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How to Become an Ordained Minister [Step-By-Step]

Do you want to become an ordained minister, but you’re not sure how?

Well, you’re not alone. Picking up a new career, like becoming an ordained minister, can be a little confusing — especially with all the available options. Luckily, we’re here to make it easier!

If you’re wondering how to become an ordained minister, we’ve created a detailed guide to help you reach your goal. You don’t necessarily need a degree to be an ordained minister. You could easily get free online ordination.

But first, let’s give you an overview of your new career. 

An Overview of Ordained Ministers: A Primer

Ordained ministers have a huge role to carry out within the church when they perform religious sacraments

Their responsibilities within the church include officiating wedding ceremonies, performing baptisms, accommodating funerals, and providing spiritual counseling. 

You must also console people in times of loss, comfort the sick, and give sermons to engage the congregation in their practice of faith.

Generally, your main duty is to make the members of the church feel welcome and to help pave the way for them along their spiritual journey. 

Aside from the spiritual part of the job, you’ll also be responsible for overseeing the management of the congregation, assisting the church’s financial matters, and sometimes going through some paperwork when officiating marriages. 

But at the end of the day, no matter how hard the job gets, you’re helping many lost souls find the right path to Jesus. 

How Much Do Ordained Ministers Make? 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nationwide average annual salary of any clergy member in the United States in 2022 was $60,180. To save you from all the math, that’s an hourly rate of almost $29.

Close-up of Ordained Minister and a married couple

Of course, the pay rate varies depending on where you are and what you do. So if you’re in Green River, WY, for example, you’ll be getting paid an annual salary of $83,716. Meanwhile, ministers in Sacramento, CA are making $71.121 per year. 

Your annual pay rate also depends on what your job is, So for example, a Baptist Minister’s average annual salary is $70,000, as opposed to a Campus Minister or a Children’s Minister who makes $60,000 per year. 

What You’ll Need to Become an Ordained Minister [& Associated Costs]

Depending on the career path that you are willing to pursue, there are two ways to become an ordained minister. 

The first way, which is also the easiest is to get ordained online. This option is perfect if you’re only looking to officiate a friend’s marriage — or generally anyone’s marriage.

It’s fast, simple, and doesn’t need any requirements. You literally get ordained with a click of a button. 

However, getting ordained online won’t allow you to grow within the church, If you’re planning on becoming a chaplain or a senior pastor, and ultimately becoming a director, you’ll need to do it the hard way and take the traditional path of ordination. 

To get ordained traditionally, you’ll need three things: 

  • A College Degree: A bachelor’s degree in theology or religious studies will teach you the fundamentals of becoming a minister and leading a church. 
  • A Master’s Degree in Theology: A master’s degree prepares you to become a strong and knowledgeable church and community leader. 
  • Get an Ordained Minister License: This is where you complete your ordination and get your license to practice. 

How Much Does It Cost to Become an Ordained Minister? 

If you’re getting ordained online, you won’t have to pay anything. The whole process is completely free. Some websites might ask you for donations to the church. In that case, how much you pay is totally up to you. 

Meanwhile, if you choose the traditional path, there will be some expenses to get your license.

For your bachelor’s degree, the average tuition for a theology undergraduate program is $30,060. As for your master’s, the average tuition for theology graduate programs is $17,338. 

You could find cheaper post-graduate options that fall to an average of $10,710 when you get your degree online. 

A smiling Ordained Minister in a church

Last but not least, your license package can range anywhere from $25 to $500.

Is It Hard to Become an Ordained Minister? 

The online process is as easy as filling out a form and clicking a button. That’s it! You can get it done from any device that’s connected to the internet.

The traditional process, on the other hand, requires a lot of studying and dedication to become a leader of the church. 

But with hard work and motivation, you could easily become a strong leader for your church and help enlighten others with your knowledge. 

How Long Does It Take to Become an Ordained Minister? 

The answer to this question is purely situational. If you’ve applied online, the process could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on which state you’re in. 

The traditional path, however, takes a lot longer. Based on your church’s requirement, you could become a minister in four years if it only requires a bachelor’s degree.

If the church requires a master’s degree for the minister position, you’ll need six to eight years to get your degree. 

How to Become an Ordained Minister in 3 Simple Steps

As we’ve mentioned before, becoming an ordained minister isn’t complicated. No matter the path that you choose, they’re both pretty straightforward.

Getting Ordained Online

To get your license online, all you need to do are these 3 simple steps: 

Step One: Visit a Non-denominational Ministry’s Website

Universal life church website

You could visit any website that doesn’t belong to a denominational ministry, like Open Ministry or The Universal Life Church Ministry, to get ordained online.

Step Two: Fill In the Form and Get Ordained

Fill in all the required information on the website. Make sure to write your name with the correct spelling and capitalization because that’s how it’ll be printed on your license.

When you’re done filling out the form, click on Get Ordained — or anything along those lines. 

Step Three: Check Your Email for Confirmation

After you’ve finished applying online, you’ll receive your confirmation through your email within a few days. Once you receive your confirmation, you’ll be free to start practicing right away. 

Getting Ordained Traditionally

Although the traditional path is much longer than the online one, it all boils down to three simple steps: 

Step One: Get a Bachelor’s Degree

To prepare yourself to become a minister, you first need to study the foundational sciences that’ll help you understand your religion and learn how to lead people toward the righteous path. 

Your studies should include all the basic information about theology, religious tradition and philosophy, biblical interpretation, spiritual formation, and of course, ministry skills. 

Step Two: Go to Divinity School or Bible School

Most churches require new ministers to hold at least a master’s degree in religious sciences. That is why it’s more likely than not that you’ll be required to go to divinity school. 

Your divinity degree can have multiple pathways, depending on your interests. It can include theology, Christian education, Christian practice, and of course, divinity. 

The courses in your post-graduate studies should include Christian theology, preaching, pastoral care and counseling, spiritual formation, and Bible translation. 

Close-up of ordained minister reading in a bible book

Step Three: Get Your License

Once you complete your education and get your master’s degree, you’ll be able to complete your ordination process and get your ordained minister license. 

The last step depends mainly on your religious denomination. Some denominations will ask you to complete a one-year internship before you get your license.

Others will require you to pass a few written and oral tests before you become an officially ordained minister. 

Reasons to Consider Becoming an Ordained Minister

Becoming an ordained minister comes with many benefits and perks. The most important one is that you get the chance to help people in your community and leave a positive impact. You also get to: 

  • Perform Church Rites: As a minister, you give sermons and join the congregation as they practice their faith.
  • Officiate Weddings: This is why most people want to be ordained ministers; so they can officiate the marriage of their friends or family members. Once you’re ordained, you can officiate any wedding ceremony you want. 
  • Conduct Chaplain Work: Hospitals, prisons, and nursing homes need spiritual ministers to help uplift the spirit of the people there. They need to feel that they’re not alone or forgotten. 
  • Lead the Church: You have the authority to spread religious knowledge to those who ask for it and help them on their spiritual journey. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the three types of ordination? 

The Sacrament of Holy Orders has three types of ordinations: Diaconate, Episcopal, and Priesthood. These three ordinations give us deacons, bishops, and priests. 

In some churches, like the Roman Catholic Church, bishops and priests must remain celibate. Married men may only be ordained as deacons. 

Can an ordained minister marry a friend? 

Yes, anyone can officiate a marriage ceremony of a friend or a family member once they’ve been legally ordained as a wedding officiant. 

Just remember to plan this well so you have enough time to get your marriage license before the wedding ceremony. Otherwise, you won’t be able to marry your friend. 

Gigs to Check Out

If you’re considering other gigs, you could pick up an uncommon side hustle to diversify your income. You could also check out these three gigs: 

Whatever you decide to do, remember that the right job for you is the one that doesn’t drain you. A healthy lifestyle means a great work-life balance

Wrapping Up

Becoming an ordained minister can be such a heart-touching experience. You get the chance to share some of the most important events in people’s lives, such as weddings and funerals. 

With time, you’ll notice that you’re creating an impact on your community and that there’s nothing more fulfilling than the feeling of helping someone change for the better. 

What do you think is the best thing about being an ordained minister? Let us know in the comments!

And if you liked this article, then don’t forget to share it with your family and friends — maybe they’ll become the next minister in your community. 

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