How To Start An Online Ministry For The Future
If you’re looking into ministry jobs and exploring how to engage in ministry for the future, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.
Will I need an online ministry license? An online ministry degree? Or an online ministry certificate? What does ministry for the future even look like – and what will I need to do to prepare for this?
Ministry matters. And being properly equipped to serve your community makes a difference in how you are able to counsel, shepherd, and nurture them well. There is an increasing need for roles to be filled in online ministry jobs, whether it be digital pastors, ministers, or counselors.
What The Ministry Jobs Of Tomorrow Will Look Like
Ministry for the future will undoubtedly involve a digital component, whether hybrid or fully online. If you are considering entering into online ministry or taking on ministry jobs that involve nurturing a digital community, here are a few key things to consider:
Calling: What type of ministry are you hoping to do? In what capacity will you be serving your community?
Training: What kind of education, training, or credentialing will you need to go through or obtain in order to step fully into this role?
Planning: What steps will you need to take in order to prepare for your ministry?
Resources: What kind of connections, resources, and tools will you need before you begin your ministry?
Online Ministry Jobs: Why We Need Them
We live in an increasingly digital world, and being able to navigate the virtual terrain has become an absolute must — especially when it comes to reaching out, growing, and engaging your ministry. We’re needing to come to terms that there is an increasing need for online ministry. And the digital missions field is and will increasingly be the ministry of the future.
Digital Ministry in 2022
- Online Mission Work: Digital Church Is Touching Lives Around The Globe
- Online Counseling: Increase in Technology Use in Counseling and Therapy
- Online Churches: One Church, Two Expressions - Fully in-person and online
Online Ministry Qualifications
You may be asking yourself what qualifications you need in order to serve in online ministry, whether full-time ministry or part-time ministry. Or perhaps you are simply looking to be further equipped to volunteer and serve at your church.
Whatever the case may be, gaining the proper training for online ministry can make a difference in the work that you are doing in your church community. There are a number of ways to be involved in ministry, from being a digital small group leader, a youth minister or an online campus pastor. Different online ministry jobs may require different qualifications or training.
As you prepare for your online ministry, it’s important to consider what type of training you may need to prepare to serve your community to the best of your ability.
Let’s take a closer look at some options you might consider whether that may be pursuing an online ministry license, degree, certificate, or another path.
Do I Need An Online Ministry License?
If you’re considering how to become an online pastor or minister, you might be asking, “Do I need a ministry license in order to be an online pastor?”
Depending on your situation, the answer may vary.
There are a few factors that will determine what type of qualifications, training and or ministry license you may need. These factors include:
- The online ministry jobs that you may be considering,
- The type of work you hope to do in these ministry jobs,
- The tradition, denomination, or church that you are affiliated with,
- As well as a number of other factors.
Why is it important to have an online ministry license, online ministry degree, or certification?
Depending on the tradition you are from, entering into online ministry may require you to go through specific credentialing and authorization before beginning public ministry.
These courses, degrees, and certifications oftentimes have in-person and online options to choose from. With the need for online ministry, comes online ministry solutions. From a Christian Ministries certificate to an online MDiv, online ministry training is now more accessible than ever, and can often all be done online.
Online ministry or online church work may involve ministering, teaching, counseling, cross-cultural work, evangelism, and much more. All these require necessary experience, training, or preparations before working in these areas professionally. Some may require qualifications such as a degree, ordination, or licensure in order to begin or practice public ministry.
It requires you to have the willingness to learn, to be sensitive to others, take on specific skills, or to obtain certain certifications or degrees to validate your qualifications. Formal training and education can be extremely valuable when it comes to building up the necessary skills for your area of work and leadership.
💬 "While certain principles apply to ministry in every facet of the church world, digital ministry is a different proposition than anything else that is being undertaken right now. It requires equal parts technical know-how, relational skill, camera presence, and patience. These can be learned through proper training, but also through time and repetition."
Again, it is not all those who are digital pastors or those engaged in online ministry have formal ministry education. Many times what matters most is having relevant experience in life and leadership when it comes to doing ministry online. However, depending on the religious tradition that you may come from, there may be different requirements for entering into public ministry or leading in this capacity.
What goes into being an online pastor or minister, and how might it be different than in-person ministry?
In many ways, being a digital pastor is no different than being a pastor has always been. It requires you to counsel and nurture, to lead in humility, to speak truth and build up a community.
In talking with Bay Hope's Digital Pastor, Andy Mage, he shares that, "Online ministry really is no different from physical church, and it does reflect your community and your culture. If your home church requires licensing or ordination for pastoral positions, then follow that! However, most of the time, pastoral training is an on-the-job learning environment, and online ministry is no exception!"
Within the context of digital ministry, this involves being able to navigate the digital terrain and use tools so that you know how to best engage with your community/congregation. Mage shares that ,"While certain principles apply to ministry in every facet of the church world, digital ministry is a different proposition than anything else that is being undertaken right now. It requires equal parts technical know-how, relational skill, camera presence, and patience. These can be learned through proper training, but also through time and repetition."
In the end, it is the same as any in-person ministry: you are connecting, engaging, and nurturing real people, caring for and shepherding them so that they might navigate life well. You are pouring into them so that their relationships with themselves, God, others, and the world around them can thrive.
Whether it may be online resources, on the job training, a course, a degree, or license, training can be an invaluable part of preparing you with the right toolbox to do this.
Getting An Online Ministry Degree
Understanding how practical training is to ministry, what are the different levels of online ministry training that you may want to consider? What kind of degree do you need for ministry jobs you feel called to?
Below we outline a few levels of training and education and the types of jobs that typically align with them. Note that as with many ministry jobs, education is not always equivalent to the role in which you are serving. There are pastors, counselors, and teachers who may have rich and abundant experience, wisdom, and guidance outside the context of formal ministry education.
If you're looking to grow in your understanding of ministry, but you're unsure about dedicating the time and finances to do so, a great step first step is exploring free online resources. This is a wonderful option if you are looking to dive deeper into online ministry.
Take advantage of the plethora of content that already exists online! From helpful blogs, guides, and how-to's to podcasts on how to start an online church, the avenues for learning are plenty and readily out there.
💡 Tip: The Online Church Blueprint is a fun and digestible podcast designed for church leaders and those hoping to dive deeper into how to do online ministry well.
Pros: Free! There's an endless variety and breadth of resources to choose from. A few great places to start include The Church Digital, and the Altar Live Blog. Joining groups can also help will answer your questions and point you toward resources you may be looking for!
Cons: This requires you to be self-motivated, to spend time doing research, and independent study. There's no certification or degree.
Online courses, auditing courses
What it is: Universities, divinity schools, seminaries, and other places often offer online courses or auditing options if you’re hoping to grow in certain areas of ministry education. Courses may include online ministry-specific topics such as 'Church Ministry in a Digital Age or Ministry' or 'Leadership in a Digital World'.
Pros: This option allows you to gain experience and training without the pressure of having to complete a degree or program. Taking a few courses or auditing a few courses is much more affordable than going through an entire degree program!
Cons: If your church, organization, or denomination is requiring certain qualifications, this option doesn’t provide a certification or degree.
What it is: Some churches or ministry organizations will provide specific training within the organization for those hoping to serve. Examples of these include digital ministry training, training on how to lead small groups, discipleship training schools, evangelism training, and more.
Pros: These programs are often free or affordable as they are created to train and equip for the ministry of the organization. If you are currently part of a church or ministry organization, it may be worthwhile to look into what training opportunities they provide
Cons: Oftentimes, these organizational training opportunities are not accredited and cannot be considered towards a widely recognized degree. Often the certifications are only recognized within the organization itself or within a given ministry or tradition.
Workshops/ Webinars/ Conferences
What it is: Short-term professional training workshops are often offered as a way to encourage professional development. They’re often events based and occur over the course of a few days, or a weekend.
Pros: Just as with most training outside the context of academia, these options can be wonderfully affordable. They are a one-time payment, drastically below the costs of obtaining a degree or license.
Workshops are often created to train and equip for ministry in various contexts, gathering a cohort of people from various organizations or contexts for training.
💡 Tip: Altar Academy is an excellent example of a professional workshop designed to equip leaders to launch online church from the ground up.
Cons: These quick intensive workshops are meant to be professional and ministry tools to empower the work you are doing, so they don’t provide accredited degree or certificate options either.
What it is: Certificate programs for ministry are another option that you may want to consider.
You may find that certain programs are for general ministry while others are specific to carrying out ministry in an online or digital context.
Pros: Many of these can be completed 100% online. Some are accredited programs while other are not. Here are a few examples of the certificate options that are available online:
- Ministry Leadership
- Certificate of Graduate Studies in Online Ministry
- Pastoral Care and Counseling
- Ministry Operations
- Reading and Interpreting Scripture
- Youth Ministries
- Christian Studies
Cons: Certificate programs can be a bit more work, and as they are full programs, do come with a cost.
Pros: The depth of study, as well as the diploma and licensure qualifications you will obtain, are certainly the strong points of enrolling in a formal degree program.
Cons: These programs typically take at least a few years. They may be academically rigorous and are a financial investment. Enrolling in a degree program requires you to sure of the investment you are making with your time and money. They also typically have a more thorough application and interview process.
Degrees in Digital Ministry
Whether it’s a bachelor’s degree or a DMin in Digital Ministry, colleges and seminaries are developing more and more programs specifically geared toward digital ministry. Institutions are seeing the need to equip the next generation to navigate ministry in the digital sphere.
Thinking ahead to the ministry for the future, it is evident with the current trajectory of our digital world that the number of these degree options would continue to increase.
Whether you’re preparing for online missions, or hoping to apply practical theology to the digital landscape - online ministry degrees are available to prepare you for the digital ministry jobs of the future.
Degrees in Christian Ministry
Similar to degrees in digital ministry, Christian ministry degrees can span from bachelor's degrees to more specified doctorate-level degrees depending on what you hope to do in the future. A Christian Ministry Degree may have more specific tracks or may be a more generalized degree not specified to Digital ministry. Colleges, bible schools, and seminaries may offer both in-person and online options to obtain Christian Ministry degrees.
Degrees for Ordination (MDiv)
In some traditions and churches, in order to be officially ordained as a minister or pastor, a common requirement is to obtain a Master of Divinity. This likewise can be obtained as an online ministry degree. Most divinity schools, seminaries, and Bible Schools offer this degree program. Some traditions or churches may not require this or may accept a bachelor's degree in ministry.
Degrees for Theology and Teaching
If you are interested in ministry related to teaching, theology, or scriptural studies, most divinity schools, seminaries, and Bible Schools offer more specified degrees and tracks these areas.
Degrees in Counseling and Therapy
Much of the work of pastors and ministers involves the work of walking alongside and counseling individuals who are part of your congregation. Because the task of pastoral counseling many times overlaps much with this line of work, many of those in ministry may also consider becoming licensed as a practicing counselor. There are different types of degrees and licensures to explore when it comes to counseling and ministry, whether it be pastoral counseling, mental health counseling, marriage and family therapy, and more.
Planning A Ministry For The Future
If you’re starting up as a digital ministry leader, you may be church-planting an online campus for an already established church. Or perhaps you're building up a fellowship or digital faith community from the ground up. Whatever the case may be, it’s important to consider the cultural trajectory in which you will find yourself and understand what you’ll need to prepare to engage and grow your community.
💡 Tip: We’ve provided some resources for you as you dive deeper into planning and starting a digital ministry.
How To Start Your Own Online Ministry
After considering all that goes into preparing and equipping you for online ministry, it’s time to consider how to begin your own online ministry.
💡 Tip: If you haven't already, be sure to download Altar's free guide on online church engagement to get started.
Starting an online ministry is in itself a form of church planting. When planting a church it’s important to consider who you will be reaching, the location, and the cultural context that you will be interacting with.
In the same way, with the location and context of your ministry in the online world, it’s important to consider how you might navigate and connect with those you're ministering to. Digital Pastor Andy Mage offers advice to those thinking of beginning digital ministry. "I would advise patience, while at the same time a thirst for learning. Things in the digital world are changing faster than ever before, and it’s up to us as online pastors and leaders to try to be “in” the community as much as possible," he says.
💬 "Things in the digital world are changing faster than ever before, and it’s up to us as online pastors and leaders to try to be “in” the community as much as possible."
Mage encourages those looking to go into digital ministry. He says, "I would also advise that potential online ministers clarify their vision of digital ministry. Is it teaching? Preaching? Group formation? One-on-one discipleship training? By clarifying your vision, you’ll be able to step more fully into places that God has opened for you."
If you’re looking to get started online, Altar Academy offers training from experts on how you can use the best online church platform to launch your online ministry.
If you’re ready to start planning, envisioning, and carrying out your online ministry, schedule a time with us. We're ready to show you can use tools in Altar Live to get started today.
Why wait? Let's talk online ministry. We’re ready when you are!