What Is a Pastor?

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  • Written By: Susan Grindstaff
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2019
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A pastor is a man or woman who has been given the responsibility of leading and managing a Christian church and congregation. The requirements to become a pastor vary, depending on rules designated by church doctrine. Most church groups require that a pastor must have completed a seminary or obtained a degree in theology, while other doctrines have no education requirement for their church leaders. Pastors are typically responsible for teaching doctrine, running church affairs, and administering to the needs of their congregation.

Seminaries are types of colleges that focus on teaching the religious doctrines of a specific religion or church group. A pastor who has completed seminary is sometimes referred to as an ordained minister. Catholic priests attend seminary, as do many pastors of other church denominations such as Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians. Most all recognized church groups offer seminary training for pastors. In most cases, to attend a seminary, the applicant must first receive sponsorship from the church group involved.

Receiving church sponsorship to attend seminary can be a time consuming and difficult process. The applicant usually must appear before a church board where he may be required to answer questions relating to his faith, personality, and personal conduct. The church board may require a psychological evaluation and may even run background checks to determine if the applicant has faced any criminal charges.


Once seminary training is complete, the church will normally assign the newly ordained pastor to a church congregation. Depending on the needs of a specific church, sometimes new pastors are given assistant roles, operating under the guidance of a senior pastor. They may also be required to serve as temporary pastors, filling in for pastors who are away on missions. If the church has a shortage in ministers, new seminary graduates are sometimes given their own churches shortly after graduation.

Some churches do not require their pastors go to seminary or earn college degrees. Instead, they believe that pastors receive their calling and instruction directly from God. In some cases, they may in fact believe that religious education may be a detriment and could interfere with the calling. This type of pastor is considered more common in the evangelical movement.

In addition to the day-to-day needs of a church and congregation, some of the common roles that pastors assume include officiating marriages, baptisms, and funerals. During times of hardship such as sickness or disaster, pastors often organize community prayer services. A pastor also frequently conducts outbound ministries at local hospitals, jails, and nursing homes.


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