How to Become a Pastor

Date Published

May 8, 2023

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Published by Calvin Seminary

People take many journeys to become a pastor. It’s a calling that God puts on men and women in all stages of life. The journey outlined below represents one of the common paths to pastoral leadership. We’d love to hear more about yours!

How to Become a Pastor

1. Get an Undergraduate Degree

Although some pastors enter their position without a degree, it is common in North America to receive at least an undergraduate degree before taking on the role. Pastors can receive their undergraduate degree from a variety of places: a Christian university, a Bible college, or any public or private university. A future pastor’s undergraduate area of study can also vary, as faith leaders bring a variety of experiences to their calling. 

Some undergraduate degrees for those interested in becoming a pastor may include religion, religious studies, ministry, Christian studies, Bible, or philosophy. However, someone called to ministry who has a background in another area should not let this deter them from becoming a pastor. All areas of studies are useful and important to God’s kingdom. 

2. Pursue a Master of Divinity (MDiv)

An MDiv degree is one path to pastoral leadership. In the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA), the path to ordination as a Minister of the Word requires an MDiv degree. For aspiring CRC pastors, please review the denomination’s available paths to ordination. The MDiv program at Calvin Theological Seminary (CTS) is one of the most direct paths to ordination in the CRC denomination. 

For aspiring pastors of other denominations, please check your denomination of choice to determine specific candidacy requirements. Students of various Christian faith backgrounds choose Calvin’s MDiv program to reach their goals of becoming a pastor. 

3. Gain Experience Through Service

Many MDiv programs will include vocational placements, so students can serve a local congregation or ministry while gaining important experience as part of their seminary education.

Calvin’s MDiv students work closely with the Vocational Formation Office to gain experience and mentorship in their areas of pastoral focus. CTS alumni routinely reflect on their contextual learning as an important formational piece of their MDiv training. 

4. Become Ordained

Many denominations require ordination to be recognized as a pastor. Consider these paths to ordination in the CRC (including Calvin Theological Seminary’s MDiv and EPMC programs), or inquire of your denomination for steps you can take to become ordained. 

5. Begin Working as a Pastor

After your ordination, you may be asked to be a pastor at a church after announcing your candidacy, or you may apply for pastoral jobs that interest you across North America or around the globe. 

How Long Does It Take to Become an Ordained Minister?

The MDiv program takes 3–4 years to complete. It takes approximately 6 months to a year after graduation for ordination in the CRC.

Choosing Between Schools to Become a Pastor

Since the majority of pastoral requirements are educational, choosing the right school is an important part of your journey to become a pastor. In addition to the suggestions below, you will want to look for seminaries with opportunities for vocational formation, strong academics, and scholarship support

1. Research Pastor Requirements for Your Denomination

Researching requirements for the denomination of your choosing before finding a seminary may help you in choosing a seminary that is right for you.

2. Decide Between Online or On-Campus Education

Many seminaries offer both online and in-person degrees. Each path has its own benefits and challenges. Consider which would work best for you before applying.

How to Become a Pastor Online

If you are called to become a pastor and are looking for flexibility through asynchronous, online learning, you may want to consider distance learning. The length of time you will spend earning an online degree is often similar to that of an in-person degree.

If you choose to pursue your pastoral training online, it is important to find a school with an accredited online program. Calvin Theological Seminary offers its world-class, accredited MDiv program through either in-person and hybrid options. 

3. Consider Your Career Goals

There are many kinds of pastors. The specific type of pastor you want to become may determine which seminary you choose. A worship pastor or a youth pastor, for example, might look for an MDiv with elective offerings to customize their journey.

Continue Your Journey to Become a Pastor at CTS

If you’re sensing a calling to becoming a pastor, or another ministry role, we’d love to talk with you about your seminary journey. Get in touch with us today!

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