Should I Go to Seminary if I Don't Need to be Ordained?

February 22, 2024

One question that might come into consideration while thinking about attending seminary is whether it is worth the time and financial investment if ordination isn’t required in the context where you’ll be serving. Though there are a number of reasons why ordination might not be a firm requirement for some people in ministry, if you plan to serve in any full-time ministry position, the answer to the question “Should I go to seminary?” ought to be an emphatic “Yes!” At Westminster we believe that there is no arena of Christian ministry which would not benefit from Westminster’s training. For that reason, if even ordination is not required, seminary is a worthy investment.

In this article we’ll cover the different ministry contexts and professions in which ordination might not be required, and we’ll show how both situations will still benefit from a Westminster education. We’ll also talk about the different programs at Westminster and how they are uniquely suited for such ministry contexts.

Denominations That Don’t Require Seminary

There are a number of church denominations in which ordination is not a requirement for pastoral ministry, including many Baptist denominations and nondenominational churches. There are also a number of denominations in which there is no seminary requirement in order to be ordained. In such contexts, the temptation is sometimes to simply forgo seminary entirely in order to enter ministry quicker. However, entering the ministry without adequate preparation is something that should be avoided at all costs. A swift start to one’s ministry career is never worth the damage that an ill-equipped minister will inflict on their congregation.

The desire to simply enter ministry as quickly as possible is actually a reflection of a low view of the ministry. An illustration of this fact is that we tend to hold medical doctors to an incredibly high standard. They undergo a rigorous education process that lasts many years because the consequences of an ill-equipped doctor are devastating. When lives are at stake, a robust and rigorous education is non-negotiable. 

Likewise, to view pastoral ministry as something that we can enter without ample preparation is to say that the care of people’s souls is less important than the care of their physical bodies. When a doctor is ill-equipped, people’s lives and wellbeing are endangered. When a pastor is ill-equipped, people’s souls and eternal destinies are endangered. It is for this reason that, even when formal education isn’t technically required for a particular role, we still recommend undertaking a seminary education before entering formal ministry.

Pastors Already in Ministry

Some pastors who have found themselves in ministry without any formal education have come to understand the need for such education. If you are currently serving in ministry but want to enhance your training for this high calling, you may be interested in part-time seminary studies. Westminster’s online program offerings [link to that article] are uniquely suited to provide a formal theological education for just such situations. If you are a ministry professional looking for a comprehensive theological education, Westminster’s online MDiv is a great option for rigorous training, and is designed to be done part-time while continuing in your ministry role. If you already have a MDiv but are looking for a more robust education than the one you already received, our MATS and Certificates programs offer more concise, yet still robust, continuing education options.

Professions That Don’t Require Seminary

There are some ministry jobs that don’t require ordination. For example, most campus ministry, some missionary positions, christian counseling, and others often don’t require any formal education at all. While it is true that it may not be prudent to pursue a full MDiv for what may amount to a part-time ministry position, entering these types of roles without any theological training can also be less than ideal. Though a MDiv will certainly enhance a minister’s efficiency in these types of roles, Westminster also recognizes the need for theological education that is more realistically tailored for part-time and lay ministry roles. With that said, we’ll close by talking about the different programs that Westminster offers and how they are tailored for these different types of ministry contexts.


Different Programs for Different Contexts

The MDiv program [link to MDiv article] is designed to prepare pastors for all the rigors of full-time ministry work. Westminster’s MDiv Pastoral Fellows program is Westminster’s most academically and relationally rigorous program, intentionally designed to build the highest convictions, character, and competencies in the making of a pastor. The MDiv General Ministries is the most comprehensive course of study for men and women to become trained specialists in the Bible, combining robust, exegetical-theological studies and preparation of the heart to care for Christ’s church in a broad range of vocational callings.

The MAR program  is designed to prepare those whose aims are more towards the academic arena. It serves as a good stepping stone into further academic research, which also usually does not require any formal ordination process.

The MATS  is the perfect program for those who are seeking preparation for some part-time or lay ministry. It is designed for those who desire a deeper education but won’t be engaging in pastoral or other full-time ministry.

The MAC  is similar to the MATS but is more robust in its credit requirements, and is designed for those who would seek either full or part-time counseling ministry positions that often require no ordination process.

The TSC  is a graduate level theological certificate program that is built for those who would receive intense and robust theological education without necessarily committing to a full course of study in a graduate degree program. It is ideal for continuing education, or for those who lead Bible studies or other lay-level ministries in the church.


Theological education should be non-negotiable for anyone seeking pastoral ministry or other forms of full-time ministry. There is no such thing as a ministry that can’t benefit from theological education. With that in mind, we encourage anyone who is entering a field in which ordination is not required to pursue seminary, for the sake of those to whom you will be ministering, and for your own benefit.

If you have any other questions, please feel free to reach out to our admissions team at or by calling 215-887-5511. Our admissions counselors are eager to connect with you and talk through these things with you. If you would like to pursue any of these degree options we would encourage you to apply now!

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