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Earning an online associate degree in ministry prepares you to become a fully ordained minister and to embrace more responsibility within your religious organization. The field of ministry attracts students who have found their calling to serve their church and help others in times of need. These positions are in demand; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment opportunities for clergy positions, such as parish priest and youth pastor, will grow 8% by 2026. An online ministry degree helps you develop communication and cultural interaction skills while also providing a fundamental understanding of the bible and church leadership.

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The Best Online Associate in Ministry Programs

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Online Associate in Ministry Degree Program Ranking Guidelines:
We selected the degree programs based on the quality of program and range of courses provided, as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation.

Our Methodology

Here at TheBestSchools.org, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from AcademicInfluence.com, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

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The Best Online Associate in Ministry Degree Programs

  1. Clarks Summit University
    Location

    Clarks Summit, PA

    Clarks Summit University offers an associate of arts with a concentration in Christian ministries and an associate of arts with a concentration in counseling ministries. Both of these programs provide coursework entirely online, providing ample flexibility to students with busy professional and personal lives. These online ministry degrees give distance learners the opportunity to advance their current ministry-related careers or continue on to complete a bachelor's degree in a related field.

    The concentration in Christian ministries allows students to focus on ministry leadership while gaining a solid foundation in theological studies. This degree uses the same courses as CSU's online Christian ministries bachelor's of science program, ensuring an effortless transition for students who want to continue on and earn a four-year degree. Select courses include personal life of the ministry leader, family life of the ministry leader, and dynamics of discipleship. Potential career options include youth pastors and assistant pastors. Nine elective credits allow students to further tailor their degrees and pursue specific interests within the field.

    Alternatively, the counseling ministries concentration gives students the chance to gain a counseling certification within two years. This certification draws from counseling and psychology coursework through the viewpoint of Scripture. Classes offered in this degree track mirror those in the online counseling ministries bachelor's of science degree, also allowing students to continue on to pursue an advanced degree. Course offerings include crisis counseling, historical and contemporary issues in counseling, and ethics & professionalism. Graduates can find fulfilling careers in faith-based counseling positions.

  2. Indiana Wesleyan University
    Location

    Marion, IN

    Located in the city of Marion, Indiana Wesleyan University features evangelical Christian values and has educated students with a Wesleyan-Arminian faith-based perspective for a century. IWU offers an associate of science in Christian ministries to individuals interested in pursuing entry-level positions within the Christian church or those who want to earn a bachelor's degree in biblical or ministry studies. This program fulfills multi-denominational requirements for ordination and/or licencing. Within the Wesleyan Church itself, this program provides more than half of the ordination requirements and five of the six district licensure requirements.

    This online associate in ministry program includes 27 general education credits, which can be applied toward bachelor's degree credit requirements at IWU. Assigned cohorts ensure group support throughout the duration of the program and beyond. The curriculum includes classes in preaching and teaching the Bible, worship in the local church, Christian education in the local church, and evangelism and global outreach of the local church. Students must complete 60 credit hours with a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0 and pass two entry-level writing courses with a “C” or higher.

    Applicants need proof of a high school diploma or GED certificate for successful admission. Tuition for out-of-state students mirrors that for in-state students, and pastors and Wesleyan pastors receive a tuition discount.

  3. Carolina College of Biblical Studies
    Location

    Fayetteville, NC

    Carolina College of Biblical Studies, located in Fayetteville, North Carolina, incorporates strong Christian values into its curriculum. The school offers an associate of arts in leadership and ministry that helps learners develop leadership skills within the church or para-church organizations. Students attending this online ministry school gain a diverse understanding of organizational leadership using psychological, theological, and anthropological approaches. Graduates can find fulfilling positions as pastors or lay leaders.

    CCBS places new students into cohorts of 8-15 individuals, enabling a personalized learning experience. Each course lasts five weeks, and degree seekers take just one class at a time. Students typically complete the 60 required credits in two years. All online classes follow an asynchronous format, allowing students to complete coursework at their convenience. Weekly assignments, such as online discussions and homework, ensure students stay up to speed with the material. Select course offerings include evangelism, spiritual foundation, issues in Christian leadership, and discipling and mentoring in the Christian faith. The program requires a final leadership and ministry capstone before graduation.

    Admission requirements include a high school diploma or GED certificate, a ministry reference, and official transcripts from previous schools. Out-of-state students pay the same tuition as their in-state counterparts.

  4. Messenger College
    Location

    Euless, TX

    Located in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area, Messenger College incorporates values from the Pentecostal Church of God in the United States into its teachings. The school emphasizes core values of spiritual formation, community, personal wellness, diversity and inclusion, and servant leadership. MC offers an online associate of arts in Christian ministry for students interested in obtaining a basic ministry education through a flexible learning format.

    This online AA in ministry helps students gain practical ministry training and leadership development skills within a faith-based perspective. Courses include essentials of leadership, Christian worldview, and New Testament history and literature. MC's online courses currently use the Populi Classroom platform, but these are being transitioned to the Atheneo Classroom platform. Online support for distance learners includes virtual library resources and academic support services. Along with online and classroom learning options at the main campus, MC also uses a teaching site in Valencia, California, where students can pursue certificates, associate degrees, and bachelor's degrees on-campus.

    This program consists of at 66 credits and takes an average of two years to finish. Degree seekers need a 2.0 cumulative GPA to graduate. This program accepts a maximum of 33 transfer credits from previous schools, but at least 25% of credits must be earned at MC. Student may start at the beginning of the fall or spring semesters. Out-of-state students pay the same tuition as Texas residents.

  5. Johnson University
    Location

    Knoxville, TN

    Johnson University, located in Knoxville, Tennessee, offers extensive online learning programs with a strong foundation in Christ-centered education. This private institution hosts an online associate of science in ministry leadership that prepares learners to pursue a career in church leadership. Upon completion, students master the skills needed to create sermons and lessons inspired by the Bible as faith-based community leaders.

    This online AS in ministry takes an average of two years to complete. Diverse course offerings include spiritual formation for ministry, Gospels selective, fundamentals of the Christian faith, and advanced biblical teaching and preaching. Johnson's asynchronous online courses usually last seven or eight weeks. Although the majority of coursework can be completed online, students typically complete at least 25% of coursework at the school itself. Online students learn through the Sakai learning management system, where they receive course materials and watch or listen to lectures. Discussion forums also play a significant role in this online program.

    Out-of-state students pay the same tuition as their in-state peers. Johnson requires applicants to submit their high school transcripts or a copy of their GED certificate and scores from either the SAT or ACT.

    The degree programs in the Bible & theology and congregational ministry schools are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of the Association for Biblical Higher Education.

  6. New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
    Location

    New Orleans, LA

    New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, associated with the Southern Baptist Convention, boasts an enrollment of more than 3,800 students. This institution it one of the largest seminary schools in the world. NOBTS offers a fully online associate in Christian ministry for students interested in immediately pursuing a career in ministry as well as for those looking to continue their education and obtain a bachelor's degree in a related field.

    The curriculum of this online ministry school program requires students to complete 70 hours. Coursework draws from Christian ministry core classes, general education courses, and electives. NOBTS uses the Blackboard learning management system to deliver its online courses. Select classes include personal spiritual disciplines and Southern Baptist life. Out-of-state students pay the same tuition as in-state participants. Distance learners who qualify as a small-membership minister and reside in Louisiana, Mississippi, or Alabama may apply for a full tuition scholarship from the Caskey Center for Church Excellence.

    This program allows students to take their online courses in three ways: asynchronous, synchronous, or mixed delivery. The synchronous format requires students to join weekly, live broadcasts recorded on the main campus, providing students with a classroom-like experience, regardless of their location. Although this degree takes place entirely online, students living near the main campus in New Orleans, or extension centers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and Louisiana, may elect to enroll in the hybrid format.

  7. Maranatha Baptist University
    Location

    Watertown, WI

    Located in Watertown, Wisconsin, Maranatha Baptist University hosts a range of online programming that incorporate Baptist values. This institution provides an online associate of arts in Christian ministry program for students who need a flexible learning format to complete a Baptist faith-based degree. This associate program also prepares students to continue on and pursue a bachelor's degree in a related field; all associate degree courses can be applied towards Maranatha's bachelor's programs. Graduates of this program gain a deeper understanding of the Word of God while continuing to serve in their local church.

    This online ministry degree requires students to complete 64 credits. Key course offerings include Baptist heritage, introduction to the Missions, and modern creationary thought. Courses may be delivered through eight-, 12-, or 16-week sessions throughout the year. Out-of-state students pay the same tuition as residents of Wisconsin.

    A mostly asynchronous course format allows students to attend classes at their convenience. However, some professors may request occasional attendance during live sessions; distance learners access these lectures using either Adobe Connect or Zoom. This associate program requires online students to keep up with their coursework by posting regularly to discussion boards. Individuals also complete textbook readings, papers, and exams.

  8. Bethel College
    Location

    Hampton, VA

    Located in Hampton, Virginia, Bethel College delivers faith-based ministry education to students. The college offers an online associate of science in church ministries that provides students with a solid foundation in ministry education. This online ministry school degree prepares students to pursue professional work upon graduation or continue on to earn a bachelor's degree.

    Curriculum requirements include general studies, biblical/theological studies, professional studies, and interdisciplinary studies. Diverse course offerings include world Christian perspectives, principle of Bible study, and the life and teaching of Christ. Bethel utilizes the Edvance360 online learning management system to deliver coursework to distance learners. Students must graduate with a cumulative 2.0 GPA for all courses and a 2.5 GPA for courses within their major. Distance learners typically take two years to earn the 65 credits needed to graduate. Degree seekers must take their last 30 credits at Bethel.

    Prospective students provide high school transcripts or a GED certificate, SAT or ACT scores, and both personal and pastoral references. Each student must also submit a written statement explaining their personal connection with the Christian faith and their expectations and goals for the program. Individuals who reside out-of-state pay the same tuition as those who live in Virginia.

  9. Southeastern University
    Location

    Lakeland, FL

    Southeastern University, located in Lakeland, Florida and affiliated with Assemblies of God, boasts a learning environment suitable for students of all Christian denominations and backgrounds. SEU provides an online associate in ministerial leadership for students seeking to pursue careers in ministry or continue their studies in the fields of education, church leadership, nonprofit leadership, or theology and biblical studies. All coursework within this online associate in ministry qualifies as transferable credit to SEU's bachelor's of science in ministerial leadership degree.

    Students need to take 60 total credits, with 18 general education credits and 42 credits of major-focused classes. Major course focuses include biblical and theological studies and ministerial leadership studies. Diverse course offerings include holistic disciplemaking; principles of ethics; theology of God and humanity; and Christ, culture, and the universe. This program offers classes in accelerated, eight-week sessions. Out-of-state students pay the same tuition as in-state learners.

    Applicants must send in official transcripts from high school and any previous colleges, a personal reference, and SAT or ACT results. Transfer students may apply a maximum of 90 credits from another regionally accredited school earned with a “C” or higher. However, students must complete at least 25% of their credits at SEU.

    It is also a member of the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).

  10. Ohio Christian University
    Location

    Circleville, OH

    Ohio Christian University, located in the city of Circleville, provides students with an education built on Wesleyan values while encouraging spiritual and intellectual learning. OCU offers an online associate of arts in Christian ministry with concentrations in biblical studies or pastoral ministry. Students learn to increase their effectiveness to lead as Christians in the secular, religious, professional, and/or personal arenas of their lives.

    Each of these online ministry degrees require students to complete 60 credits of general education, lower-level theology, and Bible-focused courses. Course offerings include Christian ministry administration, survey of Christian education, and principles of worship.

    Students in these programs can complete their degrees fully online or through the OCUOnline Plus option, which allows individuals to participate in a hybrid format. In the hybrid option, students attend some classes at the Circleville campus or other campuses in Ohio and Georgia. Students may also take advantage of various for-credit opportunities, such as internships, if they choose this option. OCUOnline Plus gives distance learners the opportunity to apply what they have learned in the classroom to practical professional situations. To be considered as an applicant, prospective students must have a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher and a minimum SAT score of 990 or a minimum ACT score of 19.

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What Will I Learn in an Online Ministry Associate Program?

The classes you will take as part of an online associate in ministry program will vary according to your school and its religious denomination. All programs, however, will require some general education classes, including English composition. Below are a few other core courses found in ministry programs:

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Where Will an Online Associate in Ministry Take Me?

Many online ministry schools offer bachelor's programs that allow you to build on your associate studies. A bachelor's degree can help advance your career from supportive roles within a religious organization to supervisory roles. Anyone interested in becoming a fully ordained minister will need further education, most likely a master's degree. Below are a few degrees often sought by those who have completed an online associate in ministry:

  1. BS in Biblical Studies: This degree focuses on in-depth knowledge of the Bible, including the Old and New Testaments, as well as the Gospels. Students with this degree often go on to earn a master's degree in divinity in order to become ordained ministers.
  2. BA in Theology: This degree focuses on a broad study of religion and its global and cultural impacts. Students who earn this degree often go on to teach religious studies.
  3. BS in Leadership and Ministry: This degree prepares students to become church leaders. It typically focuses on general ministry skills, congregational dynamics, and ministry practices. The degree often includes the option to specialize in areas such as preaching and youth ministry.
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