Individuals who complete an online ministry degree open themselves up to several career paths, including options in churches, nonprofits, and in international missions 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.
Bachelor in Ministry Degree Online Ranking Guidelines
We selected the following programs based on quality and range of courses provided as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation.
The Best Online Bachelor in Ministry Degree Programs
1. Southwestern Assemblies of God University
Located in Waxahachie, Texas, SAGU offers several online Christian ministry degrees, including bachelor's programs in children and family ministries, genseral ministries, church leadership, and youth and student ministries. Courses cover topics such as Pentecostal doctrine and history and New Testament and Old Testament literature.
The general ministries curriculum comprises classes in general education, social and behavioral sciences, natural science and mathematics, and biblical studies. Students also complete 46 credits of career studies, 18 of which must be in a vocational area, and 30 credits of major studies in topics such as biblical preaching, pastoral leadership, and church resource management. Graduates are qualified to obtain ministry credentials with the Assemblies of God and pursue careers as pastors, evangelists, ministry leaders, and missionaries.
All full-time SAGU students must take at least one general biblical studies course each semester, and must complete at least 30 credits in 3000- or 4000-level courses. Students in SAGU's fully online programs are eligible for grants. Online students have access to on-campus resources, including the career center, the wellness center, the library, and the counseling center.
Southwestern Assemblies of God University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
2. The Master’s University and Seminary
Santa Clarita, California
The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, California, offers an online ministry program that focuses on the role believers play in God's work. Students take courses in eight-week blocks over three semesters per year. Students taking one class per block complete the program in 28 months, but students can take more classes per block and graduate in as few as 14 months.
The program requires 122 semester units, including 42 units of major coursework, 65 units of general education classes, and 15 units of unrestricted electives. Major courses cover topics such as biblical interpretation, contemporary issues in church ministry, and theology of the church. General education courses include philosophy, world history, and critical thinking and quantitative analysis. Electives focus on distinct aspects of biblical living and essentials of Christian education.
Applicants must submit a personal testimony detailing their Christian faith and beliefs, a writing sample, a letter of recommendation from a pastor, and high school transcripts. Online students have access to all on-campus facilities, including the career center, library, computer labs, health services facility, and counseling center. The Master’s University offers affordable tuition and helps students understand program costs and financial aid options.
The Master’s University is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.
3. Southwestern College
Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas, offers an online Christian ministry degree that combines theological reflection with contemporary ministry. Students learn current church practices and gain tools necessary to become successful pastors, evangelists, teachers, and faith-based counselors.
The program covers biblical and theological studies and emphasizes pastoral studies and youth ministry. Students learn to interpret scripture and how to apply religious traditions to church practices. The curriculum comprises core major requirements, pastoral studies emphasis requirements, youth ministries emphasis requirements, electives, foundation courses, and disciplinary perspective courses. Coursework covers topics such as caring in the Christian community, denominational heritage and structure, teaching methods in youth ministry, and public speaking in ministry.
Applicants must have completed at least six college credits with at least a 2.0 GPA. Southwestern students must complete all foundation and major courses with a minimum 2.0 GPA and must complete at least 30 credits from Southwestern. Graduates pursue careers as pastors, teachers, and missionaries. Southwestern provides resources to help online students apply for financial aid.
Southwestern College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
4. Toccoa Falls College
Toccoa Falls, Georgia
Located in Georgia, TFC offers several online ministry degrees. Students can take youth ministry classes online or pursue an online bachelor's in ministry leadership, which provides skills necessary to become a church minister. Students in the ministry leadership program learn to analyze biblical and theological studies to relate to the members of the church. Coursework teaches students to communicate effectively and organize and manage a congregation. Students majoring in youth ministries learn how to appeal to youths and adolescents in the church. They analyze biblical studies and learn how to communicate those lessons to a younger audience.
Both programs require 126 credits in bible and theology, humanities, social sciences, computers, math, and science electives, ministry and leadership, and specialization courses. Ministry leadership students complete coursework in strategies for nonprofit management, leadership formation, and theology. Youth ministries students take classes in emotionally healthy youth ministry, communicating to youth, and youth culture.
Online students can participate in services and programs on and off campus, including chapel services and athletics. Remote learners are welcome to serve the Student Government Association.
Toccoa Falls College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
5. John Wesley University
High Point, North Carolina
Located in High Point, North Carolina, JWU offers an online Christian ministry degree with available concentrations in Christian counseling, Christian school education, family and youth ministry, pastoral ministry, and intercultural studies and worship arts. Each concentration in the Bible-centered program includes a double major in Bible and theology.
The family and youth ministry concentration prepares students to work with parents and children; the curriculum emphasizes the needs, developmental issues, and culture of children and adolescents. Courses cover topics including teaching methods for ministry and retreat and camp ministry, and students complete an internship requirement. Students in the pastoral ministry program receive theological and biblical instruction and are prepared to assume church leadership roles. Courses cover topics such as preaching, pastoral methods, and church leadership and management.
Graduates pursue careers as church counselors, private Christian school teachers, church camp directors, pastors, overseas missionaries, and church worship leaders. Applicants must have a high school diploma or its equivalent, must have completed prerequisite high school classes, and must have a minimum 860 SAT score or 18 ACT score and a 2.0 GPA. Online students work with an advisor to explore financial aid opportunities.
John Wesley University is nationally accredited by the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE) and is currently seeking regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
6. Lee University
Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, offers several online ministry degrees, with concentrations including business, church administration, children's ministry, counseling, discipleship, music and worship, pastoral ministry, and youth ministry.
The business concentration covers strategies and business practices to help students understand the business side of running a church. Church administration emphasizes leadership roles in the church, and the counseling concentration covers theories and methods for church counseling. Students concentrating in children's ministry learn to articulate strategies to children of the church, and youth ministry expands that focus to include adolescents. The discipleship concentration teaches students the importance of small group ministries, and students pursuing the pastoral ministry concentration develop their ability to preach the word of God to a congregation.
Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED and three years of life experience beyond high school. Lee offers affordable tuition and financial aid resources, and online undergraduate students receive discounted tuition rates. Online students have access to all on-campus resources and facilities and are welcome to participate in on-campus events.
Lee University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
7. Grace Christian University
Based in Wyoming, Michigan, Grace Christian University, formerly Grace Bible College, offers an online leadership and ministry program that teaches students to approach life from a biblical perspective, develop spirituality in themselves and others, engage with people of all cultures, and build ministry skills.
The curriculum combines theoretical and practical knowledge and utilizes class assignments, research projects, and real-world experiences. The 120-credit program covers topics including the life of Christ, teaching and preaching, biblical counseling, and the theology of leadership. Students complete a ministry and leadership capstone. Graduates pursue careers in which they apply leadership, preaching, general ministry, and teaching skills.
Grace encourages online students to connect with classmates to help each other learn and improve their ministry and leadership skills. Applicants must submit high school transcripts or proof of GED completion and a ministry reference. Grace does not require an application fee. Online students have access to on-campus resources, including financial aid advising.
Grace Christian University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
8. Piedmont International University
Winston Salem, North Carolina
PIU in Winston Salem, North Carolina, offers an online ministry degree with 11 available minors, including North American church planting, missions, management for nonprofits, humanities, general ministry, biblical languages, and American sign language.
The 130-credit curriculum covers topics including biblical interpretation, church education, Christian ethics, and general psychology. Students complete 44 credit hours of biblical studies requirements, 36 hours of general education courses, and 50 hours of professional and ministry requirements. In addition to classroom requirements, students complete an internship in their area of ministry. Graduates use Bible knowledge to serve their church ministry.
Applicants must hold a high school diploma or GED with a minimum 2.0 GPA. PIU helps each graduate find employment in their chosen area of ministry. Online and on-campus students pay the same affordable tuition rate, and PIU provides resources to help students research financial aid opportunities. Online students have access to all on-campus facilities and work with an academic advisor throughout their education.
Piedmont International University is nationally accredited by the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE) and is currently seeking regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
9. Manhattan Christian College
Located in Kansas, MCC offers online ministry programs that develop students' skills in thirteen areas, including pastoral care, servant leadership, stewardship, and group dynamics. Graduates continue to grow in ministry throughout their careers.
The curriculum comprises 150 to 160 credit hours in topics such as the life and teachings of Jesus, poets and prophets of the Old Testament, and Christian beginnings. Graduates work at local churches, ministries, and nonprofit organizations as pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and counselors. The program strengthens each student's relationship with God and helps them improve their ministry skills to better provide Christian public services.
Applicants must submit personal references and high school transcripts with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Applicants must have an 18 ACT score or an 840 SAT score. Transfer applicants must submit college transcripts, and those with fewer than 24 college credits or those who younger than 21 must also provide high school transcripts and ACT or SAT scores. Online students have access to all on-campus resources, including academic advising, writing resources, tutoring, and the library.
Manhattan Christian College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
The Advantages of a Ministry Education
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 takes a look 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.
- 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.
- 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.
|Job Title||Entry Level (0-5 Years)||Midcareer (5-10 Years)||Experienced (10-20 Years)||Late Career (20+ Years)|
|Children’s Ministry Director||$30,000||$31,000||$36,000||$39,000|
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: The majority of 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. The majority of 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, a number of 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.
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 a particular area by completing a concentration. Some options are listed below, but check with individual schools about specific offerings.
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
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
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
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
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?
The majority of 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 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.
Ministry Membership Associations
Joining a professional ministry association offers many benefits to newly minted graduates and church veterans alike. Many provide annual events, local chapters, active jobs boards, and opportunities for fellowshipping with others in similar lines of work.
- National Association of Evangelicals: The NAE serves its members by providing a popular podcast, monthly magazine, regularly scheduled events, and a comprehensive library of relevant materials. Readers can also check out the organization’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.
- American Pastors Network: In addition to providing local state chapters for regular fellowship, the APN shares relevant information for pastors seeking clarity about their mission. Members can review articles, search topics, participate in local and national initiatives, and check out the variety of free downloads.
- International Ministerial Association: IMA exists for lead and associate pastors seeking a like-minded community where they can learn and grow in biblical precepts. The group provides an annual conference, in-house publications, and a members’ only portions of the website.
- National Network of Youth Ministries: The NNYM focuses on ensuring youth ministers can access an active community of fellow youth pastors, thus leading to more networking and collaborating opportunities. The group also shares resources and focuses on building local networks.
- National Association of Pastoral Musicians: NPM consists of instrumentalists, choir directors, and other pastoral musicians who want to take part in a community of like-minded individuals. The group provides regular events, a winter colloquium, certification, and regional chapters.