For the longest time, people believed that the only way for anyone to become a pastor or a minister was by being a member of a specific denomination or church and following the steps to becoming a pastor. For individuals who deem themselves nondenominational, becoming a pastor wasn’t always easy in the past. Still, things changed completely, with more nondenominational churches turning mainstream, allowing nondenominational individuals to become pastors. Many are interested in becoming a nondenominational pastor, and this post guides on the same.
Interested individuals can become nondenominational pastors either through an official offering for the role of a pastor by the nondenominational church’s hiring body or if they start their own church and then assume the open position of the church pastor.
The path is much less defined, unlike the processes followed for becoming a pastor in traditional denominational churches. But even with the lack of uniformity and strict steps otherwise required by the traditional churches, there exist concrete steps that one must follow to apply and ultimately become a pastor of said church. Keep reading to learn how to become a pastor in a nondenominational church.
What requirements do you need to be a nondenominational pastor?
To become an ordained minister or Pastor at a nondenominational church, interested persons ought to meet some requirements, often set by the founders and leaders of the church. This is crucial because even for nondenominational churches, one can only be an ordained minister after following a specific laid-out path leading them to become ordained. In most cases, the path involves meeting the specific requirement set by the church, from receiving approval from the regional, local, and other top church officials. Attaining a theological education is also crucial.
That said, it is worth noting that nondenominational churches often lack the official church hierarchy that is present in denominational churches, meaning that approval of new clergy is often at the discretion of the serving church leaders at the time of the application. One only needs to follow the laid-out steps and meet the criteria set by the local church to minister.
Here are the main requirements for becoming a nondenominational minister:
Pray and reconsider the calling or vocation
The first requirement for anyone considering applying as a candidate to become a nondenominational pastor is to take time to pray and think about the decision to become a pastor. Even as a non-denomination pastor, the church still expects its ministers to be entirely devoted to its mission and ministry, most to God.
Here, one needs to dig in and understand the role that they are about to take on. It is important to remember that ‘pastor’ is an English word that translates to ‘shepherd’ in Latin. And so, a pastor’s primary role is shepherding or, instead, leading the Lord’s flock in the right direction – 1 Peter 5:2-3.
Hold a comprehensive discussion with the local church’s leaders
Depending on the nondenominational church, interested candidates are expected to hold discussions about their calling or vocations. The discussions are held with the church leaders, such as the ministerial staff, the board of elders, or the church’s board.
Identification of the church’s theological and educational requirements
The educational requirements for pastoral candidates differ depending on the church, but all churches require applicants to take theological courses. The most common course one has to take is a Master in Divinity, followed by completion of basic pastoral coursework.
Church’s Ethical Requirements
Nondenominational churches have strict ethical requirements that all pastors and ministers must meet. Applicants must acquaint themselves with the church’s ethical standards that ordained pastors are expected to live by. Since some of the standards may prove challenging to conform to, interested pastoral candidates must familiarize themselves with the church’s ethical standards and requirements.
Application for the ministerial license
Even in nondenominational churches, ordination usually is a multi-step, multi-stage process. In most cases, a 5-year ministerial license is necessary to apply for ordination by the church.
Meeting the educational requirements.
Once familiar with the church’s rules and standards, and one is certain they can live up to and exceed what’s expected of them, the next step would be to complete the outlined educational requirements. For many individuals applying for nondenominational pastor roles, gaining the necessary education is often the most grueling. It is also expensive and time-consuming; but necessary.
After completing the educational requirements (often followed by or inclusive of the coursework), the interested candidate can submit their application for getting ordained. This application goes under the keen review of the church board, ministers, board of elders, and any other committee that reviews the applications for the church. Following the review, the application for ordination may be approved or not. If the application isn’t approved immediately, an application may be asked to wait for some time and then reapply in the future.
Following approval of the application for ordination, one receives their ordination in an ordination ceremony. The ceremony may be simple and complete in minutes or much more complex and highly detailed.
Regardless of its simplicity or complexity, the completion of the ordination service qualifies all ordained persons as ministers or pastors of that church.
How to become a nondenominational pastor (discuss methods one can use to become a nondenominational pastor)
Even with the steps outlined above in mind, it is essential to note that interested parties can become nondenominational Pastors in different ways.
The first method involves becoming a pastor when the nondenominational church one belongs to calls and appoints them to become a pastor. The second method involves starting a nondenominational church and then becoming a pastor.
Method 1 – Receiving the call to become a pastor in a nondenominational church
This is often the most common way of becoming a pastor in a non-traditional church. In these cases, one is hired or even headhunted by the leading pastors or other staff in the nondenominational church. So, instead of working through a representative such as a local pastor, a bishop, or even a presbyter, the nondenominational church will hire the fitting candidate directly, often after running their independent consideration before kicking off the hiring process. It is more like a headhunt for their desired nondenominational Pastor.
However, the selected candidate would still be required to go through the church’s hiring process. Awareness of the expectations from the church that’s scouting is crucial for any candidate to land the job. So, what are some things to expect in this hiring process?
Independence of the non-traditional church
The first thing to remember is that most of these churches have highly independent processes, but there always exist similarities between these and denominational churches. The unique elements often include job descriptions, benefits packages, pay rates, and timelines.
With that in mind, here are important guiding questions:
Who is responsible for hiring pastors in the non-sectarian church?
This is an important question; the person in charge of hiring differs depending on the church’s government. Leadership structures differ significantly in secular churches, and it is not surprising to go through completely different hiring processes in two or more of these churches.
However, despite the difference in the church structure, most secular churches have a constitution guiding their hiring processes. This constitution is provided under US laws and applies to churches with 501c3 status. This status applies to nondenominational churches.
Go through the church’s constitution by requesting the constitution as a copy via email. You could also check the church’s website for the constitution and all other laws, regulations, or documentation on the church’s pastoral and mission operations.
Often, the persons responsible for hiring in nondenominational churches include outgoing pastors, a governing church board, or a search/ hiring committee.
The outgoing Pastor could be tasked with searching for their replacements. However, this tends to be the case when the church’s exiting pastor plans to retire rather than when they are relocating to different churches.
Other nondenominational churches have governing bodies comprising deaconates or elder boards that are important in hiring new pastors.
In many other nondenominational churches, however, a search committee hires new pastors and other church personnel. Often, the committee is made of volunteers. Still, in most cases, such committees are made of deacons, elders, youth pastors, accountants, the head of women’s ministry, a theologian, or even a teenager.
What pastoral position are they looking for?
While anticipating a new post as a senior or lead pastor, there is a possibility that the nondenominational church doesn’t have any senior pastor positions. Worship or youth pastor positions may be the only open ones, and this knowledge will inform the decision to apply or stop pursuing the position. Even in such cases, it is worth noting that the church’s senior Pastor may be the one interviewing, either as a member of the search committee or as the leader of the governing board. Often, the senior Pastor in the nondenominational church leads the search for new pastors and other associate staff because this position of power allows them to implement the ministry’s or the church’s vision. The senior Pastor is also accountable for gauging the performance of all associate staff, hence the necessity of their involvement.
Are the church congregants involved when hiring a new pastor?
Depending on the church’s organizational structure and governance, the congregants may be involved in hiring or screening applicants. Awareness of this is essential in ensuring that one is the right fit for the church or position that opened.
What are the church’s voting rules?
What do the church’s bylaws and constitution say about the number of votes a potential pastor must receive to earn the role of a pastor? Some churches have a 50% requirement, while others set the threshold higher at 60 or even 70% acceptance. In these churches, the congregation is often invited to a church meeting led by either the search committee or the governing church body, and it’s here that they decide if they’ll hire the Pastor.
Granted, some of these churches are keen on voting in support of the pastors to be more than 60% or, in other cases, 70%. In most cases, the congregants and other parties that vote have to exceed the 50% majority vote for them to hire a new pastor. This is an essential requirement because the 50% majority vote often means that about half of the church is against the new hire, which may lead to discord.
Note that in churches where the congregation doesn’t have to vote, the decision to hire a new pastor lies on the search committee or the church’s governing body.
How different is the church’s hiring process?
As a result of the independence of the nondenominational churches, the hiring processes differ from one nondenominational church to another. Also, it’s not enough to take note of the hiring personnel for the church; take note of the specifics of the hiring process, including the contact person receiving the applications and the rest of the documentation. However, remember that because of the different hiring processes, one may go through four different hiring processes before submitting their application to four or five different nondenominational churches.
To ease through things and to increase the chances of getting hired, establish and create a rapport with the hiring person to remain updated on timelines and to receive all necessary updates.
How to find the nondenominational churches hiring pastors
Even when the church scouts for new pastors, you could still look up available positions in different churches by looking up online platforms that list open pastoral positions across nondenominational churches.
Method 2 – Starting a Nondenominational church to Pastor In
If the comprehensive vetting processes put in place by some of the nondenominational churches don’t align with what someone had in mind, starting a new church where you are the senior Pastor might be the ideal solution.
However, creating or planting a new church is a challenging, serious calling rather than a plan B or C.
One also needs a lot of guidance to start a new church. The good news is that many organizations guide church planters or creators. These organizations offer financial and family support, legal issues, and discernment. They also take people through what they should expect from the whole experience of creating a new church.
Once the church is up and running, the church planter or lead Pastor must acquire licenses that permit them to perform specific church duties. These include:
Since most states do not ordain specific individuals to join the pastoral ministry, interested individuals must have state licensing or licensure. The signage gives them recognition and permission to undertake specific pastoral duties.
- Performing or officiating weddings
All ministers need licenses to perform weddings in the state the church is based. However, remember that the conservative states have stricter rules for issuing licenses, unlike the progressive states, whose rules are simpler.
- Tax advantages
Pastors are allowed tax advantages, including those leading in nondenominational churches. But to enjoy the tax advantages, the new Pastor must apply for the 501c3 status for the non-profits. This application needs to be submitted as soon as possible, and once it’s submitted, it will recognize the Pastor as the church’s employee.
Can one be ordained online and become a nondenominational pastor?
For people in nondenominational churches, it is possible to be ordained online and become an actual pastor. In most cases, the ordination is complete in 10 minutes, which is the case with most small and maybe newer nondenominational churches rather than reputable organizations or churches.
In traditional denominational churches, however, ordination is not done online but through a formal ordination event only after the pastor or minister graduates from the seminary degree and after engaging and in ministry full-time. These rules also apply to larger or traditional non-sectarian churches that require a rigorous process and steps leading to ordination.
However, remember that even without licensing, most nondenominational pastors can still baptize churchgoers, teach, and preach, lead the holy communion, offer pastoral care, conduct funerals. In some unique cases, they can officiate weddings.
How are nondenominational pastors governed?
Typically, the nondenominational pastors teaching and preaching in the nondenominational churches are governed by either a board of elders or the church congregants. This level of governorship is crucial since most pastors in nondenominational churches have a high level of autonomy, especially in how they run different church operations. There is no larger or central denominational hierarchy to guide the church. So, these churches make their own decisions and rules regarding worship practices and doctrines, among other church practices and beliefs.
In the case of the larger nondenominational churches affiliated with more extensive networks that offer resources and support to the church, the larger churches often govern the pastors, thanks to their unique codes of conduct that hold the members and pastors accountable.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.