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Preparing for Ministry - College vs. Seminary

I felt a call to ministry when I was in junior high. There were a few weeks where I contemplated other vocations, but this call was unshakable for me. I knew I wanted to be in ministry, and I picked a school accordingly. In my non-denominational tradition a bachelor’s degree in ministry or Biblical literature is sufficient for ordination. This is NOT the case in most denominations. I did continue my education at Fuller Theological Seminary and regretted having a bachelor’s degree in the same field. I would have received a more well rounded education if my undergraduate degree had been in something else like communication, English, history, or political science. This is one thing I would do if I had it to do all over again.

If you’re in high school and want to enter ministry seriously consider what your educational goals are. Do you plan on attending seminary? (If you’re in most denominations you’ll have to attend seminary to be ordained.) If so, don’t rack up student loan debt by attending a private Christian college! Attend a state school, be an active participant in your campus ministry, volunteer in a local church, and get a degree in something you’re excited about. Then go to seminary! 

If you don’t need or want to go to seminary, then attend a Bible college in your tradition. Ask your pastor what they would recommend. Ask a pastor you admire where they went. Get information on your options and then go! While there you’ll be able to start interning and working with other ministries and churches. This way you’ll be ready for full-time ministry when you graduate.

If you’re in college and contemplating ministry continue where you are. If you’ve recently felt a call to ministry, finish your degree, and then go to seminary. The diversity of education will be a blessing to you as you minister to and meet new and different people.

A residency program is another path for many college graduates into ministry without attending seminary. You can find residency programs for aspiring pastors at many large churches. These programs are often paid (minimally), provide you with a basic theological education, and give you hands-on experience in ministry. If you do well and they have a spot, you might even get a job! If not, you’ll have some excellent material to put on your resume as you launch from your residency into your first church.