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Become a Worship Pastor: Education and Career Information

Explore the requirements to become a worship pastor. Learn about the job description and duties, and review the step-by-step process to start a career in worship leadership. View article »

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  • 0:00 Worship Pastors
  • 0:39 Career Skills & Info
  • 1:18 Step 1: Training
  • 3:12 Step 2: Experience
  • 3:33 Step 3: Pastoral Positions

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Video Transcript

Worship Pastors

Although the term 'clergy' may apply to religious leaders in nearly any faith, worship pastors are most commonly found in Christian churches where they create, organize, and lead services and programs. Duties may include providing leadership to the congregation and other staff members, overseeing church services, teaching biblical principles, and coordinating worship services with the music ministry. Counseling members of the congregation and dealing with difficult members may also be part of this job.

Career Skills & Info

Degree Level No degree required, but some formal training may offer increased employment opportunities
Degree Field Religious studies, theology, divinity, worship ministry
Licensure/Certification May be required to officiate at weddings; ordination in denominational faith may be necessary
Experience Prior experience working in a worship leadership role
Key Skills Communication, leadership, and organization, along with empathy, active listening, and sound judgment; the ability to teach others, patience, and a willingness to work long or irregular hours, an extensive knowledge of the Bible, the ability to create and manage worship activities, and a background in music ministry are a plus
Salary (2016) $41,310 (median annual salary for worship pastors)

Sources: U.S. News and World Report, Abilene Christian University, Online job postings 2012-2015, PayScale.com

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Step 1: Training

There is no single path to becoming a worship pastor. Some churches and organizations only require individuals to have a strong calling to live a life of religious service. Other churches may only require a sound background in biblical studies or several related courses. Although training requirements may vary among religious groups and congregations, many ordained ministers earn a bachelor's degree or a master's degree from a seminary college or university, in divinity, ministry, theology, or religious studies. Core coursework may include topics in biblical languages and studies, church history, ministry, and worship leadership. Since music plays a major role in worship, most degree programs also feature courses in music history and theory and hymnology.

Students applying for a master's degree program must have a bachelor's degree and letters of recommendation, a satisfactory score on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). Most master's degree programs combine class work with hands-on field experience. Field experience may be obtained through placement in a local church or non-profit or student ministry.

Success Tips:

  • Enroll in an internship or on-campus ministry program to gain experience while earning an undergraduate degree. Gaining experience is crucial for career advancement since most congregations and organizations prefer worship pastors with prior experience in ministry and leadership roles. Ordination in denominational faith may be necessary.
  • Research state license laws. Although there are no strict licensing requirements for worship pastors in most states, church or clergy members who officiate at weddings need a license.

Step 2: Experience

Experience gained through college degree programs and internships can serve as stepping stones to entry-level jobs, such as assistant or establishing pastor, or associate pastor of worship. Alternatively, aspiring worship pastors may gain entry-level experience in other areas of the church, like music ministry.

Step 3: Pastoral Positions

Entry-level employees may advance to positions with increased supervisory responsibilities, such as bi-vocational worship pastors. Bi-vocational worship pastors serve at small congregations that cannot afford full-time pastors, usually on a part-time basis while holding another job. Because these congregations have small staffs, bi-vocational worship pastors have considerable leadership responsibility. With experience, they can advance to full-time worship pastor positions at larger congregations.

Let's quickly go over what we just learned. Worship pastors may need a bachelor's or a master's degree in divinity, ministry, theology, or another related field and church related experience as a bi-vocational worship pastor or other leader. As of November 2016, they earned a median annual salary of $41,310.

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