The 15 Best Online Associate in Ministry Programs
| TBS Staff
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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
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.
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To meet this challenge—and thereby provide you with the most useful and insightful educational rankings on the Internet — TheBestSchools.org formulates our rankings based on five informational categories (six, when considering online schools). The major metrics and qualities for which we rank are these (with expanded, detailed considerations and weights listed):
1. Academic excellence based on a school’s curriculum generally or within the selected discipline [weight = 25%]
- Weighs school against known leading schools in that discipline
- Weighs number of core curricula listed as advanced courses within that discipline and compares against introductory courses
- Weighs school’s curriculum against known knowledge needs of major employers in that discipline
- Considers number and types of specializations offered within that discipline
- Considers faculty expertise in that discipline
- Considers range of electives within that discipline
- Considers quality of online environment offered to students (if applicable), particularly within that discipline
2. Strength of faculty scholarship [weight = 25%]
- Considers education background of the faculty
- Considers years of faculty experience both inside and outside of academia.
- Considers faculty membership and leadership within relevant, prominent associations
- Considers academic papers published by faculty in relevant, prominent periodicals
- Considers awards and recognitions given to faculty members from prominent organizations and from other sources
3. Reputation [weight = 20%]
- Considers a school’s reputation among academic peers and employers regarding the following:
- “Freshness” of academic knowledge
- Adaptability to changes in employment sectors
- Suitability of graduates for the workplace
4. Financial aid [weight = 10%]
- Mandatory: Requires full accreditation from an agency endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education and listed on the federal register to accept student federal financial aid
- Considers range of school-sponsored financial aid such as scholarships and grants
5. Range of degree programs [weight = 20%]
- Considers range of degree levels: associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral and professional
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6. Strength of online instruction methodology (if applicable) [weight = 25%; subtract 5% from each of the above for online schools/programs]
Considers the following of the online classes:
- Types of online technology used to deliver content
- Pedagogy style: asynchronous, synchronous, or both (depending on the degree)
- Extent and quality of the online, community learning environment, including options for communication, interactivity, and collaboration between students and also between students and instructors
- Variety, breadth, and depth of coursework, and its support, including project options and online tutoring
Considers the following of instructors:
- Extent of training for teaching within an online learning environment
- Amount of timely, consistent feedback to students
- Extent of collaboration with prospective employers to ensure suitability of instructional materials for achieving desired skills
- Ratio to number of students in a class
- Number and quality of internships in a student’s geographical area for applicable degrees
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To better serve the needs of prospective students, we are therefore increasingly offering filters that help you better use our rankings to find the schools that match your specific needs. These supplement our ranking criteria and include:
- Public or private status
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- Retention rate
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- ACT/SAT requirements
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- Undergrad, grad, or both offered
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Citations: For a broader account of our ranking methodology, especially as it relates to TheBestSchools.org's underlying educational philosophy and, in other ranking articles, looks beyond academic excellence (as here) to such factors as return on investment or incidental benefit, see our article "Ranking Methodology: How We Rank Schools at TBS." Reputation of schools and degree programs can at least in part be gauged through the school or department's publishing activity, citations, and desirability. At TheBestSchools.org, we keep track of such social and peer validation: "Making Sense of College Rankings." For nuts-and-bolts information about colleges and universities, we look to the National Center for Education Statistics and especially its College Navigator. Insofar as salary and inflation data are relevant to a ranking, we look to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Finally, nothing beats contacting schools and degree programs directly, which our researchers often do, with the result that all the entries in this article should be considered as belonging to this citation!
The Best Online Associate in Ministry Degree Programs
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Located in Lake Wales, Florida, Warner University offers an online associate of science in Christian ministry for students already serving in the ministry who want to earn a degree or for those interested in starting a career in their local church or community-rooted ministry. This program enables students to find their ministry calling, better understand the purpose of ministry, familiarize themselves with various ministries in their local communities, and gain a basic understanding of the Old and New Testament.
Warner offers this degree entirely online through an asynchronous format, allowing students to complete coursework at their convenience. The program offers classes in accelerated, eight-week sessions, and students can start their studies at the beginning of any session. Motivated students with some transfer credit can complete this online ministry school degree in around 12 months, although some learners take longer depending on how many transferable credits they hold when they matriculate.
Applicants must provide high school transcripts with a cumulative GPA of at least 2.0 or a GED certificate, a personal statement, and two recommendation forms. Transfer students must also submit all transcripts from prior higher education institutions and meet minimum GPA requirements. All online students pay the same tuition, regardless of their state of residence.
Grace Christian University, located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, provides faith-based educations for students of all backgrounds. Grace provides an associate of arts in leadership and ministry that students can earn entirely online. This online ministry degree prepares students for a career or avocation in ministry, focusing on basic ministry skills, leadership, and preaching. Students can also go on to attend seminary school or pursue a bachelor's degree in a related field upon graduation.
This degree requires students to complete 60 credits and takes the average learner two years to finish. Diverse course offerings include marketplace ministry, exploring God's world, sharing and defending the faith, and issues in Christian leadership. Students also complete a final leadership and ministry capstone before they graduate. Experienced faculty lead cohort groups of around 14 students, providing individuals with a supportive community. Prospective students must have earned a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher in high school and submit their transcripts and a ministry reference.
Tabor College, with a main campus in Wichita, Kansas, holds roots in the Mennonite Brethren and Krimmer Mennonite Brethren faiths. The school has delivered Christian-centered educations for over a century. Tabor currently offers an online associate of arts in urban ministry for capstone graduates from the Urban Ministry Institute (TUMI) of World Impact, Inc. Tabor and TUMI share a partnership that allows TUMI graduates to transfer up to 24 credits to this online AA in ministry program once they gain acceptance. Tabor graduates can pursue careers in urban ministry working with underrepresented communities within churches or para-church organizations. Upon graduation, many students opt continue on and earn a bachelor's degree in a related field.
This program consists of accelerated, six-week terms, and the average student takes five terms to graduate. An academic support coordinator ensures that distance learners in this program successfully transfer previously earned credits and fully benefit from online coursework. Students can access all of their course material, grades, and an extensive library online. Additionally, the school's Mennonite Brethren studies center offers expansive online archives that students can reference from anywhere in the world.
Out-of-state students pay the same tuition as in-state learners. The college also has a Tabor College Matching Church scholarship, where the school matches money donated by a student's own church (up to $500 maximum in an academic year and $250 for a semester).
With a main campus in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area, The King’s University offers a fully online associate of Christian ministry program for students interested in gaining a solid theological and biblical foundation to begin a career in ministry. This degree teaches students a basic understanding of Scripture and develops a strong dedication and appreciation for ministry work.
This program requires students to complete at least 65 credits, including courses in general education, Christian foundations, major courses, and electives. Select courses include spirit formed life, biblical counseling, healthy family dynamics, and teaching to transform lives. TKU offers courses in accelerated, seven-week sessions that follow an asynchronous format. This online associate in ministry takes the average student two years to finish, but this can vary depending on the number of accepted transfer credits, CLEP test results, and/or credit based on prior work experience. TKU partners with the Gateway Church, giving on-campus students the opportunity to work with a local ministry and use their newly learned skills in a practical setting. Out-of-state students pay the same tuition as in-state students.
Located in Winston-Salem, Piedmont International University ranks as one of the best distance learning institutions in North Carolina. The school offers a variety of faith-based degrees, including an online associate of arts in ministry. Students pursuing specialized ministry-related careers as music teachers, student ministry pastors, children's workers, Sunday school teachers, or assistant pastors benefit the most from this associate degree.
Students choose from one of four ministry modules: student ministry, music, church education, or pastoral. Learners undertake a year of biblical education, a semester dedicated to general education, and a semester of ministry-based classes. They also complete nine credits of electives. Select course offerings include introduction to Missions, Christian ethics, and Baptist history. PIU offers several online delivery options through the Blackboard learning management system, including an integrated option where distance learners participate in some on-campus lectures. Online courses take place in seven-week sessions, and students can begin their studies at one of six start dates throughout the year. Online courses usually contain no more than 15 students. This online AA in ministry requires individuals to complete 64 credits and takes an average of two years to finish.
Admissions requirements for prospective students include a high school diploma with a cumulative GPA of at least 2.0 or a GED certificate and a minimum SAT score of 1230 or ACT composite score of 17.
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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:
- Biblical Interpretation: This course examines the cultural and historical readings of scripture. Students gain an overall understanding of the Bible. Lessons and theological themes will generally be informed by a school's particular religious focus. The knowledge gained in this course is important for positions such as religious counselor, which require an understanding of biblical teachings and how they might apply to modern personal situations.
- Introduction to the Old Testament: This course is usually taught in partnership with a similar class on the New Testament. The purpose of the course is to familiarize students with the content of the Old Testament as well as the history and theology of ancient Israel. The foundational knowledge gained as part of this course is necessary for developing sermons and teaching in a religious organization.
- Ministerial Ethics: This course covers topics such as confidentiality, truthfulness, and politics. It examines the moral and ethical responsibilities of church leaders and what is expected of all members of the clergy, both in their personal and professional lives. This course prepares students for the ethical challenges they might face in any career path, particularly in leadership positions such as chaplain and priest where matters of privacy and power over a congregation can pose ethical challenges.
- Biblical Counseling: This course covers topics like counseling theory and common counseling situations. It introduces students to methods for using teachings of the Bible to provide comfort, support, and guidance to people struggling with personal problems. This course prepares students for the responsibilities assumed by chaplains, pastors, and religious counselors.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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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