I’m a current student at a missionary training university called Bethany Global University. Before I decided on BGU, I spent time researching and considering many other schools and what I found is that many Christian schools offer incredible programs and opportunities. However, I was looking for a school that allowed me to train specifically and intentionally for cross-cultural missions and education. I wanted a more in-depth study than gap year programs could provide. Therefore, I chose the double major track for a Bachelor’s degree.
Here’s a list of the best missionary schools in the country. They are divided into categories. There are mission schools, universities, and programs.
There are various Christian universities that offer degree programs in ministry. Not all of the degree programs specialize in missions, but there are schools that offer missionary tracks. Less common, but still available, are schools that focus their entire degree programs on missions.
Each university will vary based on denomination. Certain schools specify their training for Baptists, Methodists, Wesleyans, etc. Other schools are non-denominational and encourage students from all denominational backgrounds to attend.
When considering a university, be aware that many schools provide a mission track or intercultural study. They are not all specifically mission schools. Likewise, not all degrees prioritize missions over other Biblical studies and work-study.
The following Universities are in alphabetical order.
Appalachian Bible College
Appalachian Bible College is a small non-denominational university. There are roughly 300 students that attend. The University’s vision statement is to “Learn God’s Word. Serve His Church.” They also have the belief that “life is for service.” This school has been established for 70 years. On average, all students receive about $8,600 in yearly financial aid.
- Located in Mount Hope, West Virginia.
- Includes a 6-8 week cross-cultural internship.
- Fully accredited.
- Full-time on-campus students pay roughly $23,362 a year. With scholarships, the number is typically bumped down to $5,715 per semester.
- Bachelor’s Degree with a double major in Bible and Theology and Mission.
- Master degree programs are available.
- There are also associate degrees, certifications, online courses, and classes.
- Four different concentrations of the degree are available.
- It focuses on nursing and medical missions.
- Biblical counseling is available.
- Interdisciplinary, music, and pastoral programs are also avaiable.
- Uses TESOL (teaching English as a second language) to spread the gospel.
Learn more about Appalachian Bible College, here.
Bethany Global University
Bethany Global University focuses solely on missions and ministry. The university does provide functional accredited degrees that are valuable overseas and within the states. However, the vision of BGU has been to “Take the church where it is not and help others do the same.” It is one of the only universities that specialize in missions. If you are seeking missions specifically, BGU is one of the most well-rounded and functional places to do so.
- Located in Bloomington Minnesota, right outside of Minneapolis and Saint Paul.
- It is fully accredited.
- Tuition is paid through a work college format and private donors. Students pay $0 for tuition out of pocket.
- Room and board, plus additional fees are all that students are required to pay. This averages about $9,000 a year.
- While on-campus students work a practical training job. This helps pay for their tuition, while also providing valuable on the job training in a variety of areas.
- There is a 16-month global internship where students learn the language and culture and do ministry. While overseas, students are still working towards their degree.
- There are associates degrees that include a shorter overseas internship.
- The LEAD program offered is a one-year gap program. Students who complete this year can also choose to return with at a sophomore level the following year.
- Most commonly students choose the Bachelor degree which includes a double Major in Bible and Theology, the choice of a second major and a minor.
- Programs include Montessori education, early childhood education, social justice, business, entrepreneurial and intercultural.
- There are also Master degree programs.
Learn more about Bethany Global University, here.
Grand Canyon University
Grand Canyon University began in 1949 by the Southern Baptist Church. The mission of Grand Canyon University is “to prepare learners to be global citizens, critical thinkers, effective communicators, and responsible leaders by providing an academically challenging, values-based curriculum from the context of our Christian heritage.”
- Located in Phoenix, Arizona.
- The school’s size has nearly 70,000 students.
- Traditional Undergraduate tuition costs $8,250 per semester.
- Room and board is an additional cost. Cost varies based on dorm, apartment, and the number of residences.
- GCU is fully accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
- The school is comprised of multiple colleges.
- The College of Doctoral Studies, Education, Fine Arts, and Production, Humanities and Social Sciences.
- There is also the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions, Science, Engineering and Technology, Theology and the Colangelo College of Business.
- The two mission programs are a Bachelor of Arts in Christians Studies with an emphasis on Global Ministry. The Master of Divinity has a global ministry emphasis.
- Grand Canyon University offers plenty of opportunities with local outreach programs, global outreach opportunities, and study abroad programs.
Find more information on the Grand Canyon University, here.
Indiana Wesleyan University
Indiana Wesleyan University began as a plant from the Trustees of the Indiana Conference of the Wesleyan Methodist Church. Today, the school has positioned itself to reach a larger audience. It is now an evangelical Christan liberal arts institution.
Indiana Wesleyan University began as a plant from the Trustees of the Indiana Conference of the Wesleyan Methodist Church. Today, the school has positioned itself to reach a larger audience. It is now an evangelical Christan liberal arts institution.
The University’s mission is to be a “Christ-centered academic community” which is “Committed to changing the world by developing students in character, scholarship, and leadership.”
- Located in Marion, Indiana.
- Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges.
- Each year tuition costs $27,296.
- Room and board cost $8,768.
- Host about 14,500 students.
- There are three missions-oriented degree programs. An undergraduate majors in Global Ministries, International and Community Development, and Intercultural Studies.
- Roughly 100 undergraduate majors are available.
- There is the College of Arts & Sciences. Additionally is the School of Health Sciences and Nursing.
- Hosts local, domestic, and international trips, internships and more.
Locate Indiana Wesleyan University, here.
Liberty University is the largest Christian university in the world. Its mission is to develop “Christ-centered men and women with the values, knowledge, and skills essential to impact the world.” LU focuses on the whole of society.
It seeks to train its students to be “Men and women who will make important contributions to their workplaces and communities, follow their chosen vocations as callings to glorify God, and fulfill the Great Commission.”
- Located in Lynchburg, Virginia in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
- Per year tuition is $23,800.
- Housing ranges from $4,750-$8,00 yearly.
- Additionally, dining plans cost $3,950-4,450.
- There are more than 80,000 students.
- Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
- It offers four undergraduate majors for missions and international studies.
- There is a Master of Arts in Global Studies.
- Religious studies, Youth Ministries, and Nursing are paired with mission tracks. All have a global emphasis.
- Internships, local ministry, domestic and international service trips are all available for students.
Learn more about Liberty University, here.
Moody Bible Institute
The mission statement of Moody is to “Equip people with the truth of God’s Word to be maturing followers of Christ who are making disciples around the world.” Moody exists to impact all spheres of life with the gospel. Through practical degrees, with a Christian worldview, students will be ready to influence culture with Christlike values.
- Located in Chicago, Illinois.
- Moody’s partners pay for tuition. Students pay $0 for tuition a year.
- Room, board, and student fees total approximately $6,560-$7,800 per semester.
- The student-teacher ratio is 15:1.
- The BA in Intercultural Studies prepare students for cross-cultural interactions and the sharing of the gospel.
- International partner schools host students for one optional semester.
- During this semester abroad, students can involve themselves in ministry cross-culturally.
- There are various other degree programs available but they do not focus directly on intercultural ministries.
Discover more about Moody Bible Institute, here.
University of the Nations
The University of the Nations is a global school. It is a branch of YWAM. YWAM is an international mission network. Within YWAM are various denominations and leadership. Much of the University of the Nations is hands-on and interactive. The sole purpose of this university is to equip and send missionaries to complete the Great Commission.
- 600 different locations on all continents.
- Students pay course fees.
- Financial support typically comes from an individual’s home church, family, friends, and other sources.
- This includes 160 nations and over 100 different languages.
- The University of the Nation is not an accredited institution.
- Students can work towards a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science.
- Those studying the NA/BS degree program planning form are approved for a discipleship training school prerequisite. Furthermore, they gain a cross-cultural requirement, and core curriculum requirement.
- YWAM and the University of the Nations facilitate dozens of opportunities. This can include physical and immediate relief, as well as spiritual development, holistic healing, and recreational ministry.
- Programs include art and sports, communication, counseling, healthcare, humanities, intercultural, science, and technology.
Learn more about the University of the Nations, here.
The Cumberland Presbyterian Church founded Waynesburg University. It offers more than 70 undergraduate major programs. The mission is to “Educate students to make connections between faith, learning and serving so they might faithfully transform their communities and the world.”
The University describes itself in the following. “We strive to inspire and challenge every undergraduate and graduate student to a life of leadership and purpose for the glory of God.”
Waynesburg aspires to be a “premier institution of Christian higher education.” Above all, they seek to be “recognized for a commitment to its strong mission and its preparation of 21st-century leaders through innovative, student-centered learning experiences.”
- Located in Waynesburg, Pennslyvania.
- Tuition costs $24,820 per year.
- Room and board are $10,160 per year.
- There are various practical and functional degrees provided. These degrees are for more traditional occupations.
- Waynesburg does offer an intercultural studies program.
- Within this program, students spend at least four weeks internationally.
- The Christian Mission degree provides insight and opportunity for travel and cross-cultural interactions.
- Throughout all programs, mission trips are available.
- While on campus, students are encouraged to serve within the local community.
Learn more about Waynesburg, here.
Missionary programs vary in length. They can be months or years long. They can involve traditional classroom work. Or, they can be experiential. You could find yourself on the mission field right off the bat.
Other scenarios include a split schedule where you are in the classroom half of the day and you are doing ministry the other half. When it comes to missionary programs, there tends to be more diversity in strategy, approach, and educational style.
Missionary programs are highly beneficial for all individuals. Graduates from high school or college especially benefit. These programs provide a sneak-peek into mission work.
Students attend these programs to learn the basics of mission work. From there, they may continue through the same organization for long term missions. Or, they may choose a mission university.
The following programs are in alphabetical order.
Bridge Street Ministries
Bridge Street Ministries works to bridge the gap between the streets and the church. Since it is located on the West side of the city, it has done immense work to improve the community. This has taken a holistic approach of spiritual formation, as well as practical programs. Bridge Street Ministries’ vision statement is, “Knowing Jesus and making Him known in our neighborhood and beyond.”
- Located in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
- Tuition costs about $8,000 for the gap year.
- Each student funds their gap year.
- Scholarships are avaiable upon certain conditions.
- The internship is not a college in and of itself, however, it has teamed up with local colleges to provide transfer credits. These credits will transfer to a handful of Christian colleges and universities in Grand Rapids.
- The program lasts for 8-9 months.
- First students live and prepare in the urban city. Then, all students participate in overseas ministry for 3 months. Lastly, the students return to debrief and finalize the program.
- Guatemala or India are the locations for overseas ministry.
- While in Grand Rapids, students get hands-on ministry experience on the West side of the city. They have the option to work in the Pavilion coffee shop or to tutor local children. Additionally, they participate in prayer walking, worship, and local events.
Learn more about Bridge Street Ministries, here.
Envision Internships dual as a discipleship program and mission organization. Interns will have the opportunity to be discipled first-hand by staff. They will work closely with other interns, site coordinators, associates, and residents. Prospective students can apply and attend no matter where they are in their faith.
- Domestic Sites Include Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Providence, and the Twin Cities.
- International Sites Include Bangkok, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Indonesia, Peru, Philippines, and Taipei.
- Interns serve for either 1-11 months.
- Interns must raise their own funds.
- Students will teach English, build relationships, and make coffee. They will work with social justice, serve in urban settings, and connect with local churches.
- Students can also specialize in Deaf Ministries.
Envision Internship locations, ministry opportunities, and details can be found, here.
Global Frontier Missions
Global Frontier Missions works with refugees and immigrants within the U.S. There are roughly 90 unreached people groups in Clarkston, Georgia. This also means there are 65+ countries and 110+ dialects represented in the area. Students study scripture and other books to learn about God, His mission in the world, and their part in it all. Group discussions, videos, and guest speakers also present the information.
- Located in Atlanta and Clarkston, Georgia.
- Last for 5 months (January – May; August – December).
- $3,750 total cost* ($750/month) which includes group housing, utilities, and tuition.
- 12-15 hours of ministry among internationals each week.
- There are certificate and degree options for GFM MTS Graduates.
Visit Global Frontier’s website, here.
LEAD Venture is a gap year program though Bethany Global University. This program focuses on leadership. It also helps students understand and discover what God is calling them to. LEAD Venture can have various focus, such as media or marketing for missions. Furthermore, prayer and worship is another track.
- Located in Bloomington, MN, and an overseas location.
- Tuition costs $0 out of pocket because of the Tuition-Paid Model.
- Room and board cost $4,750.
- The overseas semester is $6,500. Students follow an in-depth fundraising format to raise support.
- Completion earns a certificate in Pre-Field Preparation.
- Students earn 30 college credits.
- Accredited by the Association of Biblical Higher Education (ABHE).
- Recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
- Also recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
- The first half of the gap year involves living on campus with other BGU students. The second semester takes place overseas.
- Students do ministry while overseas. They also take classes online.
- Furthermore, interns can work towards a certificate in Bible and Missions. This is a one year program. After this program, students can choose to continue with an Associate or Bachelor’s degree. Their previous work will count towards credits for a degree.
Learn more about LEAD Venture, here. Find more information about LEAD Ventures’ connection with Bethany Global University, here.
Mission to the World
Mission to the World has bases across the world. This is to encompass people from all locations to take part in the Great Commission. For example, this program is ideal for individuals who are still trying to decide if they are called to long term missions. Because of the nature of the program, the duration can vary. This allows students to get a feel for missions on different degrees and levels.
- Located in practically any place you can think of.
- Duration varies. There are mission and vision trips, summer internships, yearly internships, and long term trips.
- Cost also varies.
- Specialized ministries include medical, disaster relief, workplace ministry, arts, music, and media.
- Business, refugee ministry, teen ministry, village development, and creative ministries are all available.
- The programs can count towards school credit but only if the intern initiates the process and it is approved by the prospective school.
See all the internship sites and program available, here.
The World Race
The World Race focuses primarily on unreached people groups. It partners with longer-term missionaries and ministries. Students who attend the internship will work alongside ministries that are already established in a variety of countries. The goal of the World Race is to take part in the Great Commission and live obedient to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
- Work takes place in over 80 countries.
- These include open and restricted countries.
- Time spent at each base and traveling across the globe vary based on the program.
- Cost varies per program. Students usually raise funds to cover their costs.
- The main program is called the World Race. Designed for ages 21-35, it is an 11-month internship. It launches every January, August, and October.
- Second is the Gap Year. Participants range from 18-20 years of age. It launches every September. It occurs for 9 months.
- Semesters are designed for ages 18-22. Semesters last 1-6 months. They begin in the Spring, Summer, and Fall.
- Global U is for ages 18-23. It launches every September for 9 months.
Find out what countries and opportunities are available for the World Race, here.
YWAM, also known as Youth With a Mission is a well-known mission organization. It is widespread across the world. There are bases throughout most of the continents. YWAM leadership varies per site. This means that there may be different denominational differences involved. The overarching mission of YWAM is to “Know God and make Him known.”
The first step of YWAM is called DTS. This is a discipleship training school. This school focuses on the basics of Christianity, God, and missions. There are other programs that covered a wide array of topics and ministry. This includes, but is not limited to, dance, worship, prayer, climbing, adventure, skateboarding, health care, media, and teaching. YWAM works with unreached people groups, the poor, oppressed and hopeless.
- Programs typically last from 6-9 months.
- Locations are available across the world.
- Needed funds vary based on location. Support is raised by the individual attending.
- YWAM does provide the University of the Nations training. These degrees are not accredited.
Learn more about YWAM, here.
What to Consider Before Choosing A School
There are various things that should be considered before you commit to a missionary school. These will be personal and subject to your life, experiences, goals, and calling from God. Below I will list some of the most important things to keep in mind.
Remember, you may not always have the answers concerning your future and what you should do with the rest of your life. Since this is often the case, act in obedience to what you already know in God’s word. Trust Him through the process. Make all decisions prayerfully. Lastly, have faith. God can overcome anything. We can rest in His grace and trust His leading as we plan for our future.
Initial Questions to Ask Yourself
- Are the teachings Biblical? This is the biggest issue to consider. If the school does not teach from the Bible it should immediately be disregarded. Additionally, do so if the school interprets scripture incorrectly. Beware of the prosperity gospel, a self-seeking gospel, and actions, rituals, and beliefs that are not found in scripture.
- Do I agree with the beliefs of the school? If you do not agree with the beliefs of the school it will be hard to learn and function in the environment. However, be open to learning more truth. You might have been raised in a denomination that doesn’t do all things Biblically. Be open and ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to all truth, even if it is uncomfortable at first.
- What is the cost? You want to be a missionary. You don’t want to be in debt. Try to find an inexpensive school considering the fact that you won’t be making a steady income to pay off debt. Furthermore, many mission organizations will not support or send you if you have a certain amount of debt.
- Are there programs available that suit me? Find a program that you excel in and can serve the Lord in. This can be business, childcare, teaching, discipleship, counseling, nursing, economic development, etc.
Secondary Questions to Ask Yourself
- Does the program offer an overseas internship? An overseas internship should be included in your training. You are studying to be a missionary. You need firsthand experience.
- How long is the program? Consider the length of the program and your season in life.
- Will I be able to be involved in ministry during my time there? Find opportunities to become involved in ministry while you are training on-site.
- Will I have a community to hold me accountable? Attend a school where you will have community. Online schools are not bad. However, you should have accountability, encouragement, edification, and a way to serve others.
- What will my opportunities be like after I complete school? Hold loosely your plans for the future. But, at the same time, consider if you see yourself doing missions long term. This may impact the time and finances that you put into your education.
Is a Degree or Education Necessary for Missions?
To put it simply; no, a degree or education is not necessary for missions. There are many organizations that will accept missionaries who are not trained through their programs or even trained at all. Some organizations will train uneducated missionaries before sending them out. This may be casual training, or it may be in-depth and earn a certification or degree.
However, throughout history, missionaries have often been uneducated. If an organization will not accept a missionary without training, he or she could choose to do mission work independently. Local churches will often send out missionaries from their own body of believers. This doesn’t always require an education.
Although education is not always necessary, it is extremely helpful. A significant reason that the gospel does not reach an area effectively is due to a lack of training.
Missionaries do not always recognize how to cross cultural barriers and present the gospel in a way for local people to understand. Additionally, missionaries without training often face burnout because they are overwhelmed with situations they are unaware of how to handle.
There is much more to say on this topic. However, I will conclude this section with this. Missionary training or degrees can open up opportunities in closed countries. They can help with longevity and the health of a missionary and the ministry. This prolonges the ministry and alleviates some of the reasons for a premature return home. In conclusion, schools can bring connections that may later result in financial support, prayer, community, and a team of missionaries.
Read more about this topic through my blog, “Why is Missionary Education Needed Before Going Overseas?”
How Do I Know if I Should Attend a Mission School or Be a Missionary?
There are some basic questions you should ask yourself to decide if you should be a missionary. Some of these questions are preliminary to becoming a missionary. If you answer ‘no’ to any of these questions, focus first on these. Then, reconsider if you are ready for missions. No missionary will ever be fully equipped or perfect. Rather, these are some basic guidelines that should first be considered.
- Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior?
- Do you understand the new life that Jesus has given you and do you long to see others experience that?
- Are you currently being discipled by another individual of the faith? Do you have accountability and someone who can speak into your life?
- Are you currently working in ministry? Do you disciple other individuals?
- Are you connected to a local church?
- Have you first prayed about being a missionary?