Program Summary

The Concentration in Ministry Leadership within the Christian and Religious Studies major prepares students for many types of Christian ministry. Students take courses in areas such as preaching, pastoral care, worship, spiritual formation, pastoral theology and missions. They also have the opportunity to earn course credit for supervised internships in churches or other ministries. These courses help students to develop practical ministry skills and to gain a deeper understanding of many aspects of Christian ministry. Students also take courses in Bible, theology, Christian history, and sociology that develop their knowledge and skills in areas vital to ministry. Most students choose to participate in a semester-long internship for academic credit during their senior year that provides hands-on ministry experience, an opportunity to explore their calling, and job-preparation activities.

Once I declared my major, my advisor suggested adding a ministry leadership concentration, in which these classes would primarily focus on hands-on ministry. Each professor, each class, and each assignment challenged me to examine what it truly means to be a full-time minister and how to effectively minister to others. These moments have helped me to develop a strong approach to student ministry as well as to be a leader worth following. Farrah Karimi, director of student ministry, St. Luke United Methodist Church, Enterprise, Alabama

Students in this concentration have many special opportunities. Our Preministerial Scholars Program offers scholarship support, small group mentoring, and internships to assist students preparing for ministry. Students can preach regularly in Alabama churches through Samford Sunday. They can also complete the bachelor’s degree and a masters of social work through a fast-track option. This concentration can also be combined with other majors and minors within Arts and Sciences that provide additional tools for ministry, such as sociology, psychology, philosophy, history, and communication. Those who are called to ministry can apply for Samford's accelerated B.A.-to-M.Div. program. If accepted, they can earn both degrees in six years rather than the typical seven.

Objectives & Goals

Students prepare for many forms of ministry through this concentration. They will understand their call to ministry and be formed personally, spiritually, and professionally. They will be skilled in biblical, historical, and theological study. They will grasp the dynamics of congregational ministry and leadership. They will be able to write sermons and to preach effectively. They will understand how faith grows and changes throughout peoples’ lives. They will also gain expertise in missions, pastoral care, and worship.

View Curriculum

Is This Program for Me?

The Christian and Religious Studies major’s ministry leadership concentration is for all who are interested in ministry and developing the knowledge and skills that will enable them to effectively service in a variety of situations. Most students have a love for God, for serving others, for communities of faith, and an intellectual curiosity about their faith and the world around them.

What Makes Us Different?

Personal Attention

Students forge personal relationships with professors. Small classes, one-on-one advising, discussion groups, and informal meetings in professors’ offices and homes facilitate in-depth conversations, careful directions, and life-long friendships.

Scholarship and Ministry

Our department is distinctive in offering rigorous courses in both the study of religion and ministry leadership. All professors hold doctoral degrees in their field and many have seminary degrees and serve in local churches and ministries; some pastor Birmingham congregations. Students can, for example, study the religions of Asia, the latest scholarship on the Bible, and how to preach the gospel all in the same semester. Some students focus on the academic study of religion, others on preparing for ministry. All learn to think critically and faithfully about religion.

Joint Programs

The Christian and Religious Studies major’s ministry leadership concentration may be easily combined with most other majors in the Howard College of Arts and Sciences. You can also participate in fast-track programs for the Cumberland School of Law and the master of social work degree from the School of Public Health.

Career Preparation

Market Ready

Through internships, directed research, challenging courses, and hands-on advising, Samford Christian and Religious Studies majors sharpen their skills and knowledge in religious studies and ministry. They have the opportunity to preach weekly through Samford Sunday, learn archaeology by participating in our excavations in Israel, and develop research skills in independent studies. Students graduate prepared to be leaders in today’s complex religious world.

Career Opportunities

  • children’s minister
  • college minister
  • communications director
  • missionary
  • pastor
  • professor
  • senior pastor
  • service learning facilitator
  • social worker
  • teacher
  • therapist
  • worship pastor
  • youth pastor



  • Baptist Church of the Covenant
  • Canterbury United Methodist Church
  • The Church at Brook Hills
  • Mountain Brook Presbyterian Church
  • Shades Mountain Baptist Church
  • Sixteenth Street Baptist Church
  • Mountain Brook Community Church

Non-profit Organizations and Ministries

  • Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice
  • Apologetics Resource Center
  • Campus Outreach
  • Children's Hospital
  • First Priority of Alabama
  • Grace House Ministries
  • Samaritan Counseling Center of Birmingham
  • Sav-A-Life Pregnancy Resource Center
  • Student Life
  • The Eternal Word Television Network
  • The Vineyard, Hoover
  • The WellHouse
  • University Christian Fellowship
  • Woman’s Missionary Union

Accolades, Alumni & Faculty

Awards and Recognition

  • Dean’s Award for Teaching, Dr. Jeffery M. Leonard, 2017.
  • Dean’s Award for Research, Dr. James R. Strange, 2015.
  • Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts, Regional Conference Grant for conference “Teaching the Christian Intellectual Tradition: Augustine Across the Curriculum,” Dr. T. Scott McGinnis 2014.
  • George Macon Memorial Award for teaching, Dr. Penny Long Marler, 2013
  • Alpha Iota Epsilon Chapter of Theta Alpha Kappa, the national honor society for religious studies and theology, chartered 2008.
  • Distinguished Book Award, Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, 1998 (to Dr. Penny Long Marler for Being There: Culture and Formation in Two Theological Schools).

Alumni Careers

  • children’s minister
  • college minister
  • communications director
  • missionary
  • pastor
  • professor
  • senior pastor
  • service learning facilitator
  • social worker
  • teacher
  • therapist
  • worship pastor
  • youth pastor

Notable Alumni

  • Sarah Chandler Davidson (2010), clinical therapist, Dekalb Community Service Board, Atlanta, Georgia
  • William Deal (2009), minister of youth and young adults, Derbyshire Baptist Church, Richmond, Virginia
  • Justin Gambrell (2007), associate pastor, Pine Terrace Baptist Church, Milton, Florida
  • Rich Havard (2011), campus pastor, The Inclusive Collective: A Christian Movement, Chicago, Illinois
  • Carlisle White Jones (2008), pastor of youth care and discipleship, Franklin First United Methodist Church, Franklin, Tennessee
  • Farrah Karimi (2017), director of student ministries, St. Luke United Methodist Church, Enterprise, Alabama
  • Brad Landry (2003), rector, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and Montessori School, San Antonio, Texas
  • Andrew Moskau (2009), associate pastor, Vineyard Church of New Orleans, Louisianna
  • Stephen Rice (2012), college pastor, Calvary Church, Clearwater, Florida
  • Andrew Toney-Noland (2012), Mennonite Central Committee, Nepal