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What degree do you need to be a missionary?

by Mark Silvers
in Blog, Mark Silvers, Mission work
Is a Bible degree enough?

I sat in a coffeeshop with a group of missions mobilizers talking about the missions conference we were attending. Through the door walked a college student we recognized as a conference participant.

She approached us and, without introduction, exclaimed, “I cannot wait to walk the streets of [closed country] and share the gospel with the unreached.”

Those of us at the table sat speechless. Aside from being taken aback by her outspokenness, I was surprised by her plan for reaching such a difficult country. You can’t waltz in and share the gospel on the streets, I thought to myself. At least not if you plan to stay in the country, or even alive.

But I decided to hold that comment for later.

Instead I asked two simple questions: “How do you plan to get a visa? And what kind of preparation have you had?”

To the first, she responded, “What do you mean?”

And to the second, “I’m getting a Bible degree.”

I often hear these responses repeated from many people who want to serve Christ among the least-reached. Unfortunately for this woman, and for many like her, it’s probably not going to work.

If you’re in college and planning to be a missionary after you graduate, consider this: 60 percent of the world’s population live in the 10/40 Window where it’s not usually possible to get a missionary visa.

Your Bible or missions degree from a Christian college is good training, but don’t expect it to give you entrance into a least-reached country. A missions degree alone is not enough. Start thinking now about what education will be most helpful for serving overseas. You would do yourself service to pursue a marketable skill you can take anywhere in the world.

So what major should you choose? What can you do now to get to the field faster and be more effective long term?

Here are three suggestions to help you answer those questions for yourself.

  1. Explore your own interests.
    Don’t put your Bible major aside just yet. But if you were going to study something else, what would it be? Did you have a favorite subject in school? A hobby (like American football) you could turn into a career? Consider double majoring so that you can gain the Bible knowledge in addition to a marketable skill. The goal isn’t to have a cover-up “career” just so you can get a visa someday, but to bring tangible benefit to the people where you’ll serve.

  2. Research the country you want to serve in.
    What kinds of visas do they offer? What are the needs of the people? For example, you may find that local schools are hiring native English speakers to teach English. You could major in Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Or if you’ve already graduated, you could pursue a TESOL certification.

  3. Talk to missionaries or agencies who work in that country.
    No one knows the situation better than the people on the ground. They can help match your interests to the opportunities that already exist … or ones they might be looking to start!

Pursuing something other than a Bible degree doesn’t make you less passionate about reaching the nations. And it won’t hinder you from an effective cross-cultural ministry. It may even help! Help you get access to least-reached countries. Help you build relationships with people in other sectors of society. And help you bring God’s love to every area of life.

If you’re planning for a future in missions and want some guidance, talk to a Crossworld mentor.

Mark Silvers, Crossworld Director of MobilizationMark Silvers served with Crossworld in the Philippines for 10 years and joined the home office staff as Director of Mobilization in 2009. Mark’s driving passion is to reach the 3.02 billion people in the world today with no access to the gospel.

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