How to Be a Licensed Pastor

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Pastors teach and counsel the members of their church on eternal, spiritual matters that make a tremendous personal difference to many of them. Becoming a pastor, due to the seriousness of this role, requires biblical training and careful consideration for most. While the office of pastor in America does not yet require a license, you will need one to perform weddings in most states. If you desire this position and feel spiritually called to do so, there are several steps to becoming a licensed pastor depending on your denomination.

Meeting the Qualifications

Familiarize yourself with your denomination's policy on ordination. Certain denominations utilize a list of qualifications of an elder while others tend toward a symbolic or more liberal view of who can serve in this role. You likely will need the ordination of a local church in your denomination to be ordained as a pastor within it. Non-denominational churches vary in ordination procedures.

Develop a strong relationship with your local church body through faithful, sacrificial service and leadership. Seek mentors among pastors within your denomination to assist you in the process or ordination.

Study the ordinances of the church. In addition to preaching and counseling your church, you will perform baptisms, weddings, funerals and the Lord's Supper ceremony. You must understand both how to perform these ordinances and why they are done with your denominational differences in mind.


Express to your church body publicly the desire to be a pastor. Denominations such as Southern Baptists and the United Methodists have a formal process for ordination that typically requires a waiting period to investigate your calling.

Contact your denomination's headquarters to begin the process of ordination. This organization will assist your local body in certifying your position within the denomination. If you are non-denominational, consult an ordination service to purchase an ordination certificate.

Complete an ordination service if your local church uses one. Certain denominations and non-denominational churches perform a ceremony that features a prayer service, including existing leadership symbolically "laying hands" on the candidate to pray for him.

Contact your local county clerk or justice of the peace to purchase your marriage license documentation. Every state has different requirements for this task.


Look into attending a seminary to learn the Bible in detail because teaching and preaching are important roles for a pastor.

Read and understand the biblical qualifications of an elder as described in the New Testament in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. The term elder is used interchangeably with shepherd, bishop and overseer in 1 Peter 5 and Acts 20, and the qualifications mentioned in 1 Timothy and Titus generally are accepted by most denominations as a set of guidelines for a pastor. Evaluate your life in light of this list of qualifications, and make any changes necessary before becoming a pastor.


Become a pastor to a denomination in which you agree with the fundamental theology.

Contact your accountant before using your pastoral license as a tax deduction because there are specific tax codes dealing with requirements of this position.