As a student at Bethany Global University, I have done significant research on the different types of degree programs and universities that are available. I have researched what their benefits are and what their possible shortcomings would be. With this information, I have decided to compile all that I learned into an easy read. I aspire to help other individuals considering missionary education.
Here are common degrees that you can get to become a missionary: The main degrees for missionaries include Bible and Theology, intercultural studies, education, business, social justice, trade, and counseling. There are various other degrees on the Bachelor, Masters and Doctorate levels that benefit missionaries.
In this blog, I will be explaining the most popular and helpful degrees that missionaries pursue. Then, I will give an example of some institutions that offering training in those areas. Lastly, I will explain the benefit of missionary degrees.
Bachelor’s degrees are perhaps the best level of education for missionaries if you consider the amount of time and finances that it takes to achieve this degree. For many individuals, they desire to get on the field as soon as possible. If this is the case, a four-year program may be best for them. Most mission schools do offer internships as part of the course. This is incredibly beneficial. I recommend that you ensure that your program offers an internship.
Additionally, a Bachelor’s degree will give a student a better gauge of if they are interested in missions longterm and if they will desire to return back to school. If you already have a Bachelor’s degree, I recommend attending a missionary Master’s degree if possible. We will be discussing Master’s degrees further along in this article.
Bible and Theology
Bible and Theology is the basis that all missionaries should have. They should either have a firm foundation in this topic through education or through other discipleship. In addition to Bible and Theology, most universities offer a double major or a minor in another avenue. Listed below are many benefits to getting a degree in Bible and Theology.
- In order to share the gospel, you must first understand it. Training in Bible and Theology will give you an overall view of scripture.
- You will understand God’s overall plan that surpasses history.
- You will know with confidence, your response to His plan.
- Since the Bible was written with certain cultural, historical, circumstantial, and literary differences than today, you will learn how to correctly divide the word of truth.
- You will be well ready to answer questions about scripture, theologies, and other beliefs when you are evangelizing, discipling and ministering to others.
Intercultural ministry is another important degree to receive. Living in another culture is not easy. It is important that missionaries know how to correctly assimilate to the culture to bring the best impact. The missionary needs to understand how to personally remain healthy in the culture. He or she must also be able to respect and carefully function around the cultural standards that are already in play.
- Understanding intercultural ministry will result in more fruit than chaos.
- Many missionaries fail because they unknowingly bring their own culture forcefully into another culture.
- When culture is understood, the gospel can be expressed in a way that any people group can understand.
Education / Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL)
A degree in teaching and education is extremely beneficial. Most places that need missionaries also need education. By having a degree in education, a missionary can bring holistic hope to a people.
- Educators can usually reside within countries for longer than those who are not educators.
- Teachers can minister to children and individuals who are closed off to the gospel by incorporating aspects of God into daily lessons.
- With education, impoverished areas can begin to succeed in economics, health, social justice, and equality.
- People who cannot receive an education often are subjected to forms of slavery or labor, such as sex, factory work, or child labor. By providing education and practical tools for success, people can be saved out of these horrific things.
- Teaching English as a foreign language can open up additional opportunities to people. It can also bridge a gap for the gospel to be shared.
Business is a crucial way to develop an area. Those who are gifted in business can be intuitive and transform an economy. They can use business to impact the physical issues that people face. Businesses can provide opportunities to share the gospel.
- People of business are often welcomed into countries.
- Some people who are involved in business meet and influence leaders or politicians within a country.
- Small businesses within an area can hire indigenous workers. Once relationships are formed, the gospel can be shared.
- Those who are successful in business can financially support other missionaries or non-profits.
Social Justice deals with sex trafficking, poverty, starvation, lack of resources, poor hygiene and sanitation, human rights, and sustainability. All of these areas have great need. Those who are able to work in this realm will create a large impact.
- God desires justice and mercy for the oppressed.
- True religion in God’s sight is caring for widows and orphans.
- All people are made in the image of God and should be treated like it.
- By alleviating physical needs, individuals are more open to receiving spiritual healing.
- A degree will teach students how to interact with individuals who have experienced great trauma.
- Students will gain a better understanding of how to be proactive against social justice. They will also know how to handle the current social issues.
Any trade that can cross cultures is beneficial to missions. Many people who did not realize that they wanted to go into missions initially, feel discouraged. There is no need to feel discouraged if you already have a degree. Instead, you are equipped for missions are many levels. If you don’t have any experience with missions, I would recommend getting additional outside training. This training doesn’t have to be another 4 years. It could be a master’s degree or another form of discipleship.
- Many trades are used and needed globally.
- Trades are a form of income overseas and can sustain longterm missions.
- Impoverished countries need people of trade to teach them the skills.
- Entering a country as a worker is much more sustainable, than entering on another means.
- Missions are holistic. There are many other needs than the ones that are typically addressed in missions universities.
- Relationships formed through trade can form discipleship.
Master’s degrees can allow missionaries into countries that are otherwise guarded. The higher the education of an individual, the better. This, of course, is dependent on the country. Some countries in Africa do not require any education at all. However, other countries such as Brazil and China have greater restrictions.
In addition to easier access, Master’s degrees further train missionaries. Master’s degrees give more wisdom, knowledge, understanding, strategy, and vision, to missionaries.
Intercultural Ministry Studies
Intercultural ministry studies equip an individual in a holistic manner. This degree increases leadership skills. It first develops the needed concepts in an individual, then it teaches the individual how to lead others in a similar manner.
- Students will learn approaches, models, and issues in contextualization.
- They will be able to plant and grow churches in another cultural context.
- Communication skills in other cultures will be increased.
- Greater practicality around the difficulties of spreading the gospel will be understood.
Intercultural Ministry Leadership
Leadership qualities are necessary for the mission field. All teams of missionaries need someone to lead. Each team member may lead in different areas. It is helpful to recognize that each individual has different qualities and gifts. As a missionary, you should seek to develop your own leadership in the area that you are gifted.
- Students will understand current issues and trends in global leadership.
- They will use tools and methods available to leaders for understanding, shaping, and influencing the culture of the organization they lead.
- They will be equipped to develop leaders in an intercultural setting.
- Students will have an awareness of the value and methods of collaborative relationships in intercultural settings.
Intercultural Ministry Education
Continuing in education will allow teachers to teach on additional levels. This may include the location in which they teach or the age that they teach. Furthermore, it will equip them to teach other teachers.
- Students will learn how to successfully plant and grow a church within another cultural context.
- They will develop skills in designing missionary training programs and curricula that are outcome-based. These focus cognitively, holistically, and comprehensively.
- Effective teaching methods and skills (deductive and inductive) specific for differing cultural settings and student learning styles will be learned.
With all the trauma in a cross-cultural context, counseling is needed for holistic healing. Counseling aids in the healing of the mind and emotions. There is a spiritual aspect of healing that comes only from the Lord. However, there is also a psychological and physical aspect that must be addressed in a different way.
- Counselors can aid in holistic healing.
- Counseling helps individuals overcome trauma and walk in freedom.
- Some individuals have so much trauma that they struggle to even understand or accept the gospel.
- Working with individuals in a counseling setting can prepare them to receive from the Lord.
Doctorate degrees are helpful in missions because they qualify the degree holders to teach other training missionaries. Depending on the specific coursework, individuals with a doctorate degree can teach Bachelor and Master’s degree programs.
A Doctorate in Missiology focuses on leadership. Individuals with a missiology degree may lead as a pastor, teacher, or as another ministry worker. Missiology is one of the most advanced theology degrees. Seminary, divinity schools, and universities provide this credential.
- Missiology equips missionaries with most, if not all, of the current theological viewpoints that are held.
- Graduates understand what theology is Biblical and what is man interpreted.
- The additional credential may open up more opportunities for leading ministries.
Missions and Evangelism
Missions and evangelism are part of the global purpose of the church. The gospel of the Kingdom is spread through missions and evangelism. It is beneficial for missionaries to be proficient in these areas. Furthermore, it is also beneficial for them to recognize how to practically teach others about missions and evangelism.
This degree is not necessary for missions or evangelism. Believers can be successful without it. Yet, for those who do desire to grow in this area, there are some additional benefits.
- Missions are further explained and understood.
- Graduates will have greater knowledge and practical experience in missions.
- Graduates will have more experience in evangelism. They will learn what works well and what isn’t as fruitful.
- They will be able to teach others about these concepts and more.
Universities Offering These Degrees
There are various universities that offer these degrees or degrees similar. Some degrees can be achieved from secular universities. For others, they must be achieved from a Christian Bible and mission institution.
The following universities are not the only schools offering these types of degrees. Rather, the list below is a basic guideline to help you choose what type of education and school is best for you.
Bethany Global University
Bethany Global University (BGU) is the intuition that I place the highest recommendation. It is located in Bloomington, Minnesota. After researching various other schools, I personally decided to attend Bethany Global University. Since my time at BGU, I have realized that my decision was the correct one.
Amazing benefits available to students:
- Moreover, Bethany Global University specifically focuses on missions. Local ministry opportunities are available after graduation, but BGU is one of the only schools that focus directly on missions.
- A work college format and private donors completely cover tuition. This means that students pay $0 out of pocket for tuition!
- The only expenses are room and board and other fees. These are reasonable considering all the events, retreats and activities you get to do.
- Books are inexpensive as well. The University is resources and aware of student’s expenses.
- BGU offers a 16-month overseas internship.
- All students receive a double major and a minor if they choose.
- The subject manner is practical, easy to apply, and beneficial. There are no filler classes that aren’t fruitful for your faith walk or ministry.
- The age range of the students varies. Not all the students come directly after high school. There is a positive range of student ages that includes all people in missions, no matter their past experience or lack thereof. BGU has something to offer everyone.
Bachelor Degree Programs:
- Bible and Theology
- Intercultural Ministry
- Education / Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL)
- Social Justice
Master’s Degree Programs:
- Intercultural Ministry Studies
- Ministry Leadership in Intercultural Settings
- Intercultural Ministry Education
Learn all you need to know about Bethany Global University here.
Moody Bible Institute
Moody Bible Institute is another well-known Christian college. It has locations in Chicago and Michigan. Moody Bible Institute is not a university dedicated solely to missions. Instead, it is a Bible college. The institution does offer short term mission trips to students. Moody is great at training Christians for ministry.
Moreover, missions are part of it, but they are not as specifically focused as Bethany Global University. The following programs listed are not all available programs. I am listing programs that are similar to the main degrees listed previously.
Bachelor Degree Programs:
- Biblical Studies
- Intercultural Studies
- Ministry to Victims of Sexual Exploitation
- Elementary Education
Master Degree Programs:
- Clinical Mental Health Counseling
- Counseling Psychology
- Biblical Studies
- Biblical Spiritual Formation and Discipleship
- Ministry Leadership
Learn more about Moody Bible Institute here.
Liberty University is one of the largest Christian universities. It trains students in ministry, as well as practical occupations that can be used in the secular realm. Liberty University does not specialize in missions. It does do some work with missions through shorter trips.
Liberty University is beneficial to graduate with Biblical understanding and a trade job. You could use the trade job on the mission field, however, you may not receive as much specific training in intercultural studies. The programs that I will be listing are not comprehensive. They are merely some of the few that are available.
- Healthcare Administration / Management
- Global Studies
- Social Work
Learn more about Liberty University here.
Why Get a Degree?
Missionary degrees are often not necessary to do mission work. There are various opportunities for short term mission work without education. Even on a larger scale of missions from 6 months to a lifetime, degrees aren’t always necessary.
If you desire to be a missionary long term, it is beneficial to get a degree. This is simply because mission work is difficult. You want to be equipped and ready to face the challenges of culture, country, work, and team dynamics. With a previous education, you will know how to respond in certain situations and what to do to make them better.
Therefore, without education, most people do not last on the mission field. Many people underestimate the difficulties of missions and the raising of financial support that it takes.
It is beneficial to get a degree because numerous countries will not let missionaries in the long term. By having a degree, the government will recognize you as a qualified person. You may be able to get an extended visa or access to an otherwise restricted country. In most places, you cannot come as a quote on quote, “missionary”. You have to enter the country as a student, teacher, businessman, or tourist.
Read my blog, “Why is Missionary Education Needed Before Going Overseas?” and you will learn more about the benefit of missionary training.