Online Bachelor's in Ministry

Ministry is a calling to serve a particular Christian faith through a church, parachurch organization, community development mission, or school. Unlike biblical or theological studies, online ministry degrees emphasize the practical components of church leadership, mission, and discipleship. The curriculum includes courses on the Bible, theology, and general education. Upon graduation, students can work as church staff members, religious education teachers, and leaders in Christian organizations. Graduates may also enroll in seminary for a master's degree or a doctorate in ministry, theology, or religion.

Ministers earn an average wage of about $50,000, and many senior pastors and organizational leaders earn more.

Christian ministers can work in rural, urban, local, or international settings at a large church or small parish. Some ministers work as chaplains in the military, hospitals, or prisons. Others manage social service or evangelistic organizations. Ministers earn an average wage of about $50,000, and many senior pastors and organizational leaders earn more. Starting a career in Christian ministry begins with earning a bachelor's degree. Few colleges offer associate degrees in ministry, which are not generally sufficient for pastoral roles. About 65% of clergy have obtained a master's degree.

Earning a bachelor's degree online is a fast, effective way to accelerate your impact in ministry. By taking classes online, mature students or those already employed can learn while serving God and supporting a family. Since most distance learning is asynchronous, working professionals and students with family or church obligations can study when it's convenient. Not only does internet-based learning make earning a degree flexible, it also makes ministry education affordable. Distance learners can avoid paying for on-campus housing and costly commutes.

One of the benefits to choosing a Christian college is the opportunity to integrate faith with academic knowledge. Like their brick-and-mortar counterparts, online ministry degrees allow students to take a spiritual perspective on their coursework. Many distance students can also participate in their university's live-streamed chapels, counseling programs, and student discussion forums. Students seeking a bachelor of ministry degree need an internship, which online learners typically complete at an approved site.

How Long Does it Take to Earn Your Ministry Bachelor's Degree Online?

A bachelor's in ministry usually requires 120 credits. In addition to coursework, many schools expect students to attend worship services and participate in internships and community service. Full-time students can typically complete an online ministry degree in four years or less if students take advantage of transfer credits.

An online ministry degree draws from courses in biblical studies, practical ministry, Christian theology, and missiology. In this interdisciplinary curriculum approach, students blend the theoretical with the practical and the spiritual with the professional. Students mine Scripture for insights while gaining needed vocational ministry skills.

Example Courses

New Testament Survey Learners receive an overview of the world of the New Testament, its writers, theologies, and cultural contexts. Students examine the theme of each individual book in the context of Jesus' life and ministry.
Administration and Leadership in Ministry Students explore all areas of church administration such as budget and finance, team development, building campaigns, fundraisers, and facility management within a relational and theological context.
Worship Leadership This course prepares worship leaders, pastors, and other church staff to create a meaningful corporate worship experience, including music, public scripture reading, and performing arts ministry.
Introduction to Preaching This course examines methods of sermon development and practice in the context of the preacher's life and work.
Discovering the Mission of God Focused on foundational, theoretical, and theological foundations of missions and evangelism, this course serves as the introduction to global missions.

Students pursuing a bachelor's degree in Christian ministry often concentrate their studies in a particular area. By choosing a specialization, students determine their career path and ministry setting. Many Christian ministry majors offer concentrations in specific ministry areas such as Christian education or missions. Each college or university provides its own unique blend of specializations and concentration options. Below are some of the most common concentrations Christian ministry students can choose.

Ordained ministers typically must hold a master's degree to serve in church leadership, although some denominations only require a bachelor's degree. Earning a master's degree in ministry can open new opportunities for ministry in larger churches or with greater responsibilities. Many students who earn a youth ministry degree online later pursue a master's in ministry in order to move from a youth pastor role to a senior pastor's post. Others may elect to serve a small congregation while working part-time on a master's degree. Ministry students who envision careers as organizational leaders often need additional training in administration, human resource management, and program development. Counselors, too, can access clinical positions and earn far more lucrative salaries when they hold a master's degree.

An online ministry degree can open up exciting careers in church work, community service, or counseling. Senior church pastors lead congregations, preach sermons, and oversee all ministry components. Their staff may include youth pastors, children's ministers, Christian education directors, and music ministers. Many Christian ministry professionals work outside the church by leading community organizations or serving as counselors.

Occupations and Salary for Online Bachelor's in Ministry Graduates
Occupation Minimum Degree Required Employment Hourly Mean Wage Annual Mean Wage
Clergy Bachelor's 48,850 $24.43 $50,800
Directors, Religious Activities and Education Bachelor's 21,430 $21.86 $45,470
Other Religious Workers Bachelor's 8,210 $17.49 $36,380
Social and Community Service Managers Bachelor's 141,830 $33.91 $70,530
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors Bachelor's 241,930 $22.38 $46,560
Source: BLS, May 2017

Students graduating with a bachelor's in ministry may choose to become pastors, church staff members, counselors, nonprofit leaders, or parachurch ministry staff. Some of these positions require state or denominational licensure. Pastors typically must be ordained with their church's denomination or governing body. Ordination is a process by which a church approves and commissions a minister. The process varies slightly by denomination, but typically includes rigorous education requirements, multiple interviews, and many hours of guided practical ministry experience. In almost all denominations, ordination requires a bachelor's or master's degree. Church staff members may also need to hold ordination depending on their roles. In some cases, an online youth ministry degree or online children's ministry degree may be acceptable.

Students looking to become Christian counselors often must meet stringent state licensure requirements, which may include earning a master's degree or acquiring other significant education beyond an online ministry degree. They may also have to pass national or state exams and complete hours of approved clinical practice.

In the U.S., accreditation is a voluntary process that allows colleges and universities to demonstrate their credibility as educational institutions. Most financial aid goes only to students at accredited institutions. Accreditation can be regional, national, or specialized. Regional accreditation is the most highly regarded, and most regionally accredited institutions accept transfer credits only from other regionally accredited schools.

National accreditation agencies focus on accrediting schools that prepare students for a specific career, including Christian ministry related vocations.

National accreditation agencies focus on accrediting schools that prepare students for a specific career, including Christian ministry related vocations. While Christian universities, Bible colleges, and seminaries can hold regional accreditation, some of these schools also seek national accreditation through organizations such as the Association for Biblical Higher Education, which primarily accredits Bible colleges.

Ideally, a school holds regional accreditation as well as national or specialized accreditation. Students who plan to become counselors, chaplains, or theology teachers and must hold a state or national license to practice should ensure their school's accreditation meets licensure standards. Likewise, students pursuing ordination should check with their denomination about accreditation requirements.

Professional organizations offer many benefits to students and young professionals such as annual conferences, regional networks, online job boards, and continuing education opportunities. Some associations also offer local, national, or international missions, which may help students meet practical ministry requirements in their bachelor of ministry curriculum.

Association of Professional Chaplains

Composed of 5,000 members, APC provides certification, continuing education, and publications for chaplains. It also establishes professional standards in chaplaincy and maintains a job board.

Christian Community Development Association

CCDA helps Christians engage in community transformation. Members can take online courses, attend the annual conference, join a local network, and browse the online job board.

Academy of Preachers

Young professionals called to preach the Gospel can take part in several preaching festivals throughout the year. The academy also offers alumni classes, an e-zine, and an online marketplace.

National Association of Evangelicals

A coalition of denominations, churches, colleges, and other ministries, NAE connects and represents evangelical Christians. The organization provides a podcast, a magazine, and a series of events including one for Christian student leaders.

Network of Biblical Storytellers

An ecumenical organization that encourages everyone to learn and tell biblical stories, NBS offers an annual festival gathering, several international mission trips, and the Academy for Biblical Storytelling.

National Black Evangelical Association

Focused on reconciliation, the NBEA is an umbrella organization of African-descended leaders and ministries that seeks biblical and cultural integrity through prayer, fellowship, and evangelism.

While many students question how to finance an online ministry degree, scholarships help many Christian college students earn a ministry degree online.

Online Bachelors in Ministry Scholarships

Champions for Christ Varies

Who Can Apply: Students who wish to undertake full-time ministry and who are attending college, university, or seminary in the U.S. may apply. View Scholarship

Baptist Life Scholarship $1,000

Who Can Apply: Students who have held insurance with Baptist Life for at least 24 months can apply. Scholarships are based on ambition, financial need, and academic achievement. View Scholarship

COGIC Charities Scholarship Varies (renewable)

Who Can Apply: Funded and administered by the Church of God in Christ, this scholarship helps fund full-time students at accredited schools. The committee considers essays and letters of recommendation. View Scholarship

National Presbyterian College Scholarship $2,500

Who Can Apply: Applicants must be members of a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregation, entering their first year of college at a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) college, hold a 2.5 GPA or higher, and demonstrate financial need. View Scholarship

WMU Foundation Scholarships Varies

Who Can Apply: Applicants must be the children of Baptist missionaries and students preparing for missions through a Baptist ministry. The foundation accepts applications between September and February 1. View Scholarship

HELM Leadership Fellows Varies

Who Can Apply: This program of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) provides four years of ministry leadership training. Applicants must be entering their first year of college. View Scholarship

Higher Education for Ohio Students State Convention of Baptists in Ohio $450

Who Can Apply: Applicants must secure recommendations from their home churches, which in turn must be members of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio. Recipients must carry a normal course load and seek to earn passing grades. View Scholarship

SC Baptist Convention Church-Related Vocational Scholarship Varies

Who Can Apply: South Carolina Baptists who plan to major in a Christian-related vocation must complete an application and a church recommendation form before March 15. View Scholarship

Christian Community Credit Unions $1,000 (renewable)

Who Can Apply: Credit union members must maintain a checking account, enroll in college or seminary, and carry at least 12 undergraduate or six graduate credits. View Scholarship

GBGH General Scholarship Application $1,000

Who Can Apply: Funded by the United Methodist Church, this scholarship is available to students who have held membership in the UMC for at least one year and show a 2.5 GPA or higher. View Scholarship

Free Ordination Resources

Conferring formal authority as a minister is called ordination. Typically granted through denominations, ordination can also come through a para-religious organization that offers it for free.

  • Open Ministry This non-denominational church provides ordination services to those wishing to perform weddings, conduct worship, engage in spiritual counseling, or start their own church.
  • Universal Life Church A multi-denominational religious organization claiming millions of members around the world, ULC offers ordination to people of all backgrounds. Students take required free training online.
  • Christian Leaders Institute CLT's ordination program requires applicants to complete free ministry training through the organization.
  • North Carolina College of Theology NCCT is a non-denominational Christian ministry that provides ordination to anyone of legal age and who meets scriptural qualifications. Ordination is lifelong except in extraordinary circumstances.
  • American Marriage Ministries AMM requires no religious backgrounds from applicants for its ordination program nor does it maintain a list of other eligibility requirements. An AMM ordination certificate never expires.

Free Ministry Apps and Tools

  • Life.Church Life.Church provides numerous apps that keep users abreast of church metrics, manage the church's online platform, create a culture of team development, and manage online giving.
  • Planning Center his church management software allows users to check in children or volunteers, manage donations, track member data, and maintain the church facilities calendar.
  • YouVersion YouVersion offers a Bible App and a Bible App for Kids. The free adult version contains 1,730 Bible versions in 1,134 languages, and users can compare translations, create related art, and share their study with others.
  • Logos Designed to help people study the Bible deeper, this app includes several versions of the Bible, a collection of commentaries ad devotionals, and a chance to highlight and share with friends.
  • Blue Letter Bible BLB offers devotionals and study tools, including commentaries, references, and theological resources. Its Treasury of Scripture Knowledge correlates related Bible passages.
  • ACS Church Life This app makes it easy to stay abreast of church calendars, offer opportunities for online giving, manage staff, and locate members' contact information.

Networking

  • Christian Business Network An international organization of Christians in professional service, CBN provides one-on-one, group, and social media networking opportunities. Students can connect with Christian groups around the world.
  • Youth Specialties YS sponsors the National Youth Workers Convention as well as an online archive of youth ministry resources and an extensive blog. Students can access the organization's job board.
  • Catalyst Catalyst offers annual events around the country as well as a library of articles and a series of educational courses designed to empower and equip current church leaders with skills and training in leadership.
  • International Orality Network Ideal for students interested in international mission work, ION offers extensive resources, local networks, and national events on culturally appropriate communication of God's word.
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