What Are the Duties of a Church Pastor?

Research what it takes to become a church pastor. Learn about qualifications, career outlook and potential salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Pastoral Ministry degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information At a Glance

Church pastors provide spiritual leadership to a church's congregation as well as within their community. The following chart provides an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required Master of Divinity is typical
Education Field of Study Religious studies; philosophy; theology
Key Skills Listening and tact; communication; virtue; resolving conflict
Job Growth (2012-2022) 10% (for all clergy)*
Average Salary (2013) $47,540 (for all clergy)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are a Church Pastor's Duties?

A church pastor leads his or her congregation in worship during weekend and weekday services. As a pastor, you also read and instruct on holy texts. You may conduct important services at weddings, funerals, nursing facilities and the homes of the sick. Other, more public ecclesiastical duties can include overseeing Sunday school programs and training associate pastors, deacons, elders or the laity.

As heads of their churches, pastors also have a number of administrative duties. You organize the music for worship services, update the church's schedule of events and oversee staff and church maintenance personnel. Charity and community outreach work, combined with your church's business needs and record keeping, can also fall under your governance. Additionally, you perform networking duties and maintain communication with fellow pastors, bishops or religious leaders of other faiths. You might gather together with them for symposiums, cooperative ministries and joint meetings.

Needed Qualities for the Job

To succeed as a pastor, you should be a good counselor and listener, with an encouraging and open demeanor. You may be more successful if you're also honest, responsible and committed to bettering your community. Many pastors are trusted with private matters that lay members of the church discuss with them, so your parishioners will want you to be tactful.

Your communication skills, both oral and written, should show originality, as well as provoke theological and philosophical thought. Wisdom, kindness, patience and other virtuous practices are also expected of you as a pastor. If you serve as a mediator between members of the community, you need to be skilled at conflict resolution and stress management.

How Do I Become a Pastor?

While some pastors start their own churches, many go to school; a common degree for pastors is a Master of Divinity (M.Div.). Before starting a program, you must earn a bachelor's degree from an accredited 4-year university and possibly meet a GPA requirement. It could be helpful to major in a related field like religious studies, philosophy or the foreign languages of Greek, Latin and Hebrew. During a M.Div. graduate program, you study topics such as exegesis, church history, theology, the Old and New Testament, counseling and ministry development. After completing coursework combined with real-life practice, you could be ordained as a pastor, allowing you to work in religious settings that coincide with your beliefs.

What Kind of Salary Can I Expect?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 45,020 clergy members were employed as of May 2013, and they earned a wide range of salaries (www.bls.gov). That same report showed that the average yearly wage for these workers was $47,540. The top ten percent of clergy members, however, made $76,660 or more annually, while the bottom ten percent of wage earners took in $22,440 or less per year, the BLS reported. The BLS projected the job growth outlook for clergy during the 2012-2022 decade to be 10%.

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