Best Online Bachelor’s in Ministry Programs

by TBS Staff

Updated September 14, 2022

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Individuals who complete an online ministry degree open themselves up to several career paths, including options in churches, nonprofits, and in international mission work. Completing an online ministry degree allows students the flexibility to continue making a difference in their communities while going to school, rather than devoting all their time to education.

Many distance students decide to take part in opportunities for leading children’s ministries or organizing homeless outreach, and virtual education frees up their time to do so. Rather than driving to campus at set times multiple days per week, students enrolled online can complete assignments, interact with peers, and watch prerecorded lectures whenever best fits their schedules.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 50,000 Americans currently work as clergy, but graduates of online ministry degree paths also fill many roles outside church leadership, making this a stable industry to pursue. Upon graduating, some individuals seek roles inside the church as music ministers or youth pastors, while others may want to work in faith–based organizations, finding families for foster children or reducing the number of individuals living in poverty. Keep reading to learn more about this exciting degree option.

Featured Ministry Online Programs

The Best Online Ministry Programs

  1. Clarks Summit University
    Location

    South Abington Township, PA

    Tuition

    $18157

    Founded in 1932, Clarks Summit University focuses its Christian education on career readiness upon graduation. Close to both New York City and Philadelphia, Clarks Summit University is ideally located for students who want to live and work in a major metropolitan area. For a private school, Clarks Summit charges relatively affordable tuition rates, and 95% of its students earn some type of financial aid.

    As a Christ-centered institution, Clarks Summit's bachelor of science in Christian ministries ranks among its most popular degrees. This 121-credit degree is available entirely online, and students can complete it in four years. Transfer students can bring in up to 90 previously earned credits, significantly reducing the time it would take to earn a BS in Christian ministries. The major requires 18 credits of ministry leadership courses and 57 credits of elective courses.

    All students pursuing this BS double-major in Bible and a major of their choosing, such as Christian ministries.

    The same faculty who teach on-campus courses at Clarks Summit also teach its online courses, and the school's distance learners enjoy access to an online writing center and library.

    Accreditation

    Clarks Summit University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

  2. Lincoln Christian University
    Location

    Lincoln, IL

    Tuition

    $19204

    Lincoln Christian University began as a Bible institute and now represents a centerpiece of higher education in Lincoln, Illinois. The name change from Lincoln Christan College and Seminary came in 2009 to reflect LCU's quickly expanding catalog of degrees, which today includes degree completion programs, graduate degrees, and online offerings. Despite becoming a major private school in the area over the years, LCU has not abandoned its roots and still offers faith-based degrees.

    For students who want to pursue careers in ministry but don't know what positions they want, the bachelor of arts in Christian ministry makes the best online ministry degree option. Potential careers stemming from this BA include associate pastors, small group leaders, and administrative pastors.

    To earn the BA in Christian ministry, students must complete 120 credits, consisting of 30 Bible and theology credits, 37 general education credits, 30 Christian ministry credits, and 23 elective credits. The online BA in Christian ministry also requires several not-for-credit courses. These courses aim to get students active in ministry leadership and volunteering while they develop their faith. Online students who cannot commute to campus may be exempt from some of these courses.

    Students can complete this BA in four years, and transfer students may apply some previous course credits toward the degree.

    Accreditation

    Lincoln Christian University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

  3. The Baptist College of Florida
    Location

    Graceville, FL

    Tuition

    $8183

    Founded in 1943 as the Florida Baptist Institute, the Baptist College of Florida has grown from a small school offering individual ministry courses to an accredited college. It grew exponentially starting in the 1990s, when it also added an online school.

    One of the top online ministry degree options at Baptist College, the 120-credit bachelor of arts in biblical studies takes place entirely online, with all courses available through MyBCF. The major requires 66 credits, all of which focus on the Bible, its authors, and modern analyzation. Along with general education, general elective, and theological foundation courses, all students -- regardless of major -- must complete a student success course.

    Outcomes for the BA in biblical studies include finding a position within a ministry or continuing on to complete a related graduate degree. Students from nearly every part of the country qualify to study online through college portal.

    Baptist College applicants must demonstrate a "C" grade or higher on their high school and/or transfer transcripts. Transfer students may bring in previously earned credits, but the number depends on the school where they earned their prior credits, the degree to which they want to apply them, and the area of study in which they completed them.

    Accreditation

    The Baptist College of Florida is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

  4. Toccoa Falls College
    Location

    Toccoa Falls, GA

    Tuition

    $20396

    Toccoa Falls College began in 1907 as a Christian learning community. After earning accreditation in 1983, TFC expanded its programs to four unique schools, including a new nursing school. Today, TFC educates roughly 1,700 students, including those who study online. TFC gains attention for its nursing program, but its school of Christian ministries still stands as the college's foundation.

    TFC offers 10 degrees online, including a BS in ministry leadership. The ministry leadership degree requires 126 credits, 12 of which students must come from ministry and leadership. Other required courses relate to theology, the Bible, undergraduate core classes, and general leadership courses. Required courses can change depending on how much professional ministry experience students hold; however, the degree requires 126 credits regardless of learners' prior experience.

    TFC online students receive services similar to those offered to on-campus students, including advising, career counseling, and online library access. Online students who work full-time while earning their degrees, and who live in Stephens or Habersham counties, get every third course for free.


    Toccoa Falls College is located in Toccoa Falls, Georgia. It boasts a sprawling campus, often considered among the most beautiful in the nation, and online students can come to the college's campus even if they aren't taking in-person courses.

    Accreditation

    Toccoa Falls College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

  5. Asbury University
    Location

    Wilmore, KY

    Tuition

    $22500

    Based in Wilmore, Kentucky, and just a short drive to Lexington is Asbury University, which blends religious denominations within its robust academic catalog. Home to nearly 2,000 students, most of its undergraduate learners live and study on campus, and 99% of all undergraduates receive some form of financial aid. In recent years, Asbury's online school has gained traction among adult learners with previous work experience or college credits.

    Asbury's most popular online program for students interested in ministry, the BS in ministry management, combines online and on-campus studying. It requires students to attend regular face-to-face courses in Wilmore, though they complete most of their coursework online. Learners must first complete the Salvation Army officer training degree, an associate of applied science, as well. Admitted students progress through the program in cohorts.

    The BS in ministry management requires 124 courses, 75 of which may come from prior schools. The required AAS from the Salvation Army College automatically satisfies 60 required credits. Despite its cohort format, most of the program's online courses follow an asynchronous schedule, allowing students to complete most courses at their own pace. All online courses last eight weeks, and all students pay a flat, per-credit-hour tuition rate.

    Graduates of the BS in ministry management may pursue leadership roles, including management positions for small businesses or nonprofits.

    Accreditation

    Asbury University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

  6. Northwest Nazarene University
    Location

    Nampa, ID

    Tuition

    $19204

    Based on a large plot in Nampa, Idaho, Northwest Nazarene University leads Christ-centered private institutions in the region. It educates over 2,000 full-time students and teaches continuing education and concurrent credits to an additional 8,000 students. NNU's cost for quality has earned awards, and the school recently ranked among the Princeton Review's best western colleges.

    NNU offers dozens of undergraduate degrees and majors, including nursing, education, and arts and sciences. The university's only online bachelor's degree is an accelerated BA in Christian ministry, which most students can complete in nine consecutive semesters, or three years. This timeline assumes students take at least 16 credits per term, with two sessions available in the fall and spring.

    Students must also conduct summer study to follow this timeline. During this three-year program, students must finish 124 credits, 52 of which relate to the major. Transfer students can reduce how long it takes to complete the degree. NNU allows learners to transfer in 62 credits if they earned a "C" grade or higher. Credits may come from non-accredited schools on a case-by-case basis.

    NNU structures its BA in Christian ministry to meet the requirements for ordination in the Church of the Nazarene. However, students from non-denominational groups may also benefit from the online ministry degree.

    Accreditation

    Northwest Nazarene University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

  7. Trevecca Nazarene University
    Location

    Nashville, TN

    Tuition

    $19480

    Trevecca Nazarene University was founded 118 years ago on Christian teachings, and in 1917 it became an official college of the Church of the Nazarene. Since then, Trevecca has grown into an accredited private university offering bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. Trevecca currently educates just under 1,500 on-campus undergraduate students, 99% of whom have received some form of financial aid.

    Community composes a huge part of Trevecca's culture, and even online students benefit from a community atmosphere through their program's cohort system. The BA in Christian ministry uses an online cohort system and offers asynchronous courses, letting learners study as their schedule permits. The online program still integrates Christian morals and faith into its coursework.

    Prior to applying for the BA in Christian ministry, students must have completed at least 40 credits from an accredited college or university. Learners may transfer in these credits or complete them individually through Trevecca. The bachelor's degree requires only 36 core classes, all of which students can complete in just 18 months of study.

    Accreditation

    Trevecca Nazarene University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

  8. Hope International University
    Location

    Fullerton, CA

    Tuition

    $25150

    Located in Fullerton, California, Christian Hope International University began over 90 years ago. Home to over 2,000 students, HIU caters to nontraditional learners, educating students from all over the world in online and on-campus courses.

    HIU's online school uses accelerated, five-week courses, and online students only take one course at a time. Distance learners can complete these courses from anywhere with internet access. Students interested in HIU's BS in Christian ministry may use FastTrack, which allows credits to count twice -- toward the bachelor's degree and a potential master's degree.

    Before earning a bachelor's degree, Christian Ministry students must complete 120 credits, 48 of which are major-specific. These courses follow an accelerated format, but students still complete the program in a typical four-year timeframe. Start dates occur throughout the year, and transfer students may apply previously earned credits toward the degree. Graduates may pursue careers in ministry leadership and or as pastors.

    HIU offers resources for online students, including an academic coach assigned to each student. The coach helps set academic goals, providing students with the resources they need. The university also offers career services, including resume workshops, job fairs, and networking opportunities.

    Accreditation

    Hope International University is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

  9. Eastern University
    Location

    St. Davids, PA

    Tuition

    $23675

    Founded as a Baptist theology seminary in 1925, the now fully accredited Eastern University has taught students in St. Davids, Pennsylvania, for decades. Recently, Eastern University started including online programs in addition to its on-campus degrees, including a BA in youth ministry leadership.

    Before applying for the youth ministry leadership BA, distance leaders should know the online ministry program requires a week-long residency at EU's St. Davids campus in May. After completing the residency, students begin accelerated seven-week courses.

    The BA in youth ministry leadership requires 45 credits, which students must complete through Eastern University. The program mandates a total of 121 credits for students to graduate from Eastern University. Before beginning their BA, students should complete either an AA in liberal arts through Eastern University or a similar degree from another school, or they may transfer in sufficient credits. Students who complete the AA through Eastern University also receive a discount on the BA.

    Most students complete this degree in about two years, but the time it takes to finish depends on how many credits the student previously earned. The faculty who teach Eastern University's online courses interact regularly with their online students, and most learners who study online receive some form of financial aid.

    Accreditation

    Eastern University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

  10. Biola University
    Location

    La Mirada, CA

    Tuition

    $33206

    Biola University, one of the nation's top Christian universities, educates over 6,000 students worldwide. Founded in 1908, Biola began as a Bible-focused school. Today, many of Biola's programs do not directly relate to theology or the Bible, though each degree integrates biblical studies into the curriculum. Regardless of which degree students pursue, they must complete 30 Bible and theology courses.

    Students interested in the BS in biblical ministries must complete more Bible courses than the core 30 units. The degree mandates an additional 30 upper-division Bible courses, meaning Bible-related courses compose half of the 120 required credits. Each course takes place over an accelerated seven-week period, and learners can complete the entire degree online, typically in 24 months, though Biola allows busy students to take the time they need.

    Transfer students may apply up to 70 credits toward their degrees. Biblical ministries applicants must hold at least 15 transfer credits, demonstrating a minimum 2.5 GPA. Students without these credits must apply as transfers and submit their SAT and ACT scores. Applicants must provide evidence of their Christian faith by submitting a personal essay.

    Accreditation

    Biola University is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

Methodology

We selected these accredited bachelor in ministry programs based on the quality of the program, types of courses provided, faculty strength, school awards, rankings and reputation, including the reputation for providing online degree programs.

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%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

Why get a Ministry Degree?

Before pursuing an online bachelor’s in ministry degree, some students decide to pursue an associate degree in ministry to get a sense of the field. Because many roles within church settings do not mandate specific levels of degree — they focus more on receiving a calling from God — some students find they do not need a bachelor’s degree.

Individuals can receive ordination in some denominations after completing an associate degree, while those who want to work outside the church typically need to follow more traditional standards surrounding educational requirements. Bachelor’s degrees allow individuals to seek positions including program manager, director of children’s development, and community organizer.

Some students decide to go beyond a bachelor’s degree in ministry and pursue a master’s in ministry. These programs allow individuals to work in higher education teaching roles as well as senior–level positions. The next section looks at common careers and the salaries that graduates can expect to earn.

Ministry Degree Salary Information

Online ministry programs prepare graduates for clergy positions, such as priests, ministers, and pastors. Graduates also go on to pursue careers as church directors, youth leaders, missionaries, and religion and Bible study teachers in churches, faith–based schools, or nonprofit organizations.

Pastor
Pastors and ministers lead church congregations by providing spiritual direction, giving sermons, overseeing other staff, praying with church members, teaching others about biblical history, and offering leadership.
Salary based on experience:
  • Entry Level: $40,000
  • Mid-Career: $46,000
  • Experienced: $50,000
  • Late Career: $51,000
Youth Minister
Youth ministers provide many of the same services as pastors but tailor them to teenagers and adolescents. These compassionate individuals walk alongside youth group members and provide guidance on tough questions as well as organize fun group outings.
Salary based on experience:
  • Entry Level: $33,000
  • Mid-Career: $37,000
  • Experienced: $39,000
  • Late Career: $30,000
Children’s Ministry Director
Working within church settings, children’s ministers share the gospel with nursery through elementary students. They create programming, develop Sunday school curriculum, oversee other staff, and create special events.
Salary based on experience:
  • Entry Level: $31,000
  • Mid-Career: $36,000
  • Experienced: $39,000
  • Late Career:

Choosing an Online Ministry Degree Program

With so many online ministry degree paths now available, prospective students can afford to take their time and find a program that ticks all their boxes. While in–state programs tend to offer distance students the more affordable option since they can take advantage of resident tuition, they can also look at programs with significant endowments that offer enough scholarship or grant funding to bring the cost down. All ministry programs put their best foot forward on website marketing materials, but remember to keep going back to your list of needs and wants to find the program that suits your lifestyle and goals.

Program Cost
Students need to consider all their options before taking on significant student debt. In addition to federal, state, and local scholarships and grants, prospective students should ask about institutional and programmatic funding that does not need repayment.
Transfer Policies
Because many students elect to complete at least some of their classes at a community college before transferring to a four–year institution, finding schools that maintain transfer agreements or offer transfer–friendly policies is critical.
School Size and Type
Some students enjoy the hubbub of large classrooms while others want a more intimate learning experience. Generally, speaking, public/state schools tend to maintain higher caps for class sizes than private school counterparts, but this is not always the case. Check with individual schools to learn about average class sizes.
Program Length
Most online ministry programs at the bachelor’s level require students to complete four years of full–time study to move from matriculation to graduation. Some accelerated programs can be finished in as few as three years, while those enrolled on a part–time basis may need as many as six years.
On–Campus Requirements
Most online ministry programs do not mandate that students visit campus, but students should speak with individual departments to verify any on–campus requirements.

Accreditation for Online Ministry Degrees

In addition to considering factors such as program cost, length, and campus requirements, students must also ensure they find a properly accredited program if they do not want to face issues down the road related to transferring credits, competing for jobs, or receiving licensure. Within the world of higher academia, two types of accreditation exist: institutional and programmatic.

Institutional accreditation further divides into regional and national accreditation. Most four–year schools seek out regional accreditation, as it exists as the more rigorous of the two options. Trade and vocational schools tend to apply for national accreditation.

While programmatic accreditation does not necessarily exist for online ministry degree paths, several Christian accrediting agencies exist to help students find programs that meet their spiritual and academic needs. Names to look for include the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada, the Association for Biblical Higher Education, and the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools.

Other names students will likely come across include the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Neither provides accreditation, but both ensure high standards are upheld within accrediting agencies.

Ministry Concentrations

Because online ministry degree paths offer such a wide variety of careers to consider after graduating, many schools allow students to specialize their knowledge in an area by completing a concentration. Some options are listed below, but check with individual schools about specific offerings.

Youth Ministry
Students in these concentrations learn how to effectively conduct outreach and provide pastoral counseling for teenagers as they move through high school and take their first steps as adults. Specific topics include adolescent issues, adolescent faith formation, and administration in youth ministry.
Careers this concentration prepares for:
  • Youth Ministry Director
  • Youth Ministry Assistant
  • Youth Outreach Manager
Ministry Leadership
This concentration exists for individuals who know they want to take on pastoral roles upon graduating. Students learn how to prepare evangelistic messages, exegete Bible verses, and minister to a diverse congregation.
Careers this concentration prepares for:
  • Lead Pastor/Minister
  • Assistant Pastor
  • Director of Spiritual Formation
  • Pastoral Counseling Director
Missions
Designed for the distance learner who knows they want to go out in the world and spread biblical messages, this course teaches them how to reach out to diverse communities, plant churches, maintain cultural sensitivity, and work to bring light and support to communities.
Careers this concentration prepares for:
  • Missionary
  • Church Planter
Biblical Counseling
Students who follow these concentrations know they want to serve others by providing counseling services from a biblical perspective. They learn about how the Bible can apply to modern day life while also studying topics such as therapeutic strategies, counseling methods, and interventions.
Careers this concentration prepares for:
  • Pastoral Counselor
  • Church Counselor
  • Director of Counseling Programs
Music Ministry
Individuals in this concentration want to work in worship music. During their enrollment, students develop their musicianship while also learning about worship leadership and how to convey biblical principles through music.
Careers this concentration prepares for:
  • Worship Leader
  • Music Minister
  • Director of Music Programs
  • Choir Director

How Long Does It Take to Get a Degree in Ministry?

Most programs require between 120–130 credits and take four years to finish if studying on a full–time basis. Some of the characteristics affecting the overall time requirement include number of credits, internship requirements, and student schedules.

Individuals who want to graduate more quickly may decide to take additional credits during the fall and spring semesters or enroll in summer courses. Others may decide they want to move through the program more slowly and not feel stressed by school work alongside all their other personal and professional responsibilities. If enrolled on a part–time basis, the actual credits still cost the same amount, but students will pay more in semester–based fees due to being in school for a longer amount of time.

Courses in an Online Bachelor’s in Ministry Program

Most online ministry degrees require 120–128 credits, consisting of general education courses, Bible and theology coursework, and electives. Core classes include ministry leadership, congregational dynamics, Old and New Testament studies, history of the church, systematic theology, church life, spiritual formation, and world missions. Many online ministry programs culminate with a capstone course, ministry internship, or practicum in which students gain hands–on experience in churches and other religious settings.

Survey of Old and New Testament
Students in survey classes examine the historical background, translations, and key themes of the Old and New Testaments. Coursework covers the development of the Gospels and the nature of the intertestamental period. Online students learn to prepare sermons from both texts and practice sermon delivery through preaching experience.
Christian and Pastoral Ethics
Christian and pastoral ethics courses examine the contemporary and historic development of Christian values. These courses help students learn how to think critically and make wise and faith–driven choices as a representative of Jesus Christ. By examining case studies and traditional ethical codes in religious settings, students gain a solid understanding of the foundations of Christian ethics and the relationship between values and contemporary issues.
Leadership
Leadership classes help students develop strong leadership qualities and administrative competencies. These courses emphasize the importance of communication, interpersonal abilities, and teamwork. Students examine training, organization, supervision, program evaluation, and financial management within the church, Christian workplace, and other religious–based settings.
Biblical Studies and Interpretations
Biblical studies and interpretation courses examine the historical, cultural, and literary contexts of the Bible. Focusing on the methods and principles of biblical interpretation, students examine the structure, content, key themes, and messages of the books of the Bible. Online students examine the important relationship between the church’s scriptures.
Religions and Cultures
These courses examine the world’s major religions including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Online students examine various cultures and how they influence the mission and growth of the Christian church. Students reflect on their own cultural worship and the effect of religious participation and spirituality on society.

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