Students typically pursue a bachelor's degree in Christian ministry because they desire career opportunities that allow them to spread the word of God. A ministry degree can serve as a stepping stone to seminary school or a direct path to entry-level work in churches, schools, and business.
Over the course of four years, on-campus and online ministry degree students participate in biblical study and leadership development. Some programs offer broad study of ministry, while others focus on ministering to specific populations like youth and families. Continue reading this guide to hear from an expert, receive program selection tips, and learn more about ministry program admissions, curriculum, and career opportunities.
What Is Ministry?
Ministry is service to God and service to people in God's name. We most commonly associate ministry with ordained ministers, pastors, and preachers, who perform acts of ministry for a living, but anyone is capable of engaging in ministry activities. Other types of ministers include nonordained youth pastors, volunteer missionaries, faith-based nonprofit workers, owners of faith-based businesses, and individual Christians who look for everyday opportunities to help others.
Ministry serves several important purposes in the Christian faith. In a broad context, ministry seeks to bring more people into the religion by sharing information about God, Jesus Christ, and other biblical teachings. Within the context of individual churches, ministry goals include increasing membership, attendance, active participation, and spirituality. Ministry also includes acts of service -- such as those completed by global missionaries -- that help meet the physical, emotional, mental, vocational, or financial needs of others, regardless of their personal faith.
A bachelor's degree in ministry engages students in rigorous study of the Bible, theology, and leadership methods. Visit the program page to learn more.
What You Can Do With a Bachelor's in Ministry
Earning a bachelor's in ministry prepares students for a variety of careers. Degree-holders may find work in schools, healthcare facilities, churches, and community outreach centers. Religious professionals are often motivated by helping individuals and communities through Christian teachings.
- Social and Community Service Manager
Social service managers are responsible for the coordination and supervision of community organizations. They help facilitate funding, evaluate the effectiveness of programs, and perform outreach activities to increase community awareness of social services. Often, community service managers are employed by churches and other nonprofit institutions.
Median Annual Salary: $65,320*
- High School Teacher
Professionals with ministry degrees may teach within religion-based schools or schools that offer religious studies classwork. A master's in ministry is typically required to become a professor and teach at the postsecondary level.
Median Annual Salary: $60,320*
- Training and Development Specialist
Religious organizations look for individuals with a background in business to spread theological and biblical messages in various industries. People aiming to work in business with a Christian viewpoint benefit by studying business and ministry.
Median Annual Salary: $60,870*
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Online ministry degree graduates go on to find meaningful work in a variety of industries and workplaces. Explore even more opportunities with our career guide.
What to Expect in a Bachelor's in Ministry Program
Bachelor's programs in ministry typically require between 120 and 126 credits of coursework divided between general education, core studies, and electives or concentration courses. General education typically fulfills about half the credit requirements, offering study of major academic disciplines including mathematics, science, humanities, and social science. Common learning outcomes of an online ministry degree include a graduate's ability to:
- Articulate knowledge of theology and the Bible
- Demonstrate leadership skills in group and individual interactions
- Use knowledge and skills to effectively address real-life problems
Additional learning outcomes may apply for students pursuing specialized ministry education, such as an online youth ministry degree or an online children's ministry degree. Regardless of focus, however, nearly every ministry program requires learners to complete a practicum prior to graduation. Practicums involve real work in a ministry setting.
To give you a better idea of the typical undergraduate ministry curriculum, five sample course descriptions have been listed below.
- Biblical Study: All ministry degrees require several courses of biblical study to enhance understanding of Scripture. Courses cover the Old Testament, New Testament, and biblical interpretation.
- Introduction to Theology: Often delivered as a survey course, an introduction to theology exposes students to various Christian doctrines, theological vocabulary, reading and research methods, and analysis of theological arguments.
- Church Administration: Students in this course learn about the practice and theology of professional ethics, financial stewardship, and administration responsibilities within the context of a church or other ministry setting.
- Church History: These courses introduce students to movements, thinkers, and ideas that made major historical impacts on Christian thought and practice. Historical concepts are also connected to contemporary issues.
- Introduction to Ministry: This orientation course encourages learners to study various forms of historical and modern ministry, investigate their sense of calling, and explore the opportunities and challenges of ministry careers.
- Why did you decide to pursue a career and degree in ministry? Was it something always interested you?
My dear mother impressed upon me and four siblings from an early age to have reverence for God. In my late teens though, I got derailed with the sideshow distractions of life. By my mid-20s, when my life seemed to have no real direction, I experienced a personal epiphany that brought me back to God. It was shortly after that I pursued my studies in the ministry of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church of Christ). I wanted to devote the rest of my life to serving God and helping others to do the same.
- What did your career trajectory look like after you graduated? How did you end up in your current position?
The ministerial curriculum called for five years as an evangelical worker after graduation and another five years before ordination. Since then, I have been assigned as a resident minister at congregations of the Church of Christ in Calgary, Seattle, Toronto, and even in Manila, Philippines. I’ve held positions at the ecclesiastical district level (there are more than 100 districts of the church throughout the world) as light of salvation overseer, edification overseer, district secretary, and district minister. After experiencing most of the duties that a minister in the church could, I am currently assigned to oversee the media branch of the church in Canada.
- What are the most unique aspects about receiving a degree in ministry?
For me, when I received my BEM (bachelor's in evangelical ministry) degree, it was indeed a significant milestone in my ministry. But in many ways, it just opened the door so that I could step outside into the field to help reap the harvest of souls for the Lord God. Now, it was less theoretical and all practicum: evangelizing, visiting and praying for the sick, preaching, marriage and youth counseling, organizing socio-civic activities, and much more. A degree in ministry is unlike any other degree because it leads to a vocation, not a career.
- Would you consider a degree in ministry a versatile degree?
Life has a totally different meaning once you become a degree-holder in ministry. The focus is no longer on acquiring the basic necessities of life, but rather it is all about serving God and helping others (as well as one’s self) to attain salvation through His son, Jesus Christ. So I, personally, would not consider ministry a versatile degree in the sense that one could use those credentials to easily transfer to engineering or selling real estate. For me, ministry is a lifetime commitment. Thus my ministerial degree of more than 20 years ago is unique.
- How has earning your degree in ministry helped you in your career?
As a career in the sense of my ministry, it was a basic requirement of the Church of Christ. And within that context, I can humbly say that I’ve enjoyed my ministerial career tremendously. Currently, I am exploring the field of cyberspace to continue to win souls for God through Christ.
- What advice would you give to individuals considering pursuing a degree and a career in ministry?
Don’t pursue a degree in ministry half-heartedly. If one does not feel as if they are being called by God to do so, then perhaps they could help out in some other way at their church. True ministry is not for personal material gain. It entails much sacrifice, long hours, and continuous study. But the reward is a closer relationship with God and Christ, and thus a greater hope of attaining salvation, which is the ultimate reward.
- What are some of the skills someone considering pursuing a degree in ministry must have to be successful?
People skills are very important. Making people feel at ease to talk to you, relating to them, giving sound admonitions -- all these and more are part and parcel of being able to reach out and touch the lives of those whom a minister may reach. One also has to be adept when it comes to utilizing the Bible. That’s why constant studying and reading is a must, not just for those who are beginning their studies in the ministry, but even for those who are out in the field. Above all, one has to possess a genuine love for God, Christ, and one’s fellow man. Through that endearing love, a minister is able to bear all and remain faithful.
- Any final thoughts for us?
Personally speaking, there is no other "career" that can equate to being in the ministry. I say this with the greatest respect to all others who have achieved a career goal and are having a positive impact on the lives of others and thus society. They are also able to live a full life, along with their family members and friends. And many are also professing their faith in God and Christ. The ministry is just the ultimate sacrifice to make. One’s life is bound by God’s tenets. There are certain deeds that one cannot commit. But if the ultimate aim is to be saved in Christ's Second Advent, then surely being in the ministry is the more assured way.
How to Choose a Bachelor's in Ministry Program
Accreditation confirms that a college or university meets certain standards for professional and academic quality. Attending an accredited school ensures the real-world value of your diploma, increases your employability, and enables you to transfer credits in the future, should you choose to attend graduate school.
Your on-campus or online ministry degree should hold either regional or national accreditation. Regional accreditation is handled by various organizations, including the Higher Learning Commission and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. National accreditation agencies that accredit ministry programs include the Association for Biblical Higher Education and The Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools.
Below is a list of other elements to consider.
Before choosing a degree, find out who's teaching classes. You want to learn from faculty members with advanced degrees and extensive real-world experience in ministry.
Make sure your preferred school offers a ministry degree or concentration that fits your career goals, whether it's youth ministry, business, pastoral studies, church administration, or something different.
The cost of college varies widely depending on program format, state residency rules, and whether you attend a public or private school. Choose a degree you can afford to finish.
Bachelor's in Ministry Program Admissions
Larger schools often place greater weight on a prospective student's test scores and grades while smaller, more selective schools often prioritize application essays, individual talents, and recommendation letters. Specific admission requirements vary from school to school, but the section below details common requirements and procedures you may encounter when applying to undergraduate ministry programs.
- Minimum high school GPA
- Satisfactory SAT or ACT test scores
- Active church membership
- Students must submit an online application detailing their professional and academic background. Many schools accept the Common Application, which allows students to apply to multiple schools simultaneously.
- Applicants must submit transcripts from all prior schools. Some institutions provide transcripts for free, while others charge a fee.
- Letters of Recommendation
- Many colleges require at least one letter of recommendation from a former teacher or employer who can speak to a student's readiness for college. Applicants should give writers at least three weeks to complete the letters.
- Test Scores
- Most schools require SAT or ACT scores. Students may be able to offset a low GPA with a high test score.
- Application Fee
- Applications typically cost between $40 and $60. Some schools waive these fees for students with demonstrable financial need.
Resources for Bachelor's in Ministry Students
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