How Can I Become a Pastor?

Explore the career requirements for pastors. Get the facts about education requirements, job duties, and wages to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Pastoral Ministry degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Pastor?

Pastors conduct services and other spiritual functions within Christian congregations. Pastoral duties include leading religious ceremonies, such as baptisms, funerals, and weddings. They utilize text and references considered to be sacred, like the Bible, to promote spirituality and educate the public on faith. They may facilitate and/or organize religious educational programs. Refer to the table below to learn more about the requirements for this career.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree is common; optional Master of Divinity (M.Div.)
Key Skills Listening, speaking, writing, persuasion, service
Job Growth (2014-2024) 5-8% (for all clergy)*
Median Salary (2015) $44,250 (for all clergy)*

Source: *ONetOnline

How Do I Become a Pastor?

Becoming a pastor often begins at an early age. Young adults usually express feeling 'called by God' to become ordained or preach in a certain ministry. Creating and maintaining strong ties to your local faith community throughout your childhood and young adulthood may elevate your chances of one day becoming a pastor. You could become involved in activities like youth group programs, community outreach volunteering, group studies and mission trips to determine whether pastoral care is an interest.

Your next step will usually be to go to college to obtain a bachelor's degree in preparation for divinity school. Although some pastors don't receive their Master of Divinity (M.Div.) and still preach, more doors may be open to you if you do get a M.Div., since larger congregations are more likely to require one. Divinity school will provide you with ample coursework in areas of faith history, its theological frameworks and specific rites associated with your faith.

What Skills Should I Bring to the Altar?

Pastors are known for their powers of oratory, expression, rhetoric and motivation. A deep understanding of religious texts will also be expected, oftentimes supplemented by knowledge of ancient languages such as Greek, Hebrew and Arabic. The ability to give orders, stick to a timeline and perform specific religious ceremonies, like baptisms, are crucial to pastoral care. Having a knack for business management could help you keep your faith community's funds allocated to the right places. As all of these things and more will be expected of you, you must also maintain a continual demeanor of authority, dignity and piety.

What Could My Job Entail?

In addition to other faith-specific rites, as an ordained pastor, one of your primary duties is to lead religious services. Any day of the week you could also be helping families through baptisms, weddings, counseling or funerals. You'll also be expected to lead others in prayer and perhaps answer people's spiritual questions. At other times you'll need to care for physically and psychologically troubled followers, learn how to help resolve conflicts between individuals, couples and families and train others to fulfill the auxiliary needs and functions of your faith community.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Related careers include social and community service managers and directors of religious activities and education. Social and community service managers supervise the staff, administration and relationships of organizations that serve the public. Directors of religious activities and education design and publicize faith curriculum, as well as train staff. In both fields, many have a bachelor's degree.

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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