Discover your calling: how to become an ordained minister

Last updated: May 20, 2024
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Eleana Bowman
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Discover your calling: how to become an ordained minister
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Are you curious about how to become an ordained minister? Maybe you've felt a calling to serve your community, or you're simply interested in learning more about this rewarding career path. Either way, you're in the right place.

Becoming an ordained minister can bring a sense of purpose to your life. You'll be able to offer other believers spiritual guidance and support during some of life's most challenging moments — and in doing so, change their lives.

Jobcase has put together this guide to help you start your journey to ordained ministry. We'll cover the educational requirements, the necessary training, and the personality traits you'll need to excel in this role.

So are you ready to answer your calling and make a difference in the world? Let's begin.

The basics: what's an ordained minister, and why become one?

What exactly is an ordained minister? Simply put, ordained ministers are spiritual leaders formally recognized by a religious organization. They perform religious rites and spiritual ceremonies, such as weddings, funerals, and baptisms. They're people who feel a calling to serve their community through faith and dedication.

Think of an ordained minister as a spiritual guide who helps people with life's challenges and joys. Though all religious organizations have different requirements for ordination, schooling is typically required.

Now you might be wondering, “What about online ordinations?”

You've seen websites advertise a quick certificate after you fill out a form and pay a fee. While this is an option, these certificates only allow you to perform wedding ceremonies and funerals.

By contrast, an ordained minister who is seeking to lead a church will need a bachelor's degree — and sometimes a master's degree, too.

Now, you might be wondering why someone would choose to become an ordained minister. Well, many ministers would say that there's something special about being able to touch people's lives in such a profound way.

It's about being there for others during their most vulnerable moments and helping them navigate life's challenges.

Sounds like an amazing journey, right?

As you consider this path, it's important to know what to expect in such a position. Facing difficult situations and making tough calls is part of the job. But, for most, the rewards of helping others and making a difference in their lives far outweigh the challenges.

Getting started: education, training, and certification

Now that we've covered the basics, let's dive into how to become an ordained minister. While the process of education, training, and certification may seem daunting, don't worry — we're here to guide you through it.

Education: getting the right degrees and beyond

Denominations vary, but you'll generally need a bachelor's degree in theology, religious studies, or a related field to become an ordained minister. Popular choices are gaining a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies or a Bachelor of Theology.

These four-year programs dive into world religions, ethics, and biblical studies.

If your denomination requires a master's degree, you'll want to consider either a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) or a Master of Theological Studies (M.T.S.) from a seminary or bible school. Taking two to three more years to complete, these programs dig deeper into theology, pastoral counseling, and sermon crafting.

Some denominations have even more requirements, like extra coursework in their religious tradition.

Traditional on-campus programs not your style? No worries! Online options exist for both bachelor's and master's degree programs. These options offer flexibility to help you balance studies with your work or family life.

Don't get this confused with the online ordinations that simply need an ordination form and a payment. The online options for bachelor's and master's degrees are online courses that still provide in-depth education. Make sure to pick an accredited program — because after all that work, you'll want to make sure your religious organization recognizes it.

Training: practical experience to tighten your skills

Preparing for a career as an ordained minister isn't just about completing your education. It's also about gaining practical experience through internships, building connections with your congregation through church involvement, and seeking guidance from experienced mentors.

Internships are a valuable way to gain exposure to different aspects of ministry and develop your skills as a spiritual leader. Think of them as training grounds where you can put your education into practice and learn from professionals in the field.

And it's not just about the technical skills — it's also about building relationships with your congregation. By getting involved in your church community, you can establish connections with your congregants and improve your leadership abilities. Plus, you'll gain valuable insights into your community's needs and concerns.

Finally, mentorship is essential for any aspiring minister. By seeking guidance from experienced ministers, you can gain insights into how to navigate the unique challenges and triumphs of pastoral life. Just as a shepherd guides their flock, a mentor can help guide you on your journey to becoming a spiritual leader.

The blend of post-secondary education and hands-on training will equip you to lead a community of believers and provide them with compassionate pastoral care. It's this fusion of learning and experience that will shape you into the church leader you've always envisioned becoming.

Certification: your official spiritual leader stamp

After finishing your education and training, it's time for a crucial step: certification and ordination. You'll apply to your chosen religious organization, which will review your qualifications, background, and beliefs. Although the application process can be nerve-wracking, remember that you've already come this far — and you're ready!

Certification means your ministerial qualifications are officially recognized. Ordination, on the other hand, is the ceremony where you become a religious leader within your denomination. Once certified, your organization will ordain you. The ceremony includes a public commitment to serve as a minister and blessings from other ordained leaders.

With your new credentials and ordination, you'll be a qualified spiritual leader eligible for various roles, like senior pastor, associate pastor, or youth pastor. It'll be time to start applying for church positions!

Remember, the pathway to ordination varies by denomination, so research your chosen faith tradition's specific requirements and processes.

Mastering the skills: essential qualities to succeed as an ordained minister

Let's dive into the essential qualities that can elevate an ordained minister from good to great.

Key personality traits

Empathy, compassion, and patience are vital to connecting with people on a deep, emotional level. These core personality traits lay the foundation for an effective ministry and enable you to form genuine connections with your congregation.

Empathy allows you to understand and share others' feelings by putting yourself in their shoes. This understanding helps you provide tailored guidance and support for other people's unique situations.

With empathy comes compassion — the ability to show kindness in times of need. As an ordained minister, you'll encounter various struggles and hardships among your congregation members. Demonstrating compassion helps create a safe and supportive environment where people feel encouraged to share their burdens and seek help.

And patience is essential when dealing with challenging situations and individuals.

Developing these traits will help you uplift your congregation through their highs and lows, forging deep bonds with them that, in turn, strengthen your ministry.

Communication skills

Much like personality skills, effective communication is a critical skill for an ordained minister. You'll deliver inspiring sermons and communicate with your congregation in various settings. The ability to convey each message clearly and effectively is essential, as is your ability to actively listen to the needs of your congregants.

Remember that effective communication isn't just about speaking — it also involves nonverbal cues, like body language and facial expressions. Pay attention to your nonverbal communication, and practice conveying confidence and openness.

Developing strong communication skills can help you guide your congregation, provide them with support and comfort during difficult times, and connect with them on a deeper level.

Leadership and organizational abilities

As an ordained minister, you'll be responsible for leading and inspiring your congregation, as well as managing various aspects of your religious organization. Whether you're overseeing a community outreach project or coordinating a worship service, strong leadership and organizational skills are crucial for success.

Effective leadership involves setting a clear vision for your congregation and guiding them toward their goals. And with that vision, you'll need to hone your organizational skills. Your ability to manage resources, delegate tasks, and prioritize responsibilities will be essential to your role as a leader.

Use the mentors and guides from your training to develop all of these qualities. Take part in personal development workshops and remain open to feedback. Improving your skills will help you lead and serve your congregation with excellence.

Find a job opportunity that fits your calling

As an ordained minister, you can explore various job opportunities beyond working in a church. Other options include chaplaincy roles or counseling positions.

The salary and job outlook for these positions vary depending on factors such as denomination, location, and experience. But it's important to remember that pursuing a career as an ordained minister is primarily about following your calling and making a difference in people's lives.

The good news is that job growth for these professionals between 2021 and 2031 is predicted to be 4% — which is on par with the average.

To land your perfect position, create a resume that highlights your education, training, and any relevant experience that showcases your spiritual leadership skills. A well-crafted resume is an opportunity to show the value you can bring to an organization.

Networking is crucial when looking for job opportunities as an ordained minister. Attend conferences and events, join religious organizations and groups, and seek mentorship or coaching opportunities to enhance your chances of landing the perfect job.

Ministers can also explore entrepreneurial opportunities, such as starting a nonprofit or founding a ministry. This path requires additional skills, including financial management and marketing knowledge. But it can give you a unique opportunity to create a tailored career path that aligns with your calling and passion.

Ultimately, as an ordained minister, many job opportunities are available to help you lead your community. Focusing on developing your skills and networking with others in the field can help you find a job that fits your calling and positively impact people's lives.

Building your ministry: developing a fulfilling career

Congratulations! You've completed your education and received your certification, and you are now an ordained minister. But to truly make your mark, it's time to roll up your sleeves and start building your ministry. Think of this like building a house: start with a solid foundation of relationships, growth, and development.

Building and maintaining strong relationships with your congregation is vital. As a spiritual leader, developing genuine connections with those you guide and support is essential. Actively listen to their concerns, offer them guidance and support, and show them that you care.

It's also important to create relationships within the broader community. As an ordained minister, you're a leader in your congregation and the wider community. Get involved in local events, reach out to community organizations, and show your commitment to positively impacting the world around you.

Continuous growth and development are essential to a fulfilling career as a minister. Learning never stops, so stay up to date with new ideas, practices, and trends in your field. Attend conferences, workshops, and seminars to keep your knowledge fresh, and seek to learn from your fellow church leaders.

As the data chart below demonstrates, your choice to become a minister will likely be long-lasting — so personal growth is essential.

Prioritizing relationships, growth, and development can help you lay a strong foundation for your ministry. And over time, you'll create a beautiful and fulfilling career that positively impacts others' lives.

Take the leap: embrace your calling as an ordained minister

Considering a career as an ordained minister can mean a rollercoaster of emotions. You might be sitting there with a mix of excitement and fear, thinking, "Can I really do this? Am I up for the challenge?" Those feelings are completely normal. You're not alone in this journey.

Remember, becoming an ordained minister isn't just a job but a vocation — a chance to make a real difference in the world.

You've got the passion, determination, and heart to guide and support others in their spiritual journeys. Now take that leap of faith. Go out there armed with the knowledge and tools from this guide and show the world what you're made of.

When you're ready, you can visit our job board and embrace your calling as an ordained minister. The world needs more compassionate and dedicated leaders like you.

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