Career Development

How To Become an Assistant Pastor: Step-by-Step Guide

Learn about the steps important to pursuing a career as an assistant pastor, including education, skills, salary and more.

An assistant pastor is a religious leader who provides support and assistance to the senior pastor of a church. They typically handle administrative tasks, preach sermons, lead Bible studies and provide counseling services. If you are interested in becoming an assistant pastor, it is important to learn about the duties, responsibilities and requirements of this position. In this article, we explain what an assistant pastor does and outline the steps you can take to pursue this career.

What Does an Assistant Pastor Do?

An assistant pastor is a religious leader who provides support to the senior pastor of a church. They typically have various administrative duties and may also be responsible for leading certain programs or services within the church. Assistant pastors typically report directly to the senior pastor.

The duties of an assistant pastor may vary depending on the size and structure of the church, but they often include:

  • Helping to develop the overall vision and strategy for the church
  • Planning and leading worship services
  • Preaching sermons
  • Teaching Bible studies or other classes
  • Providing counseling and spiritual guidance to church members
  • Overseeing the work of other church staff members
  • Managing the church budget
  • Serving as a liaison between the church and the community
  • Helping to plan and organize special events

Assistant Pastor Salary and Job Outlook

The average salary for an assistant pastor is $50,985 per year. However, salaries can vary based on a number of factors such as the size and location of the church, as well as the assistant pastor’s experience and education.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that job growth for assistant pastors will be slower than average over the next decade. This may be due to the overall decline in religious affiliation in the United States. As fewer people identify with a particular religion, there may be less of a need for churches to hire assistant pastors.

How to Become an Assistant Pastor

Here are several steps you should take to become an assistant pastor.

1. Earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited seminary or divinity school

A bachelor’s degree is the minimum educational requirement for assistant pastors. You can earn a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science in Pastoral Studies, Divinity or Religious Studies from an accredited seminary or divinity school. These programs cover topics such as theology, Bible studies and church leadership.

You may also consider pursuing a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree, which takes about three to four years to complete. This advanced program focuses on pastoral care, counseling and preaching. Some M.Div. programs allow you to specialize in areas such as chaplaincy, missions or spiritual formation.

2. Be ordained by your church as a minister

After graduating from a seminary or divinity school, you must be ordained as a minister by your church. This process varies depending on the denomination of your church. Some churches require that you complete an internship before ordination.

In general, to become ordained, you need to submit an application and pay any applicable fees. You also need to provide proof of baptism and confirmation if you’re Christian. If you’re not Christian, you may need to provide other proof of religious training. Your church will review your application and decide whether to ordain you based on its requirements.

3. Serve as an intern or assistant pastor at a church

Many aspiring assistant pastors serve as interns or associate pastors at local churches before becoming full-time pastors. Internships and associate pastor roles provide valuable experience in church leadership, allowing you to develop your skills and network within the pastoral community.

You may also consider serving as an intern for a larger church that has many associate pastors. Working as an intern for a large church can help you learn how to manage multiple staff members and other responsibilities of a senior pastor.

4. Develop strong leadership and communication skills

As a assistant pastor, you may be responsible for leading church services and developing relationships with members of your congregation. To do this effectively, you should develop strong leadership skills and learn how to communicate clearly and compassionately. You can practice these skills by hosting Bible studies or prayer meetings at your home and inviting friends and family to attend.

You also need to have excellent communication skills so that you can interact well with church members. Listen carefully when they speak, and use appropriate body language to show that you’re engaged in the conversation.

5. Take courses in theology, Bible studies, and ministry

As a student, you can gain valuable experience by taking courses in theology and Bible studies. These subjects provide an overview of the history, beliefs and practices of various religions and denominations. Courses on ministry help students develop skills for leading and managing church activities.

You may also choose to take elective courses related to your area of interest. For example, if you want to become a youth pastor, you might take classes in child development and education.

6. Consider earning a master’s degree in divinity or a related field

While a master’s degree is not always required to become an assistant pastor, many churches prefer candidates who have one. Earning a master’s degree can help you stand out from other applicants and give you more opportunities in the future. You may choose to earn a Master of Divinity or Master of Theology degree, which focuses on theological studies and biblical instruction.

Other advanced degrees that are helpful for this career include a Doctor of Ministry, which focuses on practical ministry skills, and a Doctor of Philosophy, which provides extensive research training.

7. Join professional organizations such as the American Association of Pastoral Counselors

The American Association of Pastoral Counselors (AAPC) is an organization that provides training and certification to pastoral counselors. Joining this or other professional organizations can help you find employment as a assistant pastor, develop your skills and network with colleagues, and stay up-to-date on industry standards and practices.


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