Become a pastor, a counselor, or a missionary?

I want to serve God.

In the Christian world, there are many opportunities to get pastoral training and then to practice the profession of pastor or parish priest or missionary. We want to answer all the important questions about the profession of a pastor. What does a pastor actually earn? How does it work to become a pastor? What is the difference between the pastor, missionary, or priest? And what do they do all day anyway?

We want to help you to gain clarity in order to get closer to your career aspiration. As an academy for pastoral leaders, it is important to us that you find your right place.

Just look around. On this page, we also introduce you to a new profession in the church work sector every month. Have fun browsing.

Table of content

  1. pastor, missionary, priest – simply explained

  2. What does a pastor actually earn?

  3. What is a pastor doing?

  4. Where to get training?

  5. Who is suitable?

  6. Conclusion

What's the difference?

Pastor, counselor, missionary?

All three professions have the same goal. They want to serve God by connecting people with his word and help them to grow strong in their spiritual being.

The pastor or shepherd is the one leading a local church. A pastor has to organize his congregation, preach sermons, counsel people with a need, pray for the sick, and raise lay leaders.

The counselor is someone people seek when they need advice. This can be an individual, a couple, or a group. He or she has to listen in order to understand the specific situation their client might have to help them with clarity, spiritual advice, or prayer.

The missionary is like a pastor someone who brings god’s word to people, train leaders, or helps to build a community. The difference is that he is usually dealing with another culture or ethnic group. The challenge is to understand what the people you want to minister really think and feel.

The term “pastor”, “priest” or “minister” are definitions by which different denominations describe their spiritual leaders. The term “pastor” refers to the Latin word “shepherd”, describing the task of herding a flock. It is more used in the evangelical world. The “priest” is referring to the office of someone connecting people with God by being a connector. Mostly the catholic church refers to their leaders as priests. A priest is normally not married. A “minister” is a more general term translating as “servant”. He or she can work as a teacher, bishop, counselor, pastor, or choir leader.


How much does a pastor, counselor, or missionary earn?

When it comes to a pastor’s salary, there is a wide range. In large churches the pastor or minister earns more because the congregation has more funds.

The average salary for priests is $53,000 per year. The top 10% earn more than $85,000 per year and the bottom 10% earn $26,000 or less per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2020.

In an evangelical church, one can expect a pastor earn between $35,000 and $45,000 annually. But if you pastor a large congregation it can be substantially more.

Missionaries typically get paid by a missions organization. They receive the funding from a group of supporters or by a sending church. The income varies a lot according to where your destination is. Your lifestyle has to somehow fit into the community you serve. In addition, you have costs for furlough, healthcare at home, and other insurance. Expect an annual salary between $15,000 and $25,000. Consider that cost of living is usually way different than in your home country.

Counselors make an average salary between $35,000 to $50,000 depending on what field you are working in.

If you are more interested in this topic, you should ask the respective church you intend to be ordained.









lead, serve, advice

What is a pastoral leader doing?

The term “Pastor” means shepherd and that is roughly what a pastor (or missionary, or priest does. Except that you are dealing with people and not sheep.  Have you ever seen a flock of sheep? They can be totally quiet and confident in one moment but running around fearfully at another. The profession is one of the most diverse and fulfilling tasks on earth if you are called to do this. You make a difference in people’s lives that no other job can do. Basically a pastor or minister does the following:

  1. preaching and teaching
  2. leading and building groups/teams
  3. helping people through listening and prayer
  4. organizing events
  5. financial and resource management

Look at those leaders

Pastoral leaders influence others.

Pastoral leaders should have a strong influence on society by shaping, edifying, and changing it. Here are some examples:

Paul of Tarsus

One of the first pastors in a multicultural society. He has shaped Christianity in its present form. He moved through the Mediterranean area and planted churches. For his faith, he was later arrested and brought to Rome.


Hildegard of Bingen

The abbess dealt with the cosmos, ethics, music, and medicine from the perspective of faith. Her visions and reports are still known today. She traveled through Europe on her horse to encourage the people and admonish the powerful.


Martin Luther

We know him as the great Reformer of the church. His foundations were “sola scriptura” (Scripture alone), “sola gratia” (by grace alone), and “sola fide” (by faith alone). With this, he made the established Catholic Church his enemy. His legacy has shaped the whole world until today.


Martin Luther King Jr.

The name sounds familiar, but this pastor was a civil rights activist in the US. His phrase, “I have a dream,” still resonates today. His goal was the equality of the black population and the abolition of racial segregation.

What degree is required?

College, seminary, bible school?

Most churches and Christian organizations require at least an undergraduate degree like Bachelor of Theology. Some require a Masters level. For many, it is a question of tuition. Costs vary between $25,000 and $200,000 for a degree.

In Addition, statistics show that more than 64% of pastoral leaders on average feel that their training does not prepare them well for their professional life. All the more important is the decision to choose the right school/university for you.

Usually, you have to study theology between 3-5 years. During this time you will do internships in churches. Remember that Ordination is only given by a church or denomination, not a school.  You decide whether you will attend a seminary, a university, or an academy.


Job description

Serve God in different ways

In the coming years, the US will lack many trained pastors, missionaries, and counselors. The chances of employment are good if you are qualified. Since a mere theological education is often not sufficient students are looking to learn also practically. How to solve conflicts? How to preach that people really get the message? How to stay on track with all the complex tasks? We give you an overview of the most common skills you need.


Pastor & Pfarrer





God calls people to serve him.

Am I suited?

Look at the disciples of Jesus. They weren't born heroes, but God called them. If you serve God by becoming a pastor or minister, he will prepare you sufficiently.
You believe: Jesus Christ lived, rose from the dead after his crucifixion, and is the Son of God. Christians believe that their guilt is forgiven through his sacrifice. For you, the Bible is the Word of God.
You can take resistance. Despite your best intentions, you will encounter headwinds. That's because people reject Jesus' claim on their lives. And you will feel that.
You can deal with people. Pastors have to get out of their office and be on the streets. They visit people, like to help and are good listeners. They burn for bringing people into a relationship with God.
You are called to do this. It's not always easy to find out, but these questions can help:
- I have a deep desire for the work of the kingdom of God.
- I prefer this work over everything else
- Other people confirm this.
- I've been thinking about this for a long time.
Pastors, priests, missionaries, or counselors aim to exert a positive influence on their environment. They shepherd their fellow men and serve them through their faith in Jesus Christ. In order to be successful, you need a solid education and practical training. The tasks are manifold and the salary is enough to live.

There is one thing you need to ponder about. Since we said in the beginning that all these jobs are trying to serve not only men but ultimately God you want to know if you are called? Conduct the little test we provided here to find out some more.

Find out now!

Am I called to serve God as a pastoral leader

Pastor ist ein Beruf, der extrem vielseitig ist und deinem Leben Sinn verleihen kann wie wenig Anderes. Mach unsere Berufungsanalyse um herauszufinden ob du Pastor werden solltest.