How To Become a Pastor

This article provides in-depth information into how to become a pastor, requirements to become a pastor, pastor schooling and more.

A pastor is a Christian, spiritual leader of a group of people or congregation. A pastor furthers the work of the church while leading others into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. As a pastor, you can practice within a specific concentration, such as working with children, overseeing a ministry, or serving as a senior pastor. Pastors must follow the particular demands that their church requires, including requirements of character, experience, and education. 

Pastors can be full-time, part-time, bi-vocational, or volunteer.

What does a Pastor do ?

You might think a pastor is the man who delivers a sermon at your weekly mass. In reality, pastors do much more than that. A pastor is expected to provide more than spiritual leadership. 

Here are some of a pastor’s additional duties:

  • Oversee church committees, missions, and missionaries
  • Perform baptisms, weddings, and funerals
  • Provide marital, grief and psychological counseling
  • Plan community outreach activities
  • Conduct or arrange for Sunday school classes
  • Conduct or arrange for adult religious instruction
  • Seek out new members for the congregation
  • Be available evenings and weekends as needed
  • Collaborate with the choir to integrate music into church services
  • Complete administrative duties
  • Attend social functions at the church
  • Assist in church financial matters
  • Oversee management of all areas of the congregation's ministry
  • Support, oversee and evaluate congregation staff
  • Hold regular staff meetings to coordinate ministries
  • Ensure church facilities are functioning
  • Give full support biblically to the Undesignated Budget of the church
  • Adhere to the Church Bylaws, and Policies and Procedures adopted by the church.
  • Maintain a vital and wholesome personal relationship with the Lord through daily Bible study and prayer


Pastor or Preacher: What’s The Difference?

One might assume a pastor and preacher have the same duties. So, you might be wondering how to become a preacher in the same breath as how to become a pastor. However, the two aren’t the same. If you’re wondering how to become a preacher, you’ll learn that it’s actually much easier than becoming a pastor. In becoming a preacher, your main responsibility is to spread the word of God, through teachings, sermons, and conversation. 


Preachers don’t have the requirement of overseeing the financial, administrative, or operational affairs of a congregation, while pastors do. Preachers aren’t required to counsel their congregation in matters of mental distress, grief, marriage, etc. Although they can if they wish, it’s not required. Pastors, on the other hand, are expected to perform consular duties.

Steps for becoming a Pastor


Be Dedicated

People perform best when they’re passionate. While this is true for many occupations, it’s especially true for pastors. Becoming a pastor means that you have absolute confidence in your faith and are ready to share it with the world. Becoming a pastor can be a lengthy and strenuous process. 

Additionally, faith isn’t enough to succeed as a pastor. You need to have the dedication and drive required to be a leader to your congregation. Many pastors also need to move often, so you must be dedicated to handle the stress that comes with relocating. 

It’s important to seek spiritual guidance before making your decision. Make sure that you have chosen the right path and dedicate yourself wholeheartedly.

Step 1 Be Dedicated


Earn A Bachelor's Degree

Specific educational requirements for becoming a pastor vary amongst denominations and churches. Many require both a bachelor’s and master’s degree, though some churches are satisfied with just a bachelor’s degree. 

Either way, a pastor schooling begins with a 4-year bachelor’s degree. Your bachelor’s degree should specialize in either:

  • Theology
  • Religious studies
  • Liberal Arts
  • Divinity

While you study, you should also be active in campus ministry. Colleges and universities may feature a campus ministry where students can worship and express their faith. Leading Bible study groups or volunteering within the community may be beneficial both spiritually and for admission into graduate programs. Pastor education requirements emphasize education, training, and skills necessary for the profession.

Step 2  Earn a Bachelor's Degree


Gain Experience

Pastors may begin their career as associate pastors. They'll work under the supervision of a senior pastor at the church. While associate pastors may lead spiritual groups and be available for counseling during the week, they may conduct readings during services and perform sermons periodically.

Step 3 Gain Experience


Complete A Master's Degree

After the completion of a bachelor's degree, pastoral students typically begin their graduate coursework at a seminary or School of Divinity. A common master’s program for prospective pastors is the Master of Divinity (M. Div.). 

While all pastors study the Christian faith, additional courses based on the denomination of study may be offered. Most seminaries offer an apprenticeship-like program included in the master's program that allows pastoral students to observe and practice their developing skills with an ordained pastor.

Step 4 Complete a Master's Degree


Look For Senior Pastor Opportunities

Depending on pastors' goals or the needs of a denomination, pastors may spend only a short time serving one congregation, or serve one for many years. Typically, pastors are notified of job openings through postings from the denominational governing organization. These days, however, you can even find pastor job openings on common employment websites like Indeed.

Step 5 Look for Senior Pastor Opportunities

Pastor Salaries


Pastor Degree Levels


Popular undergraduate majors for students who wish to pursue a career in religious leadership include Bible or pastoral studies, theology, and ministry. Some programs offer bachelor's degrees in specific ministerial areas, such as pastoral studies. Courses in the program cover topics in the Old and New Testament, theology, ethics, pastoral studies, and sociology.

  • The Nature and Method of Theology

  • The Foundation of Theology

  • Scripture

  • Articulate and defend the essential theological doctrines

  • Compare and contrast the Christian worldview

  • Integrate theological doctrines with contemporary issues

Christian Ministry
  • A Definition of Spiritual Leadership

  • Licensing & Ordination

  • The Spiritual Disciplines

  • Construct a personal philosophy for ministry

  • Articulate a basic understanding of the nature of ministry

  • Integrate biblical and philosophical foundations with the practices of ministry

Mission and message of jesus
  • Jesus (and the Gospels)

  • Mark’s Story of Jesus

  • Jerusalem and Rome

  • Read biblical texts closely and critically

  • Identify the distinctive literary and theological themes

  • Comprehend the aims and strategies of Jesus’ renewal movement


Aspiring pastors may follow a degree plan for a Master of Divinity (M.Div.). The M.Div is an academic, professional degree that combines the study of a number of disciplines important for a pastor to learn. The M.Div. degree program typically lasts 2 to 3 years, depending on the number of courses taken each semester. Courses are strictly focused on religious practices, Bible study, and congregational leadership.

Biblical studies
  • Introduction to the Greek Language

  • Introduction to the Canon of Scripture

  • Introduction to the Hebrew Language

  • Locate key terms necessary for biblical studies

  • Identify and define facts about the revelation of the Scriptures

  • Learn some basic facts about Greek grammar

Biblical languages
  • Intro to Koine Greek

  • The Greek Verb and Participle

  • Intro to Hebrew

  • To recount a basic history of Classical Hebrew and Koine Greek

  • To recognize and pronounce biblical Hebrew and Greek words

  • A basic knowledge of English grammar as preparation for understanding biblical Greek and Hebrew

Pastoral care
  • Integration Model for Counseling

  • Pastor as Minor Poet

  • Strategic Pastoral Counseling Resources

  • Learn general counseling principles

  • Practice basic counseling skills

  • Explore personal life issues that may influence counselor effectiveness


Becoming a pastor, and subsequently working as a pastor, are not easy tasks! Luckily, there are many schools that offer theology and divinity programs for you to choose from, as well as many campus ministries to gain volunteer experience. 

Check out this scholarship if you’re interested in becoming a pastor.