Ministry is a vocation that trains leaders in the Christian faith. According to church doctrine, a minister is ordained to teach Christian principles and, in many cases, presides over sacramental ceremonies such as marriages or baptisms. Specific titles vary by denomination. Catholic ministers carry the priest designation, while Protestant ministers may be known as pastors, presbyters, elders, chaplains, or bishops.
Most ministerial careers require a bachelor's degree as a standard educational qualification. Undergraduate ministry programs emphasize biblical study, theology, community involvement, and religious leadership. Religious colleges across the country offer ministerial programs, but many students choose to earn their bachelor's in ministry online. Web-based programs generally follow the same curricula as brick-and-mortar programs, and distance learners may find that the asynchronous format of most online programs proves ideal for students with part-time jobs, childcare duties, or other commitments that can interfere with campus-based learning.
Read on to learn more about ministerial programs and what you can do with an online bachelor's degree in the field.
Choosing a Program
WILL AN ONLINE MINISTRY DEGREE PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?
An online bachelor's in ministry program will introduce students to the fundamentals of biblical study and religious leadership. Programs also emphasize community outreach and project management, along with financial accounting, marketing, human resources, and other relevant business-related dimensions of study. Many online ministry programs culminate with a capstone course, which allows students to demonstrate the skills and knowledge they have learned with a comprehensive research project.
WILL AN ONLINE MINISTRY DEGREE PROGRAM WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?
Online bachelor's in ministry programs offer a flexible alternative to traditional classroom-based education. Students receive access to course lectures and readings, participate in class discussions with fellow students, submit written assignments, take exams, and communicate with their professors on their own schedules. Current technology also enables learners to study on the go using a laptop, tablet, smartphone, or any other Wi-Fi-compatible device. The best online bachelor's in ministry programs also help students coordinate projects, fundraisers, and events in their local community.
WHAT JOBS CAN I GET WITH MY BACHELOR'S DEGREE IN MINISTRY?
Students who earn bachelor's degrees in ministry typically pursue careers in church leadership. Alternatively, graduates may also seek supportive positions in churches and other religious establishments; these include roles in youth leadership, religious education, and music. Outside of the church, many bachelor's recipients may follow an entrepreneurial path by launching a religious business or nonprofit organization.
WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE MINISTRY DEGREE PROGRAMS?
Choosing a program remains a very personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school's strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online ministry programs in the United States. If you feel the call to become a religious leader, and you want to prepare for your career with an online degree, read on to learn more about the top online ministry programs in the country.
Accredited Online Ministry Degree Programs
|1||John Wesley University High Point, NC||Cost: $$$$$||
John Wesley offers an online BA in Christian Ministry. The school was founded by reverends in 1903 in Greensboro, North Carolina, and the main campus is now located in High Point. Throughout its history, the school has remained committed to a biblical worldview, and it is known as a regional spiritual leader. John Wesley’s BA in Christian ministry includes six concentrations: pastoral ministry, worship arts, counseling, education, missions, and family ministry. Graduates who earn an online ministry degree often find work in businesses, academic institutions, and the ministry.
|2||Grace College of Divinity Fayetteville, NC||Cost: $$$$$||
Grace College of Divinity, located in Fayetteville, North Carolina, offers an online bachelor’s degree in divinity. The school was founded in 2000 and is on the main campus of Manna Church, one of the fastest growing churches in America. The divinity program has three concentrations: biblical studies, theology, and practical ministry, all of which prepare graduates to be leaders in their church communities. Students gain practical ministry experience, an enhanced understanding of the world, strong communication skills, and a deeper appreciation for the Bible and the role of the church throughout the world.
|3||Moody Bible Institute Chicago, IL||Cost: $$$$$||
Moody Bible Institute offers an online BS in ministry leadership, which is one of the best online ministry programs in the country. Moody Bible Institute is guided by the belief that the Bible is the word of God. The school was founded in 1886 by preacher and educator D.L. Moody. Moody’s online courses are each eight weeks long. The program includes courses in ministry leadership, ministry practice, and congregational dynamics, and is designed for students who are actively involved in their local churches. The program has concentrations in leadership, preaching, and women’s ministry.
|4||Piedmont International University Winston Salem, NC||Cost: $$$$$||
Piedmont International University, a Bible-centered leader in higher education, offers an online BA degree in Christian ministry. The program has 19 minors for students to choose from, including general ministry, North American church planting, music, sign language, counseling, student ministries, and more. The program includes 44 hours of Biblical studies and 50 hours of professional/ministry hours. Graduates often find work in churches and nonprofit groups around the world.
|5||Lincoln Christian University Lincoln, IL||Cost: $$$$$||
Lincoln Christian offers a BA in Christian ministry degree online. Founded in 1944 as a Bible institute, Lincoln Christian features a Christ-centered curriculum that strives to provide students with a deep understanding of the Bible as they prepare for leadership roles in the world and their church. The program provides students a general overview of life in the ministry, teaching distance learners how to preach sermons, teach Sunday school classes, and develop a personal philosophy of ministry. LCU’s faculty-members come from a variety of ministerial backgrounds. This degree is recommended for anyone interested in pastoral ministry, mission work, or Christian education.
|6||Toccoa Falls College Toccoa Falls, GA||Cost: $$$$$||
Toccoa Falls College offers an online BS in ministry leadership. The program has a strong biblical foundation that leads to a broad understanding of the Bible and theology. Toccoa’s mission is to cultivate Christian leaders and to glorify God. Founded in 1907, the college is affiliated with the Christian and Missionary Alliance and is located at the foothills of the Appalachian mountains in Toccoa Falls, Georgia. Every degree-seeking student at Toccoa receives an institutional scholarship based on academic performance. Toccoa’s ministry degree online is designed to create leaders who will fill ministry positions in churches and other faith-based organizations.
|7||Nazarene Bible College Colorado Springs, CO||Cost: $$$$$||
Nazarene Bible College offers a BA in ministry degree online. The program consists of three parts: the general education core, the Bible and theology core, and a major selected by the student. Online students can choose from eight areas of study for their major, including Bible and theology, Christian educational ministries, Christian school education, counseling for Christian ministries, Hispanic pastoral ministries, leadership and ethics, pastoral leadership, or pastoral ministries. Students can also choose to minor in Biblical languages, Christian educational ministries, leadership and ethics, or pastoral ministries. The degree requires distance learners to complete between 120 and 128 semester hours, depending on their major.
|8||Northwest Nazarene University Nampa, ID||Cost: $$$$$||
Located in Nampa, Idaho, Northwest Nazarene University offers a BA in Christian ministry degree online. The nonprofit Christian university, founded in 1913, prepares graduates to become global Christians. The fully online Christian ministry program allows students to earn a degree in only 36 months. The program meets all the requirements for ordination in the Church of Nazarene. Each online course is either five, seven, or eight weeks long. The program is designed not only for those currently serving in the ministry or who wish to join the ministry, but also for distance learners studying for their own spiritual benefit.
|9||Southwestern College Winfield, KS||Cost: $$$$$||
Southwestern College offers an online BA in Christian ministries. The program teaches students how to interpret scripture and about Christian traditions and current church practices. The program emphasizes a broad understanding of the Bible with an emphasis on pastoral studies and youth ministry. Graduates leave school prepared for further education and to work in a variety of ministerial positions. Core requirements include understanding the New and Old Testaments and completing a practicum in ministry. Southwestern College was founded by the Southwest Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1885, and is located in Winfield, Kansas.
|10||Southwestern Assemblies of God University Waxahachie, TX||Cost: $$$$$||
SAGU offers an online bachelor’s degree in youth and student ministries. Students pursuing the degree take classes in general biblical studies, youth and student ministries, and an internship, for a total of 126 semester hours. The program prepares graduates to effectively communicate Christ’s message to adolescents both in and outside of the church. Students also have the option of entering an accelerated graduate program, which shortens the time it takes to complete an MA in practical theology. SAGU’s roots date back to 1927, with the founding of Southwestern Bible School; three Bible schools came together to form what eventually became SAGU. The campus is located south of Dallas-Fort Worth in Waxahachie, Texas, and the university is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
|11||Lee University Cleveland, TN||Cost: $$$$$||
Located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Cleveland, Tennessee, Lee University offers an online bachelor’s degree in ministry leadership. Lee is one of the largest Christ-centered private institutions of higher learning in Tennessee. The school is nearly 100 years old, and is affiliated with the Church of God in Cleveland. Lee offers more than 100 clubs on campus, many of which are open to online students as well. Graduates are prepared to become involved in church ministry. The program develops leadership potential, and emphasizes eight core themes throughout the program: business in the church, church administration, children's ministry, counseling, discipleship, music and worship, pastoral ministry, and youth ministry.
|12||Ohio Christian University Circleville, OH||Cost: $$$$$||
Founded in 1948 as Circleville Bible College, Ohio Christian offers an online BA in leadership and ministry. The university is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and the Association for Biblical Higher Education. The main campus is located in Circleville, Ohio. OCU’s leadership and ministry program employs instructors with significant real-world ministerial experience. The program helps students develop their leadership skills in preparation for a career in ministry. Distance learners must complete 120 credit hours, and pursue a concentration in either Biblical studies, church planting, organizational leadership, or pastoral ministry.
|13||Bethel College Hampton, VA||Cost: $$$$$||
With a motto to "Cultivate the Call," Bethel prepares every student to become a Christian leader. The school offers an online BS in church ministries program with four concentrations: ministerial leadership, biblical studies, missions, and Christian counseling. Each concentration prepares students for a career in ministry, not only academically but also spiritually. The program includes Christian service requirements and there are also opportunities for students to pursue spiritual mentorship. Bethel is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of the The Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE).
What Else Can I Expect from an Online Bachelor's in Ministry Program?
Ministry offers a broad field of opportunities, so many online ministry degree options provide concentrations to help students hone their interests. Candidates should speak with departments of individual schools to get a clearer sense of whether the program caters to their needs, but we have included a list of common focuses below.
Concentrations in leadership give students both the pastoral and administrative skills needed to manage and guide Christian organizations. Students explore topics such as ethical leadership, finances, planning, and furthering the gospel.
Careers This Concentration Prepares For: Director of ministry, administrative church director, CEO of a nonprofit
Designed for those who see themselves behind the pulpit, this concentration teaches skills related to writing and delivering a sermon, scriptural context, and public speaking, as well as managing the spiritual and everyday needs of a congregation.
Careers This Concentration Prepares For: Children and Family Ministry
- Children and Family Ministry
This concentration appeals to individuals looking to minister to children and families. Students learn about the specific and unique needs of each of these communities and grow skills related to developing ministry materials for them.
Careers This Concentration Prepares For: Children's pastor, youth minister, director of small groups, children/family-focused nonprofit staff
Curriculum for an Online Bachelor's in Ministry
When pursuing an online theology degree, many students hold specific ideas about the type of required coursework needed to prepare for a role after graduating. The courses in this section offer a glimpse of common study areas, but those who know they want to take specific coursework should contact individual schools to get a full and up-to-date list.
- Religions and Cultures: Students in this course gain insight into major world religions, how the tenets play out in culture, and how Christian church leaders can find opportunities for growth in adopting a multi-faith perspective. This course helps those who want to focus on international ministry or missions.
- Pastoral Care and Counseling: A must-take class for those who want to serve as preachers, this class reviews the most common approaches to pastoral care, focuses on ways pastors can best serve their congregations, and helps develop approaches to providing care and making referrals.
- The Church in the Community: Developed for those students who see the church as stepping outside the chapel to serve those around them, this class observes how churches and its members can partner with their neighbors to forge bonds, work together, and create positive change for all.
- Cultural Considerations in Mission Work: A perfect class for those who want to spread the gospel internationally, this course employs a historical lens to explore the historical structure of missionary work and offers constructive, critical advice on how to respectfully and appropriately enter a different culture.
- Church Planting: This course helps students to develop the skills and discernment necessary to decide where, when, and how to open their own ministries. Students also consider church models with various campuses and think about how a new church can best respect and join the community it enters.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Bachelor's in Ministry?
As with many other bachelor's programs, completing an online ministry degree at this level most commonly requires four years and approximately 120 credits. Students who completed general education credits at a community college or previous institution may finish earlier, as may those who enroll in an accelerated program.
Conversely, individuals studying on a part-time basis often spend six years working towards the degree. When researching prospective programs, learners may encounter individually paced and cohort learning models. The former refers to the standard way of learning, while cohort students progress through each class at the same pace with a group of people.
Accreditation for Online Bachelor's in Communication Degrees
When researching prospective online ministry degree options, students should pay close attention to accreditation, as this could affect their ability to transfer credits to a different school, compete for jobs, and receive licensure. The most common type of accreditation looks at institutions as a whole and falls into the categories of regional or national. National accreditation typically exists for trade and vocational programs, while many view regional accreditation as a more rigorous process for many four-year institutions.
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) recognizes several Christian accrediting agencies. Examples include the Association for Biblical Higher Education, the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada, and the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools. When exploring the accreditation process, degree seekers can find much information through the ED and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CHEA).
While neither organization directly accredits colleges or universities, both uphold and monitor standards of the agencies tasked with this important job. CHEA also maintains a membership of 3,000 accredited institutions and 60 accrediting bodies. Learners seeking accredited online ministry degree options can search the ED's Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.
Employment Outlook for Bachelor's in Ministry
Bachelor's in Ministry Salary
Graduates of online theology degrees can pursue a wide range of jobs. Candidates will qualify for certain career paths upon completion of a bachelor's program, while others require advanced education. In addition to considering factors such as location, area of focus, and degree level influence salary potential, degree seekers should also understand the effects of experience on income. The following table takes a look at some of the more common roles for ministry degree graduates and highlights how wages for these careers progress over time.
|Job Title||Overall Median Salary||Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years)||Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years)||Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ years)|
|Religious Education Director||$36,244||$35,000||$35,000||$41,000|
|Religion Assistant Professor||$65,749||$65,000||$67,000||$64,000|
Bachelor's in Ministry Careers
The ministry includes a wide variety of churches, religious organizations, and Christian nonprofits where graduates may find jobs. Some feel called to the pulpit, while others may see their life's work as ministering to youth. Regardless of the path taken, these individuals have a heart for sharing their faith and possess the practical skills necessary to manage and perform administrative tasks when needed.
Clergy: These faith leaders work within churches and other houses of worship to lead congregations and provide pastoral care. Some may work as lead or associate clerics, while others serve as music directors, Sunday school teachers, counselors, or youth pastors.
Philosophy and Religious Teachers: Working in public and private institutions as well as Bible colleges and seminaries, these academic professionals help instill knowledge about the role of those who enter the ministry field and teach them how to view the Bible through various historical and cultural lenses. Most need to possess a doctorate.
Religious Activities and Education Directors: Working in a variety of settings, these individuals help develop and direct educational and recreational programs focused on creating a faith-filled environment. They may oversee Christian schools or daycares, run after-school programs, or provide family counseling.
Religious Workers: This category of employment encapsulates all other individuals working in religious employment. Examples of roles may include church custodians, office managers and administrative assistants, finance directors, service technicians, organists, ministry assistants, and deacons/ushers.
|Position||Median Annual Salary|
|Philosophy and Religious Teachers||$69,590|
|Religious Activities and Education Directors||$39,980|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Making connections and learning as much as you can about the ministry remains crucial to your professional success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. You will find three of the country's most prominent organizations for ministerial professionals below. These organizations host networking events, provide online training, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates.
- American Association of Christian Counselors: Currently representing more than 50,000 members, the AACC's nine specific networks include addiction and recovery, grief, crisis and disaster, and military counseling. The association offers a range of online professional development courses, along with an online bookstore.
- Christian Educators International Association: Originally founded in 1953, this global organization became the modern CEIA in 1984. Registered members receive liability insurance coverage, a complimentary magazine subscription, online mentoring, and discounts on various services and events.
- Christian Business Network: The CBN connects entrepreneurs and managers involved with religious business administration. According to the mission statement, the network strives to "provide God's people with valuable resources, networking opportunities, and world-class services to help them fulfill their calling and maximize their impact in the marketplace.".
Financing Your Online Bachelor's in Ministry Program
Despite the relative affordability of online ministry programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources offer private grants and scholarships to students. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.
Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.
Completing the FAFSA remains a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.
Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you will find for campus-based learning, but that has not always been the case. Learn about changes in aid, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.
Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We've curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.
Online college programs offer a flexible, affordable option for single parents interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We have compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.
Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.