So you feel called to ministry! You’ve talked to your parents, your pastor, and other adult friends, and they all agree that you have a calling on your life. Or maybe you are not yet certain, but you sense a strong inclination in that direction. That’s OK too. Sometimes the Lord doesn’t give us the whole plan up front, but only a step-at-a-time. And we have to discover it through obedience. And so it is OK to explore the idea, and see how God leads you.
Preparation for Ministry
Dr. Jay Herndon assist with the process of credentialing and ordaining ministers for our fellowship. He has prepared a list of questions to ask yourself, to guide you in this process.
> 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.
> 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.
> 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.
> 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:
Satisfy the educational requirements for credentialing. Prepare you with the knowledge and skills that you’ll need to be effective in ministry. 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. 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. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
The Assemblies of God offers three different levels of credentials to those who are called of God into a life of ministry and service.
> Certificate of Ministry
This level is for efficient helpers in gospel work who devote a part of their time to Christian service. They shall show promise of usefulness in the gospel work. They shall devote a part of their time to Christian ministry and, at the discretion of the district credentials committees, remain under the supervision of a pastor or a designated supervisor. They shall be actively engaged in some aspect of ministry.
This level is for those who have demonstrated that they have met the qualification for license. This includes a clear evidence of a divine call, character and preparation suitable for that calling, practical ministry experience, and an evident purpose to devote one’s life in service to the proclamation of the gospel.
This level is for those who give proof of their call and whose mature ministry qualifies them for a wide range of leadership responsibilities in full-time gospel ministries. Applicants must be at least 23 years of age, have held a ministries license, and have been engaged in active work as a pastor, evangelist, or some other recognized and proven full-time ministry for 2 full consecutive years immediately prior to ordination.
Qualifications for Credentials
Both basic qualifications (established by General Council) and specific qualifications (established by the Northern California and Nevada District).
> Basic Qualifications
- Salvation. Testimony of having experienced the new birth (John 3:5).
- Baptism in The Holy Spirit. Testimony of having received the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the initial physical evidence of speaking in other tongues according to Acts 2:4. The Spirit-filled life will enable a minister to fulfill the threefold mission of the church (Article V, paragraph 10, of the Constitution).
- Evidence of Call. Clear evidence of a divine call to the ministry, evidenced by a personal conviction, confirmed by the work of the Spirit and the testimony of fellow ministers.
- Christian Character. A blameless Christian life and a good report of those who are without (Titus 1:7; 1 Timothy 3:7).
- Doctrinal Position. A thorough understanding of and agreement with our doctrinal position as contained in the Statement of Fundamental Truths.
- Assemblies of God Polity. A satisfactory working knowledge of the principles, practices, and purposes of the Fellowship through a study of the General Council and District Council Constitution and Bylaws.
- Commitment to The Fellowship. An active loyalty to our constitutional agreements, a cooperative spirit, and a readiness to seek and receive the counsel of older mature Christians and those in positions of authority.
- Basic Education Requirements. Any level of formal academic achievement (diploma or degree) shall not be a requirement for credentials; however, credential applicants shall meet the following criteria. All applicants are required to be interviewed by the District Credentials Committee and, in preparation for the interview, pass a standard exam approved by the General Presbytery whereby they demonstrate knowledge of the Bible, Assemblies of God doctrines, and ministerial practices; and either:
- Successfully complete equivalent training to that indicated on the educational requirements page, preferably, in an endorsed Assemblies of God postsecondary school; or in a seminary, college, Bible college, or school approved by the District Credentials Committee consistent with the criteria established by the General Council Credentials Committee; or ….
- Successfully complete courses, prescribed by the General Presbytery offered in correspondence through Global University of the Assemblies of God; or pass the final examination in the prescribed courses; or ….
- Be recommended by a District Credentials Committee as qualifying for credentials through self-study and ministerial experience. Such candidates shall have a proven and fruitful ministry of substantial duration. Requests from a district for such a candidate shall be presented to the General Council Credentials Committee and may be granted on a case-by-case basis.
- Marriage status. We disapprove of any married persons holding ministerial credentials with the Assemblies of God if either marriage partner has a former spouse living, unless the divorce occurred prior to his or her conversion or for the scriptural causes of a former spouse’s marital unfaithfulness (Matthew 19:9), or the abandonment of the believer by the unbeliever (1 Corinthians 7:10-15), except as stated below.
- Ecclesiastical annulments and marriage dissolutions. The Executive Presbytery shall have the authority to determine whether an applicant qualifies for an ecclesiastical annulment. In such cases there must be clear and satisfactory evidence of deception, fraud, or other conditions which have a profound impact preventing the creation of a valid marriage union, unknown at the time of marriage by the applicant. The Executive Presbytery shall have the authority to determine whether an applicant qualifies regarding a former marriage when the termination of that marriage is consistent with the scriptural position of the Fellowship relating to the granting or holding of ministerial credentials; or if a former marriage ended prior to conversion. In those cases involving pre-conversion divorce they shall be decided on an individual basis just as those that deal with ecclesiastical annulments. Appeals from the decisions of the Executive Presbytery may be made to the General Presbytery. All inquiries must be directed to the office of the District Superintendent, by calling (916) 379-9600 x1136, prior to applying for an Assemblies of God credential.
- Eligibility of women. The Scriptures plainly teach that divinely called and qualified women may also serve the church in the ministry of the Word (Joel 2:29; Acts 21:9; 1 Corinthians 11:5). Women who meet the qualifications for ministerial credentials are eligible for whatever grade of credentials their qualifications warrant and have the right to administer the ordinances of the church and are eligible to serve in all levels of church ministry, and/or district and General Council leadership.
- Ministers from Other Organizations. If a minister from another reputable body desires to affiliate with the Assemblies of God, the Credentials Committees of both the General Council and the District Council are under no obligation to accept the applicant’s previous ministerial status, but will judge each candidate on his or her own merits in light of the Assemblies of God criteria. It is expected that ministers who receive Assemblies of God recognition will relinquish their ministerial credentials with all other organizations.
> Specific Qualifications
- Residency Requirements of Applicants. To obtain ministerial credentials through the Northern California and Nevada District Council, all applicants must be residents of or hold credentials within this district.
Education Requirements For Credentials
A list of courses and other educational requirements necessary to obtain Assemblies of God credentials.
> Ministerial Studies Program
Due to action taken by the General Presbytery, the Ministerial Studies course requirements are now fully in effect. The new educational requirements each level went into effect starting August 1, 2005. For a short time any student who may have begun any level under the old program will be allowed to complete that level before moving to the new program. Some courses may need to be substituted depending on availability.
Upon completion of the Ministerial Studies courses, you will have met the minimum academic requirements needed to apply for credentials. Successful completion of these courses should prepare you for the credentialing interviews and test.
The options for meeting these educational requirements are as follows:
> Four Year Assembly of God College or University
Any student from an Assemblies of God University with Biblical/Church Ministries major which includes a course on A/G History, Missions and Governance (or equivalent) and who has completed 2 years, has met the educational requirements for Certified Minister credentials; completed 3 years – License; completed 4 years – Ordination.
> Non-Biblical/Church Ministries Majors
Non-Biblical/Church Ministries majors from an Assemblies of God University wishing to apply for License or Ordination need to also have complete a minimum of (24) units in Bible & Theology to qualify for License and Ordination.
Additionally, graduating from accredited Assemblies of God schools with non-Biblical/Church Ministries majors automatically qualifies educationally for a Certified Minister credential.
> Education Options
If you have not attended one of our Assembly of God schools, there are several ways to complete the required courses for the credential you are seeking:
Global University, our Assemblies of God correspondence school, or Through an endorsed Assemblies of God postsecondary schools AG Colleges & Universities, or A seminary, college, bible college, or school approved by the District Credentials Committee. If you attended other schools, we are happy to evaluate your transcript. Global University courses may be taken at the Institute Level or College Level. However, if you wish to receive academic credit, you must take the courses at the college level. If you choose the college level and intend to pursue credentials with the Assemblies of God, you may be eligible for a 20% discount on tuition. Please contact the Credentials Administrator for further information.
Berean School of the Bible under Global University offers the majority of these courses via the Internet. Visit Global University for more details or call 1-800-443-1083.
If you are interested in more information on the credentialing process, please see the Credentialing Procedures information or call the Credentials Administrator’s office at (916) 379-9600 x1121.
> CERTIFIED MINISTER
- BIB 112 Synoptic Gospels: The Life & Teachings of Christ
- THE 114 Introduction to Pentecostal Doctrine
- BIB 115 Acts: The Holy Spirit at Work in Believers
- BIB 117 Prison Epistles: Eph, Col, Philip, & Philemon
- BIB 121 Intro. To Hermeneutics: How to Interpret the Bible
- MIN 123 The Local Church in Evangelism
- MIN 181 Relationships & Ethics in Ministry
- THE 142 A/G History, Missions, and Governance
- MIN 191 Beginning Ministerial Internship
> MINISTRIES LICENSE
(Current students advancing from “Old Certified Minister” program see Transitional Plan)
- THE 211 Intro to Theology: A Pentecostal Perspective
- BIB 212 New Testament Survey
- BIB 214 Old Testament Survey
- BIB 215 Romans: Justification by Faith
- MIN 223 Introduction to Homiletics
- THE 245 Eschatology: A Study of Things to Come
- MIN 251 Effective Leadership
- MIN 261 Introduction to A/G Missions
- MIN 281 Conflict Management for Church Leaders
- MIN 291 Intermediate Ministerial Internship
- THE 311 Prayer and Worship
- BIB 313 The Corinthian Correspondence
- BIB 318 Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers & Deuteronomy
- BIB 322 Poetic Books: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Solomon
- MIN 325 Preaching in The Contemporary World
- MIN 327 Church Administration, Finance, and Law
- MIN 381 Pastoral Ministry
- MIN 391 Advanced Ministerial Internship
Steps you will need to take in order to obtain a credential with the Northern California and Nevada District.
> Credentialing Interviews
The Sectional Leadership Committee in each section conducts all Final Credential Interviews, at a time and place arranged by the applicant’s Sectional Presbyter.
If you are already in the process or just beginning the process of applying for your credential, as soon as your file is complete it will be sent to your presbyter for your final Credential Interview. When your file is complete a letter will be sent to you requesting that you contact your Sectional Presbyter to arrange the date and time. It is wise to call the Presbyter as soon as you are notified, so you are scheduled at the first opening available. There may be times where it is necessary to wait a month or two for the Credential Interview appointment.
The formal Credentialing Interview does not eliminate or replace the Initial Presbyter Interview “get acquainted interview” with your presbyter for License or Recognition of credential applicants (a form is included with license application packets).
Certified or Licensed: No Timelines ~ files sent to Presbyter for final Credential Interview on an ongoing basis. **Allow 5+ months.
Ordination: Fully completed ordination application files including the formal credentialing interview are due absolutely no later than November 14th. Your Presbyter must have time to conduct the final interview and return the application files to the District Credentials Administrator office by this deadline. **Allow a minimum of 5+ months for this process.
Due to the time involved in processing individual applications, the following timeline is strongly encouraged. PLEASE PLAN AHEAD!!
- June 15th Last day to request official application
- July 15th Official Application received by the Credentials Administrator
- Sept 15th Completed final Exam received by the Credentials Administrator
- Oct 1st Last day to receive references; file must be complete
- Nov 15th Credentialing Interview must be completed
> Previously Married
The General Council has passed resolutions regarding those individuals that have been previous divorced. Please let us know if this applies to your situation. These matters must be addressed and approved by General Council PRIOR TO MAKING APPLICATION. Please direct all inquiries regarding these situations to the Office of the District Superintendent, at (916) 379-9600 x1136.
> General Council Mandated Background and Credit Checks
The General Council Executive Presbytery approved the recommendation of the Assemblies of God legal counsel, that as part of the application process “CPScreen” (the online version of Choice Point) will be used as the screening provider for a “National Criminal File” check on all credential applications and upgrades, effective January 1, 2004. It is the District’s responsibility to administer this process for each applicant.
> Steps and Procedures
Be aware of the new educational requirements. For information on how to complete the required studies for ministerial credentials please see the page oneducational requirements. Contact the Credentials Administrator with any questions and/or evaluation of courses you have previously taken. When courses are completed for the level of credential you are seeking, call the Credentials Administrator for an Official Application. Upgrade applicants: Change of Credential Applications are sent for those advancing to License or Ordination. When you return the completed application packet please include all photocopies, transcript(s), a picture and the application fee.
When you receive your application, carefully follow the checklist and instructions. Return the fully completed application along with the $75.00 non-refundable processing fee to the Credentials Administrator. Failure to return any part of the application, notarized authorization forms, or transcripts will prevent further processing of the application.
Applicants must successfully pass a proctored examination for the credential level for which they are applying. You will be notified when the Credential exam has been sent to your Sectional Presbyter. The Presbyter will return your credential exam to the Credentials Administrator’s office for grading.
Once the application file is COMPLETE, it will be prepared and sent to the applicant’s Sectional Presbyter for the formal interview. The applicant is notified to contact the Presbyter for an interview appointment with the Sectional Leadership Committee. The applicant’s spouse or fiancé(e) is required to attend this interview.
The recommendations of the Interviewing Committees are submitted to the Executive Presbytery. If District approval is granted, the application files are sent to The General Council in Springfield with the recommendations of the District. A ministerial credential is not actively or legally in place until General Council approval has been received. Upon this approval, a fellowship card and certificate are sent to the Northern California & Nevada District for issuing. New ministers are publicly recognized at the next District Council ONLY AFTER they actually received their credential.