. You’re looking to give someone a reason to kick your resume onto the short list, to get a chance at the opportunities. Most religious groups and service groups are naturally inclined to help their own. This is especially true if you made significant contributions or held challenging roles.
You should also be quick to use connections with these groups to get introductions. A referral from someone who knows you and can endorse your work can be particularly powerful. There is an excellent chance you will get at least a courtesy interview.
Second, this sends a powerful message about your engagement and activity level in the event you are currently out of work. Which candidate would you hire?
- Split time between playing video games, watching daytime TV, and web surfing
- Stepped up to assume a volunteer role with a worthy organization. Ideally one where you could keep your professional skills sharp or learn new technical skills.
Absent other issues, I’d hire the second candidate, even if I didn’t agree with their views. Seriously, which candidate here is demonstrating they’re hard-working and reliable?
Third, volunteer organizations are often a great way to get your first exposure to a new skill. They’re usually short on cash and need the technical and administrative services. A member stepping up to fill a gap will often be given a chance to work on a project for free. Naturally, you can use this project as a reference for future work.
This can be an excellent way to transition hobby skills into a full time career option.
Volunteer Titles for Resume
So you want to mention your volunteer experience. Fantastic. Let’s talk about how to describe this appropriately. If you’re too dramatic in how your describe volunteer titles, you’re going to quickly lose credibility with your audience.
My best advice? Be Humble.
If you held a well known office, such as being the committee chair for a Boy Scout troop, you can certainly mention it on those terms. Otherwise describe it on purely functional terms. Employers are familiar with non-profit volunteers fluffing their titles.
So don’t describe yourself as “IT Director” after building your church’s website after hours. A real IT director probably has a couple of dozen people reporting to them. You’re not at that level. A more humble “web developer” will get you further…
When To Play It Safe
One notable exception to the above: situations when you are already a hot candidate.
If you already have a senior person inside of the organization actively lobbying them to hire you, you should keep your resume as vanilla as possible. Claims should be simple, closely aligned with the job, and non-controversial. Don’t rock the boat with personality. The job is basically yours to lose. Don’t list anything controversial ( politics, special causes, church volunteer work on resume, etc.). Keep your resume bland, boring, and basic. Save your personality for the face-to-face conversation where you can quickly adjust your message if you realize the hiring manager doesn’t agree with you.
Use your inside contact and strong interview prep as a tractor beam to pull in an offer.
Topic: church volunteer work on resume
Thank you for this post. I am applying for a management position for the first time and my primary leadership development and accomplishments came through leading a large church ministry for 7 years with 10 coaches and 60 small group leaders. Even though I have been encouraged by my own manager, I have to admit that it feels daunting to include something that can be seen in such a controversial light in the current climate. Here I go!!!