09 Aug 2018

You Don't Need a College Education to Get Ordained

Reverend Christine Bové

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a college degree or to go to seminary to become ordained.

While the processes of becoming ordained may differ amongst churches, the purpose is the same: to recognize the special calling on one’s life and to publicly declare that their community accepts them as a spiritual leader. 

When I think about the special time when I was called into ministry, I remember the story in 1 Samuel 16:11-13.

“And the LORD said [to the prophet Samuel], ‘This is the one; anoint him.” So as David stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the flask of olive oil he had brought and anointed David with the oil. And the Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon David from that day on.”  

Earlier in this passage, David is found in his father’s field tending his sheep. God chose a person, a 14-year-old shepherd boy, and anointed him to be the next king, even though he had no formal training.

Formal training is a very helpful process, but one can’t learn everything there is to know about being a pastor from it.

Just like He did with David, God can use anyone for His service. God knew what kind of leader David would become, and He gave him the training he needed to eventually be king.

David’s story reflects God’s heart for ordination. God equips those He calls into His service. You can be formally educated and ordained, but that is not the only way to be ordained. 

There are two different kinds of ordination

I do want to bring attention to the two different kinds of ordination: spiritual ordination and legal ordination.  

Spiritual ordination

Spiritual ordination is the calling of God upon your life. This is the individual calling that a person receives when called into ministry.

Sometimes spiritual ordination is celebrated through the ceremony of the laying of hands, prayer, anointing oil, or a recognition and dedication ceremony. 

For spiritual ordination, there are many different ways to learn and grow. 

Some resources that are helpful for continued learning include:

All of these are very useful and practical resources to help you grow and become effective ministers for the Kingdom.

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Legal ordination

Legal ordination is when the state and federal government recognize the work you do as a pastor.

The IRS defines ordination as “a considered, deliberate, and responsible act of the church.” Under this definition, ordination grants you privileges, like certain tax benefits and the ability to perform marriages, according to your status.

The IRS has outlined what criteria need to be met to be qualified as a legally ordained pastor.

Alongside spiritual ordination, legal ordination can be done through your own church, if it is outlined in your church’s articles of incorporation and bylaws.

Did you know that the church you plant can be the same church that ordains you legally as pastor? 

When your church’s official documents include language for ordination, it gives your church the structure and guidance for your organization and the ordination process. 

Can you imagine how special it will be when your church ordains new leaders, raising up the next generation? This is all accomplished when you have correct ordination language in your articles of incorporation.  

But what about getting ordained online?

Legal ordination is not the same as getting an online ordination certificate. Typically, online certificates are only for performing marriages. That type of ordination does not allow you to utilize all of the benefits of being a legally ordained pastor. 

To be able to take full advantage of the benefits of being a legally ordained pastor, your church or ministry must follow a specific process which would be outlined in your church’s official documents. 

A few steps of legal ordination process involve:

  • an application
  • various options of education
  • a start date and expiration date 
  • a renewal process
  • continual involvement with the ordaining church organization. 

If you are unsure if your process is legal or want to start an ordination program for your own church, look into our StartRIGHT program. 

Moving forward in your calling

Once David was anointed King, he spent many more years being shepherd to his father’s flock. It was during this time David trained for his future. 

I went through six years of formal training to become ordained. God was faithful through the whole process; it was through those six years, like David, God taught me and trained me to fulfill His call on my life. 

God trains each of his leaders differently; there is beauty and strength in that. The key is making sure there is a firm and solid foundation that is not only recognized by God, but also by the state. 

God has placed a special anointing over His pastors and spiritual leaders. He trains and equips those He calls into His ministry, and it doesn’t have to look the same way for everyone. With faithfulness, God will complete the work He started in you (Philippians 1:6). 

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Please feel free to comment. We always appreciate good dialogue. However, we do moderate each comment to ensure that it is on topic and not derogatory to other participants. We ask that you keep your comments brief and pertinent to the topic so that others may benefit.

Raul Rivera

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