Minister Training Programs, Courses and Requirements

Ministers provide leadership services for churches, ministries and educational institutions. They oversee worship services, perform religious ceremonies and work with pastors to develop spiritual and educational plans. A bachelor's degree is typically required to become a minister, though some positions may require a master's degree.

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Training Requirements and Recommendations

Ministers typically begin training by enrolling in a ministry bachelor's degree program. After completing undergraduate schooling, most aspiring ministers obtain a master's degree. Ministers must have excellent communication and public speaking skills in order to lead congregations; therefore students must learn to provide leadership and objective instruction to church members. Many ministers are responsible for various administrative duties, so they should be organized and able to work efficiently with pastors, clergy and other religious professionals. Specialized positions, such as youth ministers and lay ministers, are available for ministers with relevant skills and experience.

Formal Education

Employment opportunities are best for those with a bachelor's or master's degree in ministry studies. Ministers seeking ordainment can enroll in a master of divinity degree program. Educational requirements vary by church, position and duties performed.

Bachelor of Arts in Ministry

A ministry bachelor's degree program introduces students to various religious concepts, theories, philosophies and histories. Although most ministry programs focus on Christianity, comparative or world religion courses are provided in order for students to gain a more comprehensive view of religious studies. Students also learn how churches and other religious organizations operate. Programs include courses in:

  • Old Testament studies
  • New Testament studies
  • Christian doctrines
  • Christian counseling theories
  • Worship leadership
  • Practical theology
  • Religious philosophies

Master of Arts in Ministry Leadership

A master's degree in ministry leadership is ideal for ministers who seek advanced leadership responsibilities in their church or ministry. Master's degree programs are research-intensive and allow students to view religious leadership from psychological, social and cultural viewpoints. Students typically complete a thesis project to demonstrate their knowledge of ministerial studies. Common courses include:

  • Spiritual guidance and leadership services
  • Foundational theology
  • Ecclesiology
  • Ministerial ethics
  • Pastoral counseling
  • Youth and educational ministries
  • Evangelistic leadership

Master of Divinity

A Master of Divinity is designed for ministers seeking ordainment. These programs provide practical skills and knowledge that is essential to ministerial duties. With a Master of Divinity, ministers can become ordained by their church or religious organization. Programs include courses on:

  • Christian leadership development
  • Biblical discipleship
  • Church administration
  • Church planting methods
  • Ministerial coaching

Job Experience

Experience requirements vary by employer and position. Most churches and religious schools prefer to hire ministers with 2-5 years of experience, though larger organizations may require additional experience. Youth and music ministers are usually required to have experience relevant to the position.

Licenses and Certifications

Ministers are not required to be licensed or certified. Some churches may require ministers to be ordained, while others employ lay ministers who have a bachelor's or master's degree in ministry leadership.

Workshops and Seminars

Workshops may be offered by theological colleges and universities with ministry studies programs. Because ministers perform a wide range of duties, workshops may address specific topics, such as how to administer individual religious ceremonies or how to provide educational leadership to a church. Workshops may also be offered by churches looking for volunteer or lay ministers with minimal formal training.

Additional Professional Development

Ministers can obtain a Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) to strengthen their knowledge and leadership skills. These programs provide advanced research-based courses in ministerial studies, leadership and church administration. Obtaining a Doctor of Ministry can also lead to research or teaching positions with churches and educational institutions.

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  • School locations:
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    Areas of study you may find at Harvard University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Liberal Arts and Humanities
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    Areas of study you may find at Duke University include:
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    Areas of study you may find at University of Notre Dame include:
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      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
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      • Social Studies and History
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        • Divinity and Ministry Studies
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    • Tennessee (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Vanderbilt University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
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      • Social Studies and History
      • Theological, Religious, and Ministerial Studies
        • Divinity and Ministry Studies
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    • Massachusetts (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Boston University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Liberal Arts and Humanities
      • Cultural Studies
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      • Philosophy
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      • Social Studies and History
      • Theological, Religious, and Ministerial Studies
        • Divinity and Ministry Studies

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