You’re drawn to the idea of taking a leadership role in ministry. Maybe you’ve felt this tugging on your heart for some time. You can’t deny it any longer. You have a calling to become a pastor.
The pastoral career path, or vocation to those uniquely suited to it, is an attractive one for many reasons:
- Joy in opening the Word to others through teaching.
- The excitement of bringing the gospel of Christ to the world through church growth.
- Adventure in exploring different cultures through missional work.
- Satisfaction in helping others cope with spiritual and emotional pain through counseling.
- A sense of accomplishment in leading others to ministry and multiplying your impact.
Pastoral careers attract those with an intense, God-given desire to not only participate in ministry but become intimately involved with the administration of churches and ministry organizations. Decisions you make at this level can influence a generation of disciples.
It’s a lifestyle to which you may be well-suited. It is also a decent living. The average salary for a full-time pastor is about $50,000 per year. This varies a lot depending on where you work and live, of course. Pastors can earn much more, certainly enough to support their families.
But how do you get there from here?
You may have some experience in ministry. Perhaps some college education. It may seem like you still have a long way to go on this journey, but take heart. You don’t have to take a giant leap to become a pastor. Just take one step at a time.
1. Explore your calling in the Word.
Whether you’re new to the Bible or you’ve been reading it your entire life, it’s always a good idea to open it with fresh eyes to explore your calling.
How do the stories of leadership in the Old Testament speak to you?
- Consider Moses’ fear when God called him to free His people from the Egyptians (Exodus 3).
- Be inspired by the boldness of Deborah (Judges 4).
- Read the story of King David’s failure to lead with integrity (2 Samuel 11-12).
What do you see in the example of Jesus’ disciples building the church in the New Testament?
- Put yourself into the shoes of the early church’s men and women as they carry the gospel throughout the known world in the Book of Acts.
- Consider the burden of the Apostle Paul as he provides leadership through his epistles.
You read Scripture differently when you realize that biblical leaders are just like you. They are flawed, yet they are called. They make the bold decision to take on the challenge of leadership and make plenty of mistakes along the way.
This is why biblical studies are essential to any ministry or pastoral care program here at CCCTS. It doesn’t just provide the knowledge you’ll impart to others. The Bible also gives you a deeper understanding of yourself through the eyes of the Lord.
2. Decide what kind of pastor you want to be.
While you may have a specific idea of what a pastor is based on your personal experience, there are many career options available to you when you become a pastor.
Here are just a few options:
If you are especially drawn to teaching, you may or may not focus on instruction from the Word in a church setting. Many people become a pastor to establish an authoritative voice on Scripture, then use that voice in a more academic environment.
For example, it’s relatively common for pastors to serve a small church or ministry part-time while teaching Bible at a community college or university. Or you may choose to become a “teaching pastor,” whose focus in the church is small group study or training, rather than preaching.
You may want to become a pastor specifically because you want to expand the church’s reach and impact. As a church planter, you would be a pastor with the skills necessary to recruit leaders, attract people and gather resources.
Church planters may become senior pastors of the churches they build or train local leaders to take over. With new leadership in place, the church planter can then move on to the next project and continue to expand the church.
As a counselor who is ordained as a pastor, you may work in a wide variety of workplace settings. You may be placed in charge of a counseling program in your church as a pastoral team member. Or, you could work in a Christian counseling center or other ministries.
A chaplain is a specific kind of pastoral counselor, often working for secular institutions where there is a recognized need for pastoral care services. These include the military, prisons, hospitals, government agencies, police and fire departments, and more.
You may be called to utilize your pastoral training in the missions field. The context you work in could be anything from a church-funded social service program to a relational ministry that brings Christ to unchurched people.
While the term “missionary” often brings up an image of Christians going to other countries to preach the Word, this career path also includes urban missions here in the U.S. Missionaries are needed everywhere to bring the gospel of Christ to a world that needs Him.
All pastors tend to be administrators by nature of the role, whatever the workplace setting. After you become a pastor, you may be called to apply your training to an administrative position in a business or nonprofit organization.
At CCCTS, we refer to this as marketplace ministry. While the specific role can vary, the idea is that pastors by vocation can and should be present in the marketplace. They apply biblical values to the business world and seek to expand the church through ethical commerce.
You may also choose the path that many are thinking about when they hear the word “pastor.” As the senior pastor of a church, your role would touch a little of everything above. Also, you would have the responsibility to provide spiritual leadership from the pulpit.
Preaching is perhaps the most important and sacred part of a senior church pastor’s duty. The backbone of the church is the truth found in the Word, and those called to preach that truth have a responsibility to attract the people to it, inspire them with it, and lead them to Christ through it.
3. Choose a degree direction.
Inspired by the Word to become a pastor, encouraged with a vision of what kind of pastor you will be, you’re now ready to choose an educational path.
Most roles that carry the title of Pastor require a graduate-level degree. Don’t let that discourage you, however! You can begin to take the lead in ministry, build your “pre-pastoral” resume, and even take on fulfilling roles that are considered pastoral with a lesser degree.
So, instead of worrying too much about how far you’re going to go (and about the time and expense – though it’s often more flexible and affordable than you think), it’s best to choose a direction. For example:
- If you want to teach or preach, start with a focus on Biblical Studies programs.
- If you want to plant churches or be a missionary, consider Urban Christian Ministries.
From there, you can go deeper with a focus on counseling, education, pastoral studies, etc. These are examples of concentrations at the bachelor’s degree (four-year) level, which you don’t necessarily have to commit to right away.
Likewise, you don’t have to commit to master’s-level concentrations on specific teaching areas, such as Old or New Testament, or specializations like chaplaincy and pastoral counseling, until you cross that bridge.
4. Seek Pastoral Guidance
Before you make final decisions about degree concentrations at the bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral levels, it’s a good idea to talk with trusted advisors about your desire to become a pastor.
Ask pastors you know and trust about their experiences.
- What did you study?
- Which degree did you earn?
- What did you learn in college and seminary that you apply today?
- What challenges should I expect as a pastor?
- What will I enjoy about going into this career?
You should also reach out to an admissions counselor and faculty at your college of choice. Discuss your vision for your future career, your sense of calling, and ask plenty of questions about the careers students like you enter after graduating.
At CCCTS, many members of our faculty have pastoral experience themselves. Speaking with them may be especially helpful if you are drawn to teaching or just want a broad perspective on different ways to utilize your pastoral training.
5. Stay open to the Spirit.
It is common for students like you to start or re-start their educational journey with an idea of what it will mean for them to become a pastor, then change course. Multiple times, even!
This usually isn’t because of indecision or a lack of conviction. Students who change degree tracks are no less committed to fulfilling their calling than those who don’t.
What they’re doing is often listening to the Holy Spirit and prayerfully considering whether He is prompting them to change direction. Like the Apostle Paul called in a vision to change course and go to Macedonia (Acts 16:6-10), we all have to be prepared to respond to the Spirit.
We understand this at CCCTS. That’s why our admissions counselors, faculty, and staff are always eager to listen when you sense a redirection and are ready to help you shift into your new God-given path.
6. Work with your church to become ordained.
Once you have earned your degree, the final step in becoming a pastor is to be ordained.
Your church’s process varies by church and denomination. Typically, there is a candidacy period, which you may be able to begin while earning your degree.
During this time, you’ll work with your senior pastor, who will mentor you and give you opportunities to lead. You may be in a paid, lower-level leadership position.
Whatever this model looks like for you, and whatever career path you enter, ordination is when you know you have achieved your goal. You are a pastor, equipped for servant leadership and ready to make an impact in the name of Jesus Christ.
Answer Your Call to Become a Pastor at Charlotte Christian College and Theological Seminary
Consider plugging into CCCTS to help you reach this goal!
- At CCCTS, we can give you all the knowledge and skills you need to pursue the calling tugging at your heart.
- Whatever ministry programs you’ll need to become equipped for this, you will find it here.
- And as you work toward that degree, you’ll enjoy the support of a Christ-centered community eager to care for you and guide you through to the finish line.
Learn more about our in-person or fully online courses and degree tracks. And consider visiting our campus. We look forward to meeting you!