According to a recent report published by the Pew Research Center, 81% of adult Tennesseans consider themselves Christians. Evangelical Protestants make up the lion's share of believers, with 52% of all residents identifying as members of this denomination. Mainline Protestants account for a further 13%, while Historically Black Protestants rank third at 8%. More than half of all adult residents attend a religious service at least once a week, while an additional 24% go to church at least a few times per year. Tennessee is the third most religious U.S. state, ranking behind only Alabama and Mississippi.
Evangelical Protestants make up the lion's share of believers in Tennessee, with 52% of all residents identifying as members of this denomination. Pew Research Center
Given its rich religious landscape, it should come as no surprise that there are many Christian colleges in Tennessee. The 24 faith-based colleges and universities in the state offer a mix of liberal arts educations with a Christian foundation, denomination-specific programming, and seminaries for students planning to enter the ministry. Christian colleges in Tennessee offer many options to learners seeking a supportive community of Bible believers. The following guide highlights some of the reasons to pursue a Christian education in the state.
Online Christian Colleges in Tennessee
Tennessee Christian colleges offer an array of postsecondary education options for distance learners, making it easier for busy students to earn a degree. Flexibility plays a big role in why so many learners chose to enroll at online Christian colleges in Tennessee. Instead of traveling multiple times per week to attend classes at a brick-and-mortar institution, learners can access educational materials from the comfort of their homes. Many online Tennessee Christian colleges also offer asynchronous courses, where learners listen to lectures, complete assignments, and engage with their peers at their convenience. Affordability also factors into the popularity of these programs; attending Christian online colleges in Tennessee allows learners to avoid many costs, such as those associated with commuting and paying for on-campus accommodations or meal plans.
Students can also find online Christian colleges that offer distance learners robust support mechanisms. Services to look for include web-based support and spiritual counseling, digital forums for building communities, and live streams of chapel and worship services.
Tennessee's Best Online Christian Schools
Established in 1866, Milligan is a private, Churches of Christ-affiliated liberal arts college that serves approximately 1,200 students. The school offers multiple academic programs and courses in online and hybrid formats. Online programs include master's degrees in education, information systems, and Christian ministries, as well asa bachelor's offering in computer information systems.
Blended learning options include a bachelor's in business administration; MBA programs in leadership, health sector management, and operations management; and a graduate certificate in Christian ministries.
All distance learners complete Milligan's liberal arts core curriculum, which includes intellectual and practical skills, experiential learning, and religious studies. Undergraduate students need to complete 48-65 general education credits.
Degree seekers interested in an online graduate program need to submit GMAT or GRE scores along with official transcripts from an accredited bachelor's program. Online students pay a lower tuition rate than on-campus learners at this Christian college in Tennessee. Milligan holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Union is a private, evangelical Christian, liberal arts-focused university located in Jackson, Tennessee. The university maintains an affiliation with the Tennessee Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention. Established in 1823, Union now offers online associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. Depending on the program, distance learners can choose between accelerated, hybrid, and online format options.
Online students at this private Christian college in Tennessee can pursue a graduate degree in Christian studies. This program best serves current laypersons and students interested in careers as missionaries, church planters, or pastoral ministers. In most cases, students complete the master of Christian studies program within two years.
Union offers multiple resources to online students, including access to the Lifeway bookstore, an online textbook store, a full-text library service, and information technology support. Union also offers academic support through its writing center and center for academic success. Distance learners also benefit from online academic advising and tutoring. Union is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Established in 1893, JUTN is a private Christian college in Tennessee affiliated with the Churches of Christ. The school offers multiple online programs, including associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees.
Online bachelor's programs at JUTN include intercultural studies, ministry leadership, pastoral care and counseling, and nonprofit administration. Online graduate students at JUTN can pursue master's degrees in New Testament studies, business administration, and intercultural studies or a Ph.D. in leadership studies.
Undergraduate applicants need to submit their official transcripts and ACT or SAT scores for consideration. Graduate applications must include three letters of recommendation, official transcripts, and a personal essay. Incoming distance learners may transfer credits toward their degrees as long as they earn them from accredited institutions. Online students at JUTN pay approximately the same tuition rates as on-campus learners.
Johnson University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Lipscomb is a private institution affiliated with the Churches of Christ. Established in 1891, the school now serves approximately 4,700 students. Lipscomb prides itself on offering a curriculum that integrates faith and Christian values with academic programs and professional development certificates.
Online undergraduate degree offerings at Lipscomb include programs in business leadership, customer experience, data analytics, and entertainment management. The private Christian college in Tennessee also offers graduate certificate programs in performance coaching, global leadership, sustainability, and business leadership.
Lipscomb features a competency-based education model that allows students to earn credit for the knowledge and skills they already possess. Additionally, incoming online students can earn credit toward their degrees through examinations and transfer credits. Undergraduate distance learners may obtain up to 30 credits through these methods.
Applicants for undergraduate online programs do not need to submit standardized test scores for consideration. Lipscomb holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Established in 1930, Bryan is a nondenominational Christian liberal arts college located in Dayton, Tennessee. Distance students can benefit from the college's undergraduate degree completion programs and online graduate degrees.
Undergraduate degree completion programs at this Christian college in Tennessee include an associate of business, a bachelor of business administration, a bachelor of science in applied psychology, and a bachelor of science in criminal justice. Graduate students can pursue master of arts degrees in Christian ministry, business administration, and education. Distance learners can also enroll in nine-week graduate certificates in human resources and marketing. Master's students need 36 credits to graduate and generally earn their degrees in 18-24 months.
Students with a bachelor's degree from Bryan can apply for a tuition-free online master's degree at the university if they earn a minimum GPA of 3.75 during their undergraduate studies. Bryan features several benefits for online military members, veterans, and their families, including a scholarship for bachelor's and master's students. The school is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
King is a private institution located in Bristol, Tennessee. Founded in 1867, the school serves approximately 3,000 students. King's distance learning programs include associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees.
This Christian college in Tennessee offers online bachelor's programs in areas such as criminal justice, health informatics, history, and psychology. Additionally, distance students can complete master's degrees in nursing and business administration.
Incoming students may transfer up to 76 credits toward an undergraduate degree or six credits toward a graduate degree. Competitive undergraduate applicants possess at least a 2.6 GPA. Graduate applicants must submit official transcripts, letters of recommendation, a resume, and a personal statement or writing sample. Online learners at King pay the same tuition rates as on-campus students. King maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church, and the school is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Trevecca Nazarene University
Regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Trevecca is a private liberal arts school founded in 1901. The school maintains an affiliation with the Church of the Nazarene. Distance students benefit from cohort learning and an asynchronous delivery method for a flexible online learning experience. Remote learners at Trevecca can pursue associate, bachelor's, and graduate degrees with no on-campus obligations.
Bachelor's students major in areas such as Christian ministry, human development and family services, management and leadership, and computer science. Master's programs at Trevecca include English as a second language, healthcare administration, instructional design and technology, and educational leadership. The school also offers a doctorate in leadership and professional practice.
This Christian college in Tennessee offers strong support for military members and their families. In some cases, online military students participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program may earn free tuition. Trevecca also offers college credit for prior military training and experience.
Established in 1869, FHU is a private institution located in Henderson, Tennessee that offers several online programs. The school serves approximately 2,000 students and holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. FHU is also affiliated with the Churches of Christ.
The school offers eight master's degrees online, including master's programs in ministry, New Testament, Old Testament, and divinity. Distance learners can also pursue an online associate of arts in general studies at FHU. This 60-credit program satisfies general education requirements for most bachelor's programs. The program helps online students explore various academic topics and prepares them for further education in a bachelor's program.
Prospective students for the online associate program need a minimum GPA of 3.25 and two letters of recommendation. Applicants to this private Christian college in Tennessee also need to submit ACT or SAT scores if they have a GPA lower than 3.75.
Lee is a private Christian institution located in Cleveland, Tennessee. Established in 1918, the school serves approximately 5,400 students. Lee holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. While the school admits students of all faiths, Lee maintains an affiliation with the Church of God Prophecy congregation.
Remote students at Lee can earn bachelor's and master's degrees online. Bachelor's programs include majors in criminal justice, ministry leadership, Christian Studies, and theology. Master's programs for distance learners include business administration, marriage and family studies, and music education. Additionally, the school offers certificate programs in intercultural studies, pastoral studies, and Christian leadership.
Distance learners at this Christian college in Tennessee take online courses that last for seven weeks each and deliver all coursework synchronously. Undergraduate applicants under the age of 25 must submit official high school transcripts and their ACT or SAT scores. Admission requirements differ for each online graduate program at Lee.
Tennessee Wesleyan University
TWU is a liberal arts school founded in 1857. Nowadays, the university serves approximately 1,300 students. TWU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and affiliated with the United Methodist Church.
This private Christian college in Tennessee offers several online degree options, including a bachelor's degree completion program in management. Additionally, the school features an online RN-to-BSN degree, an online MBA, and an online bachelor's in professional leadership in criminal justice.
Students in the management degree completion program take foundational classes in accounting, marketing, and human resources. After they graduate, students typically find careers in sales management, finance, human resources, and logistics. Most distance learners complete this program within two years.
The professional leadership in criminal justice program requires students to complete 60 credit hours. Students in this program typically enroll part time, keeping full-time jobs while earning their degrees. Unlike the university's other online programs, TWU's RN-to-BSN program requires one in-person meeting per semester.
Welch is a Christian college in Tennessee owned and operated by the National Association of Free Will Baptists. Established in 1942, this private four-year institution serves approximately 500 students. Despite its relatively small on-campus population, Welch features robust online degree offerings. Distance learners can enroll in associate and bachelor's programs with no on-campus obligations.
Remote students can complete associate degrees in business, ministry, and general studies. These two-year programs help students acquire foundational knowledge in an academic area while studying Christian principles and values.
Additionally, the school offers a bachelor's degree in theological studies. This program prepares students to become Christian leaders in their local communities as laypeople and preachers. Full-time students can complete the program within four years. Students who transfer in credits often finish more quickly.
Welch College holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Southern Adventist University
Located in Collegedale, Tennessee, Southern is a private institution with approximately 3,000 students. The school is owned and operated by the Southern Union Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists and holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The school offers several graduate programs online, including master's degrees in nursing and business administration and a dual nursing/business administration program. Distance learners can also earn a doctorate in nursing practice at Southern. While this private college does not offer any online bachelor's degrees, undergraduate students can take individual online classes for credit toward their degrees.
Mirroring most other Christian colleges and universities in Tennessee, Southern requires prospective undergraduate students to submit their ACT or SAT scores. Competitive applicants typically score at least 18 on the ACT or 960 on the SAT. Southern expects undergraduate applicants to earn a 2.5 or higher GPA. Graduate applicants typically need to submit their GMAT or GRE scores and possess a 3.0 or higher GPA.
Carson-Newman is a Christian liberal arts university based in Jefferson City, Tennessee. Established in 1851, the school now serves approximately 2,500 students and offers over 75 different academic programs, including several online degrees. The school maintains a religious affiliation with the Southern Baptist Church and holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Carson-Newman features online undergraduate programs in business administration, nursing, and organizational leadership. Online master's degrees at this Christian college in Tennessee include social entrepreneurship, business administration, and education. Advanced graduate students can also pursue a doctorate in education in curriculum and instructional leadership at Carson-Newman.
Prospective undergraduate students need to submit their ACT or SAT scores, a completed online application, and high school transcripts. Prospective graduate students must submit an online application and meet individual programmatic admission requirements. Incoming graduate students may transfer in up to nine semester hours depending on their major.
Bethel is a private Christian college in Tennessee that serves approximately 4,600 students. The school is affiliated with the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and possesses regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Online students at Bethel can pursue master's degrees in business administration, criminal justice, education, and educational leadership. Online bachelor's degrees at Bethel include criminal justice, customer relationship management, and emergency services management.
This university also offers multiple online associate degrees, including programs in customer relationship management, criminal justice, liberal arts, and business. These two-year programs feature writing-based evaluations and do not require learners to take tests or exams. Additionally, applicants for associate programs do not need to submit standardized test scores for consideration.
Bachelor's applicants need to submit their official high school transcripts and ACT or SAT scores. Competitive applicants for online bachelor's degrees possess at least a 2.25 GPA. Applicants for certain online graduate programs need at least three years of professional work experience and a bachelor's degree to qualify for admission.
Established in 1794, Tusculum is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. One of the oldest universities in the nation, Tusculum currently serves approximately 2,500 students. Tusculum holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
This private Christian college in Tennessee features online associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees. Students can pursue a bachelor's degree in business administration or a master's degree in education, talent development, or business administration online at Tusculum. These programs do not include any on-campus obligations. Distance learners can also pursue a hybrid associate of arts in general studies degree.
Tusculum's online MBA — one of the school's strongest programs — requires students to complete 30 credits. Most full-time students in the program earn their degrees in one year. Tusculum's business school holds national accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.
Undergraduate applicants need only submit an online application and their official high school transcripts. Graduate applicants must possess a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university. Minimum GPA requirements vary from program to program.
What Christian Colleges are in Tennessee?
Finding the Right Christian College
Despite the many benefits offered by online Christian colleges in Tennessee, some learners may still want to experience campus life as part of their college experience. Before committing to one of the many Christian colleges in Tennessee, prospective degree seekers should create a list of their “must-haves” to ensure they find the right school. The most important considerations typically relate to cost and a program's academic offerings. Regardless of any other benefits, students should ensure a school offers a curriculum that supports their future goals and provides the knowledge and skills needed to find employment after graduation. Campus size also merits consideration: although some learners find the idea of a large, bustling campus attractive, schools with smaller populations typically provide a more intimate setting for learning, socializing, and fellowship.
Students should ensure a school offers a curriculum that supports their future goals and provides the knowledge and skills needed to find employment after graduation.
Religious learners should also consider a school's values. Many Christian schools have stricter rules than secular institutions. For example, students may not be able to invite members of the opposite sex into their dorm rooms. Additionally, the penalties for using alcohol or drugs may be harsh and a school may mandate regular chapel attendance. Students should consider the type of college experience they want when reading about a school's rules. It's also important to consider the safety of the area surrounding campus. Lastly, even if a learner plans to study on campus, it is worth reviewing a school's online resources. These can prove useful if you ever need to study from home.
Seminary Schools vs. Bible Schools
Christians evaluating potential colleges may come across seminaries, Bible schools, and other Christian colleges offering liberal arts curricula. These types of institutions may seem interchangeable, but there are key differences between them; learners should be sure to understand these differences before picking a school.
Bible schools tend to cater to undergraduates while seminaries serve graduate students. Although a Bible school provides many biblically-based degrees -- such as Christian ethics, ministry, and youth leadership -- it typically also offers popular degrees in areas such as business, health sciences, and social work. Seminaries, conversely, focus solely on preparing graduates for roles in churches, mission organizations, faith-based nonprofits, and other Christian institutes. These schools provide master's and doctoral degree paths, with common topics including hermeneutics, biblical languages, and Christian leadership.
Accreditation for Christian Colleges
Before enrolling at a school, learners should ascertain an institution's accreditation status. Generally speaking, three types of accreditation may be listed on a college's website: institutional, programmatic, and/or specialized. Institutional accreditation falls into two categories: regional and national. Regional accreditation tends to be more prestigious, and students who attend a nationally accredited institution may struggle to receive financial aid, transfer to another school, receive licensure, and/or find a job upon graduation. A regionally accredited school goes through a multi-year accreditation process, ensuring that it provides an appropriately rigorous curriculum.
Specialized organizations include the Association for Biblical Higher Education, the Association of Christian Schools International, and the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools.
Programmatic accreditation extends to particular degree programs, such as teaching, accounting or social work, while specialized accreditation refers to recognition from special interest groups that provide legitimization based on whether schools follow specific tenets. In the case of Christian colleges in Tennessee, specialized organizations include the Association for Biblical Higher Education, the Association of Christian Schools International, and the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools. Learners looking for more details about accredited schools can visit the U.S. Department of Education's database of accredited postsecondary institutions and programs.
Career and Salary Expectations
According to a study by the American Legislative Exchange Council, Tennessee ranked 12th in the nation in 2018 in terms of economic outlook. While the state collects a hefty sales tax, the lack of income tax appeals to many individuals. Tennessee also boasts a relatively low unemployment rate of 3.4%, which is significantly less than the national average (4.1%). In terms of income potential, the state also rates favorably. The mean hourly wage for 2018 sits at $20.93, while the annual mean wage totals $43,550. Individuals with degrees from a Christian college in Tennessee who remain in-state stand to earn above average wages.
In terms of areas of opportunity, transportation, trade, utilities, educational services, healthcare, and social assistance programs provide a significant number of jobs in the state. Additionally, Tennessee's larger cities -- Knoxville, Memphis, and Nashville -- offer ample opportunities for work in the tourism and hospitality sectors. Many graduates of Tennessee Christian online colleges find community and social service-related jobs. The following table highlights a few of these occupations as well as their accompanying wages.
|Occupation||Employment||Average Hourly Wage||Average Annual Wage|
|Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors||1,660||$18.93||$39,370|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||680||$16.48||$34,280|
|Mental Health Counselors||2,470||$16.29||$33,890|
|Child, Family, and School Social Workers||4,790||$19.46||$49,480|
|Healthcare Social Workers||3,040||$25.45||$52,930|
|Social and Human Service Assistants||2,250||$15.12||$31,450|
|Directors, Religious Activities and Education||90||$20.06||$41,720|
Scholarships and Financial Aid
Although Tennessee Christian colleges tend to cost more than public schools, students can help offset their financial burden by applying for scholarships and grants. Prospective learners can review the faith- and state-based scholarships highlighted below before beginning their own search for funding opportunities.
Student Opportunity Scholarship Up to $3,000
Mary Northington Scholarship $1,500
Myrtle Creasman Scholarship Varies
Servant Leader Scholarship Full tuition
J.D. Pyeatt Scholarship Varies
Scholarships for Tennessee Residents
Jack Diller Education Award $2,500
James A. Hyter Music Scholarship Up to $4,250
NIADA Regional Scholarships $3,500
Scarlett Family Foundation Scholarships $2,500-$15,000/year
Ned McWherter Scholars Program Varies
Find a Church in Your Community
One of the first things many attendees of Christian colleges in Tennessee do once they reach campus is find a suitable church. Students can use Church Finder and USA Churches to browse faith-based communities according to denomination or distance from campus.
Christian students interested in connecting with fellow believers may find the following websites useful.
- The Christian Business Network The CBN is a global organization that provides meaningful connections, communication, collaboration, content management, group services, and professional services to members, while also fostering a Christian community.
- Christian Business Men's Connection: Based in Chattanooga, the CNMC has chapters throughout the country, including 18 in Tennessee. The group aims to equip Christian professional men with the business skills and faith-based knowledge needed to succeed
- Tennessee Christian Chamber of Commerce TCCC offers members the opportunity to engage with like-minded believers while also offering continuing-education opportunities, regular talks/presentations, and monthly workshops.
Find Christian Ministries
Christian learners can find fellowship with like-minded believers; many faith-based ministry programs exist on public campuses.
- Campus Crusade for Christ Known colloquially as Cru, this large campus ministry has groups at thousands of schools around the world, helping learners grow in their faith.
- Chi Alpha Chi Alpha serves college students across the nation by providing weekly Bible studies, opportunities for fellowship, and spiritual counseling to help students try and find answers to their questions about God.
- International Fellowship of Evangelical Students The IFES meets the needs of Evangelical Protestants by providing prayer meetings, Bible studies, mission and service learning opportunities, and community events.
- Fellowship of Christian Athletes With more than 11,000 groups operating on thousands of high school and college campuses, the FCA continues in its mission to help students build their faith while also improving their sports-related skills.
- Catholic Campus Ministry Association In addition to offering a national conference each year, the CCMA endeavors to address the spiritual needs of undergraduate and graduate students in fun and meaningful ways.
- Lutheran Student Movement USA The LSM-USA operates campus ministries in nine different regions of the U.S., providing learners with spiritual guidance and support.
- Reformed University Fellowship The RUF provides weekly Bible studies for men or women, a large coeducational Bible study group, several social events throughout the semester, and opportunities to share the gospel with others.
- UKirk With a focus on helping young adults on their journeys to finding Christ, UKirk hosts several campus ministries. The organization offers a number of service and mission trips, encouraging students to participate in "alternative spring breaks."
- Baptist Collegiate Ministry Life BCM-Life maintains a directory of collegiate ministries, helping students find an organization nearby. The group hosts regular campus events, helping students learn how to live out their faith.
Public Universities in Tennessee with Christian Ministries
- Vanderbilt University's RUF This popular campus organization offers weekly large groups, guys and girls luncheons, a freshman Bible study, and opportunities to serve the homeless.
- University of Tennessee at Knoxville's FCA As one of the leading colleges for sports, the FCA ministry at UT provides opportunities for casual and committed athletes to engage in fellowship and ground themselves in biblical teachings.
- Middle Tennessee State University MTSU is home to BCM, FCA, CCMA, and RUF groups, as well as nearly 40 other religious organizations.