Preparing for a Career in The Ministry

Tiger Tracks for careers in the Ministry


Discernment Process

  • Identifying the Call – Ministry is not a career to be entered flippantly or without seriously considering the implications of a life dedicated to serving others.
  • Understanding the Call – Research specific opportunities, discuss them with your trusted mentors, and pray or meditate about where your particular call may be leading you.
  • Authenticating the Call – As you participate in potential ministry roles, seek feedback from people who care about you and be honest with yourself. Do you love this ministry? Does it satisfy you?

Academics at Hampden-Sydney

The Religion Department offers systematic religious inquiry in four areas: biblical study, world religions, Christian theology and ethics, and American and historical studies. But you do not need to be a religion major. Take classes that interest you. Here are a few areas to consider studying as you pursue your academic area of interest:

  • public speaking, bible and biblical languages, psychology as a social science, american history and religion, fine arts (theater, music), and current issues in theology.
  • For more information, contact Dr. J. Michael Utzinger or Reverend David Keck.

    Activities at Hampden-Sydney

    • Beyond the Hill - This Dean of Students program organizes service trips to Central America and the Caribbean for small groups of students over holiday breaks. Contact: Dean Klein
    • Community Service - The many community service options on campus, in Farmville, and in Prince Edward County are organized through our volunteer coordinator, Karin Golin.
    • Speakers - Local and on-campus ministries collaborate each semester to bring alumni and guest speakers to campus to discuss careers in ministry.
    • Internships - Contact Professor Hall for more information about the Religion Department awarding class credit for local internships designed to help students explore vocational ministry.
    • Local Churches - There are dozens of churches from a variety of denominations within easy driving distance of Hampden-Sydney. Seek out opportunities to get involved in a local church.
    • Bible Study - Join an existing Bible study on campus or consider starting one with younger students, your fraternity brothers, with guys on your athletic team, or with guys in your dorm.
    • Undergraduates Exploring Ministry Fellowship - Contact Professor Utzinger to be nominated for this scholarship, which is funded by the Fund for Theological Education.
    • Theta Alpha Kappa - This national honor society promotes the academic study of religion.

    Campus Ministries at Hampden-Sydney

    In large group fellowship and worship, small group study, or one-on-one mentoring, you can serve alongside people who have made serious commitments to lives of ministry and who will challenge you to grow in your own faith. Ministries include Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM), Catholic Campus Ministries (CCM), Chi Alpha, College Church, Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), InterVarsity, Jewish Students, Johns Memorial Episcopal, Orthodox Christian Fellowship, Presbyterian Students, the Wesley Foundation, and Young Life.

    Summer Experience

    Consider doing a practical summer project before making a multi-year commitment.

    • Mission Work - Spend extended time serving the least and the lost where they are. Remember that while many mission trips take you abroad, many people are hurting in your own backyard.
    • Volunteer - Seek out an opportunity to volunteer at your home church or at a local ministry. If appropriate, consider asking your pastor to let you shadow him for the summer.
    • Summer Camp - Work at a summer camp will allow you to minister to kids all day long. Some camps have religious affiliations; others are directly sponsored by specific denominations.

    Entering The Profession

    • Clergy - Being a pastor, priest, rabbi, or imam typically requires a graduate divinity degree and may have additional requirements, depending on the local church or denomination.
    • Chaplain (Campus/Military) - Can be a fully-ordained clergy member or an intern with a desire to serve young people by organizing weekly worship, small groups, and one-on-one mentoring.
    • Faith-Based Service - Service with a church-based not-for-profit or community-building organization allows you to minister as a layperson.
    • Missionary - Most missionaries work through denomination bodies. In addition to a heart for service, fundraising skills are required.

    Graduate School Options

    Graduate schools for ministry are rigorous in a very different way from graduate schools for law or business. Ministry students study subjects central to existence, to their understanding of themselves, the world, and other people. Not all ministry positions require advanced degrees, and not all people who pursue graduate degrees in divinity choose careers in ministry.

    • Master's of Divinity (M. Div.) - Often required for ordination, an M.Div. can be pursued at Divinity School at a large university or a free-standing Seminary.
    • Other Degrees - Master's of Theological Studies (MTS-more academic than M.Div.); Doctor of Theology (THD-advanced MTS); or Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.-for pastors or ministers).

    Alumni with careers in ministry