Graduate degrees for aspiring pastors include the Master of Divinity (MDiv), as well as Master of Arts programs in pastoral studies and theology. These degree programs last two-to-four years and require a bachelor's degree, often in a field related to theology. As part of the curriculum, graduate students can choose electives and complete practical work. Traditional on-campus instruction and pastoral training might be available through evening and online coursework.
Coursework for pastors cover the following subjects:
- Ancient Greek and Hebrew Language
- Biblical Interpretation
- Ethics and Morality
- History of Christianity
- Pastoral Counseling
- Preaching and Worship
- Systematic Theology
List of Courses
Many students studying to become pastors take language courses, typically Latin, Greek and Hebrew. This enables a ministry student to read early versions of the Bible and other religious texts without relying on translations and interpretations. Language courses cover topics like syntax, grammar and vocabulary. Advanced language classes in a program for pastors might involve readings from original biblical texts.
Old Testament Course
Introductory courses in the Old Testament discuss the composition, interpretation and influence of the first half of the Christian Bible. Old Testament courses are typically offered early in a pastoral student's studies, but many programs offer advanced courses in the Old Testament that look at various issues and theories surrounding the text.
New Testament Course
Depending on the program, students studying to become pastors might take two courses on the New Testament. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are discussed in conversation with biblical and extra-biblical texts. Students might read Greek and Roman supplemental texts and discuss Biblical law and theology. Later in their studies, students might take courses that examine the New Testament in a more focused way.
Christian History Course
An introduction to Christian history course is often required of students early in their pastoral studies. Students can expect this course to cover issues and events in Christianity from its beginnings through modern times. Courses looking at specific issues in Christian history might be taken later to deepen a pastor's understanding of Christianity's influence in the world.
Ministry Experience Course
Many programs for students wishing to become pastors require students to spend time working in the field throughout their education. This ministry experience course might involve spending time in a church or parish working with a worship community. Other programs require students to go on missions and minister to people outside the church. Some programs reserve these hands-on experiences for students in their later studies.