If you are interested in becoming a Church Pastor, chances are that you will feel the need to further your education to prepare yourself for the role. However, with a seemingly endless amount of education options, how can you know which degree program will best prepare you for the responsibility of pastoring a church? Some basic orientation toward ministry degrees, both undergraduate and graduate, should be helpful.
Traditional Undergraduate Degrees
If possible, it is best to start thinking about what your educational needs for ministry will be while you are still considering or pursuing an undergraduate degree. Ministering as a Church Pastor is a very unique job. It requires a lot of diverse skills as well as a lot of flexibility. However, if you are preaching on a regular basis, then you should expect to spend a good deal of your time reading and writing. The level of study involved in reading and expounding on the Bible should be intensive, so it is important that you choose a degree that trains you in the type of academic rigor that will make you a good reader and writer. A traditional undergraduate degree from a college or university can be excellent preparation for a pastor, especially if you plan to attend seminary or graduate school. If this is the route taken, a Bachelor of Arts in religion, philosophy, literature, or another area of the humanities will probably be the best preparation. Some universities have theology programs which focus more specifically on the study of a particular theological tradition. An undergraduate theology degree can function as a preparation for graduate school or as direct preparation for ministry.
Ministry Related Undergraduate Degrees
Aside from traditional undergraduate education, there are undegraduate degrees designed specifically to equip students with the practical skills necessary for ministry. Bible colleges will often offer a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science degree in Bible or ministry. These degrees will be heavy in both study of the Scriptures and in practical ministry issues. Often, they will include classes in Greek and Hebrew so that students can begin to read the Bible in the original languages. Some Christian colleges will even offer a “pre-seminary” degree that is specifically designed to prepare undergraduate students with the skills they will need to be successful in seminary.
Seminary and Graduate School
For many people, a Master of Divinity degree from a seminary is the most thorough education they can get to be an effective pastor. A seminary education will equip a student with training in the original languages of the Bible, systematic theology, Church history, biblical theology, homiletics, and practical ministry skills. There are many reasons to attend seminary, but one of the best is that it provides dedicated and focused time for a pastor in training to acquire knowledge and skills that will serve them throughout years of busy ministry. A graduate program in theology that focuses on more the more academic side of theological study can also be appropriate.
The educational needs for pastors will differ from one context to the next. However, it is good for a student with aspirations towards Church ministry to acquire a basic knowledge of the different categories of religious and theological education available.