How to Be a Pastor

5 Key Milestones on How to Be a Pastor

How to Become a Pastor: The Ultimate Guide

Becoming a pastor is a journey that requires dedication, education, and a deep spiritual calling. This guide outlines 5 crucial steps to help you figure out how to become a pastor, including the necessary education, types of pastors, and associated costs.

1. Understanding God’s Calling: The First Step to Becoming a Pastor

Recognizing the Inner Call

It all starts with an inner calling to become a pastor. A strong spiritual conviction always accompanies this profound sense of purpose and direction towards pastoral ministry. It’s essential to pray, seek God’s guidance, and reflect on this calling.

Seeking Confirmation through Guidance

After recognizing the call, seek confirmation through discussions with trusted spiritual mentors. These mentors, who have walked a similar path, can provide valuable insights and affirm your calling.

Importance of Spiritual Mentors

Spiritual mentors offer wisdom, support, and accountability to nurture and guide your spiritual growth. Their experience can be instrumental in preparing you for pastoral ministry.

Biblical Basis for Pastoral Calling

The Bible provides a strong foundation for the pastoral calling. Verses such as 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 outline the qualities and responsibilities of a pastor, emphasizing the importance of character, leadership, and devotion to God’s Word.

2. Educational Pathways: Courses and Degrees for Aspiring Pastors

Undergraduate Degree Programs

To become a pastor, formal education is usually required. Here are some significant undergraduate programs:

  • Bachelor’s in Theology: Provides a comprehensive grasp of biblical teachings, church history, and theological principles.
  • Bachelor’s in Religious Studies: Focuses on studying various religious traditions, enhancing your knowledge of different faith perspectives.
  • Bachelor’s in Ministry: Prepares you for practical ministry work, covering pastoral care, leadership, and church administration.

Graduate Degree Programs

Advanced education further equips you for pastoral responsibilities. Important postgraduate programs include:

  • Master of Divinity (MDiv): Considered the standard degree for pastors, it covers theology, biblical studies, and practical ministry skills.
  • Master of Theology (ThM): Provides deeper theological study, ideal for those interested in academic or teaching roles within the church.
  • Master of Ministry (MMin): Focuses on practical ministry training, emphasizing leadership and pastoral care.

Online Courses and Resources

For those seeking flexibility, online programs offer valuable education. Reputable institutions include:

3. How Long Does It Take to Be a Pastor?

Duration of Undergraduate Studies

Typically, earning a bachelor’s degree takes about 4 years of full-time study. This foundational education is crucial for building a solid theological and biblical knowledge base.

Duration of Graduate Studies

Pursuing a Master of Divinity (MDiv) or equivalent degree usually requires an additional 3 to 4 years of study. This period includes classroom learning, hands-on pastoral training, and often internships or field education.

Additional Time for Ordination and Experience

After completing formal education, additional time is needed for ordination. This process can vary by denomination but generally involves several steps, including examinations, interviews, and practical ministry experience. The overall timeline from initial education to ordination typically ranges from 7 to 10 years.

4. Exploring Different Types of Pastors: Duties and Qualifications

Youth Pastor

  • Roles and Responsibilities: Focuses on the spiritual development of young people within the church through leading youth events and retreats. Additionally, they mentor young congregants individually and in small groups.
  • Special Training and Skills Required: Strong social skills, familiarity with youth culture, and ability to engage and inspire young congregants. Knowledge of contemporary Christian music and media is also beneficial.

Children Pastor

  • Roles and Responsibilities: Similar to a youth pastor, a children’s pastor is responsible for the spiritual development of children in the church.
  • Special Training and Skills Required: This role involves organizing children’s Sunday school programs and directly teaching the children, ensuring they are acquainted with biblical teachings.

Online Pastor

  • Digital Ministry: Utilizes digital platforms to reach and minister to congregants. They provide online counseling and prayer sessions. They create and manage the church’s digital content strategy.
  • Utilizing Social Media and Online Platforms: Effective use of social media, online sermons, and virtual meetings to connect with a broader audience. Skills in online tools and applications can enhance their online presence.

Senior Pastor

  • Leadership and Vision: Provides overall leadership and direction for the church. They represent the church in the wider community and at denominational events. They guide the church’s long-term vision and mission.
  • Overseeing Church Operations: Manages church staff, finances, and strategic planning. They ensure all church activities align with its core values and objectives.

Associate Pastor

  • Supporting Senior Pastor: Assists the senior pastor in various duties and fills in as needed. They frequently take on preaching responsibilities when the senior pastor is unavailable. They help coordinate volunteer activities and community outreach programs.
  • Focused Ministries: May oversee specific areas such as education, worship, or community outreach. They may develop and lead specialized programs or ministry initiatives.


  • Skills and Interests: If you feel a strong pull toward teaching, your focus might be on instructing from the Word, not necessarily within a traditional church setting.
  • Career Path: It is quite common for pastors to serve a small church or ministry part-time while teaching Bible courses at a community college or university. Alternatively, you might choose to become a “teaching pastor,” emphasizing small group studies or training sessions rather than delivering sermons.


  • Job Description: As a counselor with pastoral ordination, you might be responsible for a counseling program within your church as part of the pastoral team or work in a Christian counseling center.
  • Special Training: A specific type of pastoral counselor is a chaplain, who often works in secular institutions where pastoral care is needed, such as the military, prisons, hospitals, government agencies, and police and fire departments.


  • Preaching Abilities: The missions field could involve anything from a church-funded social service program to a relational ministry aimed at bringing Christ to unchurched individuals.
  • Career Path Examples: While the term “missionary” conjures images of Christians traveling to other countries to preach, this career path also includes urban missions within the U.S. Missionaries are needed everywhere to spread the gospel of Christ to those in need.

5. Financial Considerations for Becoming a Pastor

Tuition and Fees for Undergraduate Programs

The cost of undergraduate programs can vary widely. On average, tuition ranges from $10,000 to $30,000 per year, depending on the institution and location.

Costs for Graduate Programs

Graduate programs typically range from $20,000 to $40,000 per year. Some prestigious programs may cost more, but many institutions offer financial aid and scholarships.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Numerous scholarships and grants are available for those pursuing pastoral education. These can greatly decrease the financial burden. Students are encouraged to research and apply for these opportunities early in their educational journey.

Additional Costs (Books, Housing, etc.)

Beyond tuition, students should budget for additional expenses such as books, housing, and living costs. These can add several thousand dollars per year to the total cost of education.

Embarking on the Journey to Become a Pastor

Whether you’re looking to serve your current church family or start a new chapter in your ministry, applying for a pastor position is the next step. While applying at your current church might be a smoother process, crafting a strong resume that showcases your qualifications, experience, and skills is crucial.

But don’t stop at a great resume! Growth comes from experience, so take that leap and apply! Cast your net across churches, schools, NGOs, and other Christian organizations seeking pastors. With your application submitted, get ready to shine in your upcoming interviews!

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