Pastoral Degrees at Christian Universities

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Major in Pastoral Ministry

Article by Rachelle Wiggins

Matthew 28:18-20 “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”

Just before his ascension into heaven, Jesus gave this mandate to every Christian, regardless of time or culture. While this command can be carried out in any vocation, some feel a special calling into full-time Christian ministry in order to dedicate time and effort to the task of making disciples. A degree in pastoral ministry helps prepare individuals for a lifetime of service within a church setting or religious organization.  If you desire to enter a program that focuses on the principles of pastoral care, including non-clinical pastoral counseling, so that your leadership skills are sharpened for the future ministry to which God has called you, then consider a pastoral ministry major.

A large number of students who set out on a pastoral ministry path can already articulate a clear sense of “calling” on their lives. They often carry a sense of urgency for bringing the Gospel of Jesus to a hurting world, and greatly desire to make a difference in the lives of others. Still others are exploring the idea of a ministry “call” but have a general desire to be used in some area of Christian service. Some personal traits and skills that may further reinforce your choice of a pastoral ministry major include things like:

  • An enjoyment of reading and studying the Bible
  • A genuine love for people and the ability to listen and relate well with others
  • Good communication skills and giftedness in teaching
  • Strong leaderships skills
  • A high standard of personal integrity
  • A desire for deep spiritual formation and Christ-likeness

In a degree where who you are is every bit as important as what you know, pastoral ministries is unique in its desire to shape the whole person. Because of this, many programs encourage some sort of mentoring or discipleship. Other programs emphasize hands-on volunteer work in a ministry setting or missions trip or internship.  Depending on your college, it’s possible you will study an original Biblical language (Greek or Hebrew) and may take classes that prepare you for spiritual counseling, pastoral care and crisis intervention. Other classes you can expect to take include:

  • Systematic Theology
  • Old Testament Studies/New Testament Studies
  • Bible Study Methods (Hermeneutics)
  • Preaching (Homiletics)
  • Christian Ministry/Leadership
  • Church History

Most often a degree in pastoral ministry leads to a career in traditional ministry; pastor, missionary, evangelist and youth minister are the most common choices, but some graduates find their way into other ministries like Christian education, campus ministry, military or hospital chaplain, Christian publishing, para-church ministry, camp ministry or work in a charity, non-profit, relief organization or NGO (non-government organization) just to name a few. If you desire a career that focuses on brining the Gospel to people in a culturally relevant way and watching it bring hope and transformation into people’s lives as you journey alongside them in the process of spiritual growth, then welcome to a major in pastoral ministry!


A future in Pastoral Ministry


By Thom Seagren

There are a variety of opportunities within ministry-related careers. For those who believe they would like to serve the Lord through full-time ministry, one of the most important questions to ask is…where is my call to ministry coming from?  Is your interest in ministry from a desire to help others, or is it a “call” from the Lord? While Christians are called to serve in every profession we undertake, I believe full-time ministry may be best considered a response to a God-given call.

Whether you are considering a career as a children’s pastor, music/worship leader, senior pastor, youth minister, or Bible teacher/professor, may I suggest that your focus should be on service to Christ rather than on service to others. While at times, people can be wonderful to serve, individuals are imperfect and can be “challenging” to work with, to say the least. If your interest in service through ministry as your full-time career has risen from God’s call on your life, this will likely be your passion. In the popular study, “Experiencing God”, the authors touch on this notion of “service” being to Christ first. With service to Christ as the focus of ministry, it removes our personal views of the one being served. Personalities, differences of opinion, or whether or not someone seems “lovable” to you are no longer an issue when what we are doing is actually service to Christ. Seeing Christ rather than the one we are “serving” can dramatically shift our view and improve our ability to minister.

A career of service through ministry will likely be challenging, rewarding and constantly changing. If God is leading you into a life of ministry, it can be one of the most exciting professions you can imagine.

Pastoral Ministry

A person considering a career in pastoral ministry should possess characteristics that include integrity, empathy, patience, generosity, and hospitality – but most importantly a “call” from the Lord.

Serving as a pastor can be dramatically different from one church to another. What makes pastoral ministry so varied are such factors as the church’s location (urban, suburban, rural), the size of the church, the “make-up” of the church body, denomination, and the part of the country (culture) where the church is located, just to name a few. For example, you will likely need a very different skill set to minister effectively to a congregation of 100 in rural Minnesota, than a church of 1,000 in Southern California. You will need a different set of gifts to plant a church, than to be a senior pastor with a mature congregation of 250 members. Your own relationship with Christ should be the foundation for ministry, on which you can place the building blocks of your study of theology, psychology, business, speech, etc.

Having a deep understanding, love, and appreciation for scripture and biblical principles is critical to effective pastoral ministry. How are your personal prayer life and your time in the Word? The honest answer to this question will likely be a strong indicator of your qualifications and call to ministry.

Ministry is a rewarding and challenging profession, and if God has called you into a life of ministry there is no better place to be.