How Can I Become a Christian Minister?

Learn about the educational degrees that can lead to a career as a Christian minister along with information about ordination. Find out about the key skills and typical responsibilities that many ministers have. Schools offering Chaplaincy degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Christian Minister?

A Christian minister will perform a multitude of religious services, research church doctrine and provide spiritual guidance. While being well-educated in philosophy, theology, and other disciplines is part of becoming a minister, it's more important that Christian ministers have the right personality for the job. This includes being service oriented, with acute social perceptiveness and good listening and communication skills. This is because their job might involve any combination of preparing and delivering sermons, counseling individuals, resolving conflict, and organizing community activities.

Here is an overview of the requirements for becoming a minister:

Degree Required Varies; some positions may only require a high school diploma, but a bachelor's or master's degree is typical
Education Field of Study Theology, divinity
Key Responsibilities Perform various religious services, counsel, organize sermons, read & write church text, lead in prayer
Key Skills Compassion, empathy, humility, research, public speaking
Licensure Ordination and state license typically required
Job Growth (2014-2024) 6% (for all clergy)*
Average Salary (2015) $48,150 (for all clergy)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Education Do I Need to Become a Christian Minister?

Various educational options are available to you if you're interested in becoming a Christian minister. According to O*Net OnLine, roughly 67% of clergy members have master's degrees, while 24% have bachelor's degrees and 8% have a post-baccalaureate certificate .(www.onetonline.org).

You might consider completing an undergraduate program in theology before advancing to a graduate program, such as a Master of Divinity (M.Div.). In a M.Div. program, you'll likely divide your time between traditional classroom courses, courses involving the practice of religious sacraments and spiritual out-of-class commitments. A typical program may require you to participate in spiritual formation groups, perform approved fieldwork or build a student portfolio. A good timeline for this process, from enrolling in graduate school to getting your M.Div., is about three years.

Do I Need to Get Ordained?

Ordination is a process that allows Christian ministers to perform certain religious ceremonies, such as marriages and funerals, as well as religious rites, such as baptism and confirmation. Qualifications for ordination vary by denomination. According to the National Association of Christian Ministers, the ordination process may involve confessing to the Christian faith, meeting ethical standards and passing an interview (www.nacministers.com).

What Qualities Should I Possess?

'Minister' means to serve, so being humble before others is an important trait to develop and maintain. You must be knowledgeable on both the latest trends in Christianity and its ancient scriptures, thinkers and history. Studying another language, like Koine Greek, Hebrew and/or Latin, may help you to administer the Word. Christian ministers also can benefit from a keen sense of social awareness, poise and tact if they are to sway unbelievers and bolster the faithful.

What Obligations Will I Have?

You'll likely be asked to pray multiple times a day, over individuals, groups, the sick and at meals. You'll also conduct weddings, funerals, baptisms and communion at weekday, weekend and celebratory masses. In addition to these and other common ministerial duties such as preaching, writing letters and sermons, analyzing texts and edifying the poor in spirit, you might be obliged to raise money for your church, manage certain business and legal matters and network with other ministers.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are several secular career fields to consider if you know you'd like to help others and be involved in community outreach. One is to become a community service manager, who coordinates the activities of an outreach organization or social service program. This managerial role could include hiring or directing staff, managing a budget, or overseeing daily operations, and a bachelor's degree is the typical minimum requirement. Another option, if you're willing to pursue a master's or doctoral degree, is to become a counseling psychologist. These professionals assess patients and help diagnose and treat their social or developmental difficulties.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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