written by: Sylvia Cochran•edited by: Sarah Malburg•updated: 8/31/2011
The call to the ministry is not conveniently timed right after high school and just before college. Instead, it may come at any time, no matter what your career path or familial obligations may be. Learn how to take online classes to become a pastor and fulfill your vocation.
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The Traditional Ministry Path
Depending on your particular denomination and faith community therein, the path to the ministry may be predetermined. It oftentimes requires formal seminary style training. In the alternative, it may require advanced degrees, such as a Doctor of Ministry degree or perhaps a Doctor of Divinity or Doctor of Theology.
Since there is a considerable shortage of individuals professing the call to the fulltime ministry, educational requirements have undergone some changes in certain denominations and faith communities. It is now acceptable to take classes online to become a pastor, and many of these do not have to be doctorate level coursework.
As a matter of fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that the 10 year growth projection for clergy workers is better than average, and the majority of applicants now have a master’s level education.
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The Nuts and Bolts of Online Christianity Coursework
Even though the minimum requirements have officially dropped from doctorate to master’s level education, it is interesting to note that there is now bachelor level coursework that seeks to prepare online students for a career in the full time ministry.
Liberty University is one virtual campus that offers a Bachelor of Science in Religion for aspiring pastors. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), and licensed by the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), this religious college offers a solid distance learning opportunity for future pastors.
The Bachelor of Science in Religion is a springboard that may be considered sufficient for employment in some ministry positions, or it may lead to a conditioned education at the graduate level or in the seminary. The school suggests a minor of Christian counseling to go with this bachelor degree, and successful graduates may serve their local congregation or enter the mission field.
Students with secular careers, those who receive the call to the ministry while being part of a faith community that does not have the budget to support a pastor in training, and those with families all appreciate the relative ease with which these online classes may be incorporated into their overall schedules.
Students who already have a four year degree may want to consider Southeastern University and its Master of Arts in Ministerial Leadership. Also accredited by SACS, this graduate degree builds on a basic understanding of Christian scriptures and prepares students for the practical aspects of everyday ministry decisions and scenarios.
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Caveat for the Student Choosing Classes Online to Become a Pastor
Prior to signing up for any coursework in response to your call to the ministry, discuss your learning paths with the elders in the church or those in leadership. Some faith communities have very well defined guidelines with respect to the kind of classes and degrees they will accept from aspiring pastors.
A good example is the collection of steps it takes to become a lay pastor at the Foothills Presbytery. This faith community has devised a very narrowly defined path that leads to ministry work, and applicants must fulfill each requirement before being considered.
Discuss the requirements of your faith community with those in leadership, and you will have an easier time deciding on which online Christianity courses to choose.