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Major in Religion

Article by Rachelle Wiggins

“Matthew 5:16 “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Despite the claim of often quoted German philosopher Friedrich Nietzche that, “God is dead,” 84% of the world’s population identifies with one religion or another, causing one to wonder what stats Nietzche was referencing! Religion-- explained as a set of beliefs or practices that define the relationship between humanity and the divine--is on the continual rise. Furthermore, it is one of the most powerful influencing factors on culture, politics and society at large, making it an interesting college major choice to say the least.

What happens after I die? Why is there suffering? Where did I come from and why am I here? In this major you can expect to seek answers to life’s toughest questions through reading, writing, discussion, research and reflection. You will learn how to view history from a religious perspective and to engage in an analytical, cross-cultural comparison of the world’s many religious systems. It’s possible you may visit various places of worship or even other countries in order to gain a better understanding of the personal, societal and global significance of various religions. Many programs in this broad based major encourage volunteer work and require a senior thesis.

Some of the classes you make take include:

  • Belief Systems
  • Spiritual and Cultural Traditions
  • Philosophy
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology
  • World Religions

Because of the nature of this major, it is helpful to approach it self-reflectively so that what is gleaned is personally applicable to life, not merely an academic exercise. Some of the other desired traits and skills needed in order to succeed in this major include: good research, writing and presentation abilities, good organizational and time management skills and the capability to work well with and show empathy and understanding to others.

This interdisciplinary major teaches critical thinking and self-awareness and makes a great springboard into higher learning. Many in this major attain more specialized or advanced training and end up in some level of religious education or counseling, but even a bachelor’s degree opens doors to diverse career options such as:

  • Clergy. About 20% who obtain religion majors land in some form of church work where they will instruct, counsel, offer comfort and provide spiritual help to congregants under their care.
  • Spiritual writer. This involves taking what you believe and helping to inspire and instruct others through the written word.
  • Political activist. Knowledge of religion is an indispensible part of politics and can be the key to understanding and improving upon a number of local and world issues. 
  • Social/Human service assistant or administrator.  These individuals help struggling families or individuals find resources within their community. They may also create and implement services to help meet felt needs.
  • Community development worker. Whether employed by a non-profit or an NGO, in a local community or overseas, these workers tackle social, legal, economic or environmental issues and work for betterment and equality through education and empowerment.

Want to develop a better understanding of yourself, your fellow creature, the meaning of life and worship? Excited about a helping profession that engages people wholistically and offers hope? Then perhaps a major in religion would be right up your ally!

A future in Religion/Ministry

By Jennifer Bailey

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.