Preparation for Ministry

Herndon,_Jay_CasualI am Jay Herndon, the Secretary-Treasurer for the District. One of my responsibilities is to assist with the process of credentialing and ordaining ministers for our fellowship. This page contains some links to application documents, you may download these if you like. However we do not want the credential process to be “faceless paperwork,” and so I urge you to call or write, so that we can talk with you and get to know you (we’ll have to do that eventually anyway, we might as well get started early.) I’m sure that you have lots of questions, perhaps we can answer them.

But there are basic questions that most everybody asks, and so I have written this article to answer some of them. (The article below is written with a young person in mind. If you are 35 or older, some of the thoughts may not apply to you. There is a special paragraph at the end for those over 35.)

One of the first questions young people ask has to do with ministry preparation. You feel called to ministry, now what?

In order to answer that, I need to ask you a few questions.

First question, “How long do you intend to be in the ministry?”

If you intend to go into the ministry at your local church, or with some short-term missions, then you may not need much preparation and certification. The ministry where you will be serving may be able to give you a temporary local-church commission of some kind. However, these certifications are temporary, not-transferable, and won’t qualify you to do ministry on your own. It is very restricted.

If, however, you intend to go into ministry for the rest of your life, then you’ll need to do some extensive preparation and certification. You’ll want your ministry to be transferable to other cities and states and qualify you for various ministries. The New Testament model of ministry is one of regional recognition and influence — even the lesser apostles traveled and were recognized by other churches and cities and were not restricted to one church. And if you intend to make ministry your life, you’ll want to follow this biblical model — you will want to have a certification that is widely recognized.

Second question, “Who do you intend to go into ministry with?”

The truth is that ministry can be very lonely—you are going to need friends, you won’t want to go it alone. There will also be times when you will need substantial help — advice, intervention, assistance, and so forth. You’ll want to go into ministry with an organization that has sufficient infrastructure to provide the kind of legal and financial benefits that will become very important to you later in life. You also will want to join a fellowship that is large enough to have lots of opportunities and a variety of opportunities. And most importantly, you’ll want to go into ministry with a fellowship that agrees with your doctrines and values, and holds their ministers accountable to sound doctrine, moral purity, and financial integrity, and one that has a track-record of success.

In short, you’ll want to join a WINNING TEAM, with sufficient RESOURCES to help you, with lots of OPPORTUNITIES for you, and RELATIONSHIPS to walk with you for the long-haul.

If I can add, being credentialed with the Assemblies of God opens up tremendous doors of opportunity — because the A/G is recognized in every state in the USA, and over 200 countries world-wide. The A/G has a wide variety of ministries — churches, schools, foreign missions, domestic outreach, drug rehabilitation programs, and so forth. There are lots of opportunities. The A/G has the infrastructure to provide legal and financial benefits that you’ll need. And most importantly, The A/G holds it’s ministers to a high level of accountability without infringing on their freedom to minister.

Third question, “What kind of ministry do you intend to do?”

The basic qualification for all ministries in the A/G is a ministerial credential. The A/G provides three levels of credential: Certified, Licensed, and Ordained. Although there are some restrictions on Certified ministers, Licensed and Ordained ministers are qualified to pursue almost all ministry positions in churches and missions. Ministry positions that interface with other institutions (military, university, professional organizations) may require additional certification or advanced degrees — for example, military chaplains, certified counselors, university professors, and so forth. But 90% of all ministry positions only require one of the three levels of credentials.

Fourth question, “What kind of education do you need and are you able to pursue?”

Keep in mind that your educational preparation should accomplish one or more goals:

  1. Satisfy the educational requirements for credentialing.
  2. Prepare you with the knowledge and skills that you’ll need to be effective in ministry.
  3. Prepare you for further education. Every minister needs to be a life-long learner. The Lord may lead you to further your education. Hopefully, your earlier work will be counted towards advancing your education.
  4. Satisfy the requirements for other institutions, if needed. Advanced academic degrees are usually required for military chaplains, licensed counselors, university professors, and other positions that interface with other institutions.
  5. Qualify you for secular jobs, if needed. The plain truth is that most ministers will have to find secular work at some point in their ministry. Hopefully, your education will be recognized by secular companies.

You may not have the time, money, and inclination to satisfy all five of these goals. But please remember that the better your education is the more opportunities you will have. I have seen too many ministers scrambling to upgrade their education in order to qualify for a position that they want, or become dismayed to learn that their earlier education did not allow them to advance to a higher level. Don’t limit yourself—get the best education that you can afford.

Let me say a word about accreditation. Many schools are “accredited.” However you need to know that not all accreditation agencies are equal. You will need to ask the school who their accreditation is with.

  1. The highest level of accreditation will be “regional accreditation.” On the west coast, the regional accreditation body is Western Association of Schools and Colleges.” Regionally accredited schools must have professors with advanced degrees and offer a variety of programs. They have to meet high educational and institutional standards. Units are transferable to any school from major universities on down. However they will cost more than other schools.
  2. The next highest accreditation body is Association of Biblical Higher Education. Units earned at an ABHE school sometimes qualify for admittance to a seminary for graduate work, and sometimes not. However units from an ABHE school are generally not transferable to secular schools, or much recognized by secular businesses.
  3. The next level of accreditation is the Transnational Association of Christian Schools. TRACS are fine schools that offer solid Christian education, and they often qualify to receive federal and state scholarship assistance, but they may not be recognized for advanced work. Units from TRACS schools are rarely transferable or recognized outside of religious circles.
  4. Beyond that there are thousands of non-accredited schools around the country, some of them provide a decent education, some of them may even qualify for ministerial credentials, but you’ll have to check each one out individually to verify this for yourself.

One easy (but not empirical) way to determine the quality of the school is to ask the school representative to name five notable graduates from the past 10 years and five from the past 25 years. And ask yourself, “Do I admire their graduates?”

What about internship programs and discipleship schools like Master’s Commission or Youth With A Mission? These programs usually specialize in spiritual formation and discipleship, and should not be confused with ministerial training schools — they usually don’t offer the kind of theological and technical training that is necessary for ministry leadership. There are exceptions to this — some may offer academic training that satisfy credentialing requirements, but many do not. And since there is no standardization between these schools you will have to check out each one individually. (Even in terms of spiritual formation and discipleship, some of these schools are considerably better than other ones — please check it out thoroughly.)

One good thing about internship programs and discipleship schools is that, like traditional college programs, they are residential programs—students live on-campus and are required to interact with other students 24/7. Much of the spiritual, intellectual, and personal development that occurs in these programs occurs outside of the classroom— it is a result of relationships and discussions that occur in the dorms, dining rooms, and chapels. Non-residential programs don’t provide this level of interaction. This is especially beneficial to younger students.

At this point you might be thinking, “I don’t want to bother with education, preparation, or credentialing. I’ll just go into ministry right now!” In fact, you might even find a church or ministry that is willing to employ you without your preparation. However I want to caution you against that for two reasons:

  1. You are leaving yourself with no options. You may have a position right now, but ministry is a very fragile vocation. What will happen to you if the church can’t afford to pay your salary, or if the pastor simply decides to let you go? What if you want to move into a new position or to a new city? If you haven’t prepared yourself, you will leave yourself with very few options.
  2. The Bible discourages ministry without verification and accountability. The Bible commands the church to test those who would become leaders. Our doctrine states that we recognize a ministry that is “divinely called and scripturally ordained.” It doesn’t matter if you have a call from God, or how spiritually gifted you might be, if you haven’t been scripturally ordained then you shouldn’t be in the ministry. A church that employs a non-ordained minister is playing with fire.

For those over 35 years of age. If you are over 35 and you are interested in ministry, I presume that you’ve been around the church for awhile. You may even have already served in the ministry for several years already. You probably have a family, a career, and you may even have a secular degree of some kind — and so you may not need the residential/accredited education that I’ve mentioned above. Global University/Berean Bible College is designed with you in mind. Global/Berean provides distance education that you can pursue at your own pace, and that is inexpensive.

I don’t presume that this article has answered all of your questions. It may even have raised more questions. That’s normal. These are big decisions and you need to have as much information about the choices as you can. I urge you to call or write me or our Credentials Administer, Doug Haggard. We’d love to hear from you.

Dr. Jay Herndon
District Secretary-Treasurer

Rev. Doug Haggard
Credentials Administer