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Best Online Degrees in: Youth Ministry

Editor’s Picks: Online Schools for Youth Ministry

Value
This award goes to Grand Canyon University, which has a 30-year net return on investment of 4.9%, according to PayScale.com, an online salary database. This number increases to 5.4% when you factor in financial aid, which 82% of students at the school at the private school receive, according to the site.

Flexibility
Grand Canyon University receives this award for its flexible online learning system, which students can tailor to meet their needs. Classes can be taken 100% online, or a combination of both online and on campus if need be. And online courses are synchronous, so students can log in, complete assignments, reply to message boards, and view professor notes at any time.

Career Support
This award goes to Grand Canyon University because of its range of resources, professional knowledge, and support when it comes to transitioning a degree into a career. Through the school’s career services office, students can build a resume, explore careers, take a career self-assessment, and participate in mock interviews. The office also recently launched an online job board, featuring job opportunities for students with companies in the campus’s city – Phoenix, Ariz. – and beyond.

Financial Support
At Grand Canyon University, an overwhelming majority of students receive financial aid assistance, which is often necessary for students to receive a higher education. Out of all the school’s full-time, beginning, undergraduate students, 96% receive financial aid overall, with 93% receiving grant or scholarship aid, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Overall, 74% of students receive grant or scholarship aid, with the average award being $6,776.

Technology Support
This award goes to Grand Canyon University, which is ranked among the best online colleges for student services and technology by U.S. News & World Report. Technological offerings include career placement assistance and live tutoring, as noted by the publication. Additionally, students can peruse online tutorials and webinars on using the school’s online learning system, and, when they run into trouble, can receive technical support via live chat, email, or phone.

Student Engagement
This award goes to Grand Canyon University, which is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best online colleges in the country for student engagement and assessment. As the publication notes, faculty track student login, which helps encourage engagement in each class. Additionally, the school’s online learning system encourages interaction through its cohort-based model, in which students advance together through a sequence of core courses. This helps facilitate lasting relationships with fellow cohort members .

Library and Research Support
This award goes to Grand Canyon University for its distance learner-friendly library resources. Students can find tutorials and webinars on searching the library’s online databases and research tools, as well as receive assistance in taking out physical books from the library collection. If they need to talk to a librarian, students can contact one via live chat or phone, or email and expect a response within 24 hours.

Learning Support
This award goes to Grand Canyon University, which provides multiple academic resources for its students, whether they’re online or on campus. Through its Center for Learning and Advancement, distance learners can make an appointment with a tutor in topics like writing and economics. They have access to academic tutorials and resources that can help them throughout their academic career. And they watch webinars on how to produce a well-written essay.

Faculty Credentials
At Grand Canyon University, students can expect to be taught by full-time faculty members who exclusively serve the school’s online education students, in addition to its on-campus faculty. The school is also regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. For these reasons, which speak to the strength of the school’s faculty experience and credentials, GCU wins this award.

Faculty Accessibility
This award goes to Grand Canyon University, which U.S. News & World Report ranks as one of the best online bachelor’s degree programs for student and faculty engagement. The publication included those schools that have faculty who thoroughly assess students’ work, as well as responded to students in a reasonable time. And at GCU, students can expect an instructor respond within 24 hours, according to U.S. News. Additionally, the student-to-faculty ratio is 16 to 1, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, and such small class sizes helps facilitate communication between students and their teachers.

Alumni Engagement
Grand Canyon University receives this distinction through the work of its Alumni Association. Graduates can continue to develop their career and job search skills after they’ve earned their degree by getting assistance in resume writing, interviewing, networking, researching industries, and identifying job opportunities. They can also search for job opportunities in the campus’s city – Phoenix, Ariz. – and beyond.

Prior Learning Options
At Grand Canyon University, students can earn up to 90 semester hours before they can start through several opportunities. The school accepts transfer credits from other colleges and universities, as well as tests like CLEP and DSST. Students with military credits, professional certificates, and other experiential learn experiences may also be able to put that toward their undergraduate degree. For its range of prior learning options, GCU wins this award.

New Online Student Orientation
This award goes to Grand Canyon University, where at the start of each course, students enter a tutorial to familiarize themselves with the online environment, including the course syllabus, staff information, discussion boards, and a digital dropbox that they’ll use to submit assignments. Students can also take a personalized online tour of the learning system with an enrollment counselor, or on their own.

Explore a Bachelor’s Degree in Youth Ministry

Online youth ministry degrees are a good fit for students of faith who want to prepare for a career working with teens and pre-teens. Meeting the spiritual needs of youth requires different techniques than working with adults, as youth ministers and youth pastors must use curriculum and design lessons that discuss the spiritual issues that are of importance to young people. Youth ministry is a major that is commonly offered by Christian colleges and universities, and may be offered online as a stand-alone degree program or as a specialization within a broader theology, religious studies, or Christian studies degree program.

Most bachelor’s degree programs in youth ministry can be completed in four years if the student attends the program full-time. However, program length varies from school to school, and some colleges offer accelerated programs that allow students to complete the program more quickly. Students may also be able to complete the program in less time if they have accumulated credits from other schools that they can transfer into the program.

Class Curriculum

The curriculum in a youth ministry degree program is set up with several goals in mind — to build a solid foundation in Christian theology, to educate students on contemporary issues that are relevant to today’s youth, to equip students with skills in preaching and teaching to youth, and to do this within the context of a broader liberal arts education. Students take courses in communication, the arts and humanities, social and behavioral sciences, mathematics, and the physical and biological sciences, as well as courses in biblical studies, theology, and youth ministry.

  • Spiritual Formation in Youth Ministry. In this course, students learn how teens and pre-teens regard God and the church, and the major questions they have concerning religion and spirituality. Students also learn about the steps young people take in order to grow in their understanding of God, and how to guide them along their spiritual journey.
  • Basic Preaching. This course introduces students to methods of putting together a clear and understandable sermon. Students learn the elements of effective sermons, how to use creative examples to illustrate spiritual principles, and incorporate scripture appropriately throughout the sermon delivery.
  • Contemporary Youth Problems. In this course, students examine the societal issues that today’s youth face, such as teen pregnancy, alcohol and drug abuse, growing up in divorced homes, grief, mental illness, and abusive relationships. Students learn strategies for counseling youth through these various issues, drawing from biblical teaching.

In many online youth ministry degree programs, students are required to complete a field experience in youth ministry, or an internship. These internships may take place at churches or faith-based youth outreach centers, camps, or nonprofits that incorporate youth ministry in some way. During these internships, students learn how to practically apply the concepts they have learned throughout their degree program, and actively engage in program development, preaching and teaching, and counseling and mentoring young people.

Building a Career

The most fitting careers for those with an academic background in youth ministry is youth ministers, youth pastors, and youth program coordinators at faith-based organizations. At large churches, a pastor may be in charge of high school students only, or middle school and junior high students only, while at smaller churches, both age groups may be incorporated into one group. Youth pastors plan out weekly meetings and Bible studies with youth, direct a small group of volunteer youth helpers, prepare budgets and organize fundraising for planned activities, prepare sermons and messages for youth, counsel youth, and coordinate with parents as to scheduling of events. They may also organize and publicize events such as mission trips, summer camps, fall and spring retreats, and youth conferences.

Clergy, a field that encompasses youth ministers, had an estimated median annual wage of $44,140 as of May 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, that salary average incorporates the wages of senior and assistant pastors, which are often higher than that of youth pastors. According to limited national salary data reported to online compensation site PayScale.com, youth pastors earned an average of $32,839. It is not uncommon for youth pastors to hold another full- or part-time job while serving in youth ministry. Salaries will vary depending on the size of the church, your church’s youth ministry budget, the region of the U.S. you live in, your level of experience, and other considerations.

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