Why is everyone a "Pastor" at protestant churches now?

I recently had to write a letter of recommendation for a young lady (a former student) who was applying for a internship with her baptist church. I had to address the letter to the “Youth Pastor.” Evidently the Youth Pastor is what we Catholics would call the Director of Religious Education or the CCD Director.

I’ve noticed that protestant churches have begun calling everyone and anyone holding any supervisory position as a pastor…youth pastor, community outreach pastor, financial pastor, music pastor, etc, with the guy in charge either being the senior pastor. Why?

At least with us Catholics, the title pastor means that the occupant (i.e. the assigned priest) is the man who is entrusted with the care of souls in a parish. The symbolism is taken from Our Blessed Lord calling himself the Good Shepherd. The Good Pastor has entrusted the pope and bishops with care of His flock on Earth. The Bishop, the pastor of the diocese, entrusts his priests with care of his flock in a given parish. Hence, the title given a priest who is in charge of the care of souls in a parish is a pastor. The choir director is not entrusted with the care of souls and neither is the sacristan or the DRE, the bookkeeper or the guy who runs vacation bible school.

Not the case amongst Lutherans. Pastors are the special ordained ministry, and like you stated regarding the CC, are entrusted with the spiritual care of his flock. Our director of music is just that. Elders are not pastors, either, but are lay members designated to assist the pastor in his call. In the LCMS, our district (diocese) bishop is referred to as district president (why not bishop, I have no idea).


Ummmm…maybe you’re dealing with a different brand of protestantism than you’re used to. Everyone that I knew running protestant churches was called “pastor” and that was back in the late 90’s.

If your not trying to become a priest, becoming insta-ordained online is easier than opening a Bible.

Church of Christ doesn’t use titles. We designate a minister, the person who preaches on Sunday and ministers to the congregation, but it is not a title like “Reverend” of “Pastor.” Many times titles are given for administrative clarity, “If you’re interested in playing music or singing on Sundays see the Worship Pastor.” Don’t worry though, we aren’t in a race to see which denomination can have to most titled people.

hi guy
the youth pastor say at our neighborhood Baptist Church has duties beyond that of DRE, which is running faith formation programs for children and youth. He is more analagous to the position of Youth Minister. That is because while the DRE is primarily administrative, the YM or YP is primarily pastoral and ministerial. They have training and mandate, which DREs usually lack, to truly minister to the needs of youth for counselling, life preparation and skills beyond doctrinal formation, problem solving and so forth.

I think you would find that, with most communions that ordain, the process is not unlike that of priests. Attending a Lutheran seminary is no walk in the park. Lutheran pastors are very well educated in language, history of the Church, doctrine (not just ours), the ECF’s and early councils, homiletics, etc.


I should have specified that in lots of denominations it’s not a matter of filling out an online form and clicking a button when you’re done. Sorry for not doing so.
When you have a church overflowing with pastors though, as described in the OP, the problem could very well be what I described though.

I came across a church about a month ago where everyone was called pastor, and when I say everyone, I actually mean everyone - every single adult member was a pastor. I even looked it up on their website. There were several dozen pastors listed.

I think if this becomes more popular, its going to backfire by cheapening the word so much that it becomes completely useless.

While I haven’t seen or experienced it, my initial reaction is its taking the Priesthood of all believers to an illogical conclusion.


My former fundamentalist church has a senior pastor, a youth pastor, a praise and worship pastor, and I don’t know how many others. Though it sounds it, the title is not given to lay people. All the forms of pastors are ordained and are full-time employees of that church.

The one that gets me is the number of churches headed by someone calling himself a bishop. They are all over in my area. It seems to be the latest fashion.

My question is are they actually ordained ministers who have attended accredited seminaries and gotten their degree?

I doubt it. A friends son-in-law is considered a “pastor” to people who have addiction issues and he only attended some bible institute for a year.

Yours in the Hearts of Jesus and Mary


Oh dear. Another sweepping statement about Protestants.

“We Anglicans” don’t use the word pastor.

Episcopalians use the term “rector”. Is that true throughout Anglicanism? I would suspect that Anglo-Catholics use “priest”.


in the ELCA the only pastors are the ones who are ordained. :slight_smile:

you cannot make any generalizations about “Protestants” or “fundamentalists” or “Evangelals” that will hold up, each denom has its own rule and each non-denom body also has its own governance.

In the case of a youth pastor or youth minister yes in most denominations while they may not be seminary trained they have had to get a degree and some type of professional training and credentials.

In the Baptist Church to be titled “Youth Minister” or “Youth Pastor” you have to have BDiv or an MDiv. It’s not just a title for title’s sake. These ministers are actual seminary grads. It would be the difference between a Primary Care Physician (Sr. Pastor) and a Pediatrician (Youth Minister). Both are capable doctors with different fields of study.

Usually its a Music Director unless they have a particular field of study in seminary for Music (possible, I’m not a seminarian). I’ve not heard of a Music Pastor at a Baptist Church, but I haven’t been to one in a while.

one difference in many mainstream denominations is that the music minister is usually professionally trained and receives a decent salary. I make no comparisons except for the maxim, you get what you pay for. In a non-denom where the music ministry is also leading worship at times, they are often seminary trained.

Actually it is a gift of the Holy Spirit.

11And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

The title given is merely an acknowledgement of that gift.

It’s just a way of addressing the hired staff to make sure that everyone recognizes them as hired staff, not lay volunteers. Don’t get so worked up about how others do it. You’re not a member of their churches, so don’t fret about it. It doesn’t affect you. And it doesn’t water down the term “pastor” or diminish it because they have a different understanding of what a pastor is than Catholics.

I’ve been part of Protestant churches where there are no “pastors,” but everyone is called either “Brother” or Sister." I suppose a Catholic could get worked up over that, too, since these people are not consecrated to a religious vocation.

This is an “authority” issue, and you must understand how each denomination designates authority in order to understand why the various “titles” are used. You can’t make a blanket statement about Protestants because these authority issues are different for every denomination. The way to understand the “chain of command” is to ask when you visit that church.

Richard Kastner brought up a very interesting point, that many Protestant denominations organize their church according to the spiritual gifts. “Pastor” is one of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit (according to Ephesians 4), and so that name will be used to address those in the church with that spiritual gift.

In many Protestant churches, the hired staff are often given some form of “address” that is different than everyone else in the church so tha these people will be recognized as hired staff, someone who has a “job description” and who can be called upon to do a task for the church. It’s a way of making sure that these people are viewed in an “authority” role by those who attend the church.

If everyone is called “Mr.” Mrs." Ms." “Miss,” etc, then it is unclear who is actually receiving a salary as a hired staff member, and who is a lay volunteer. That’s why you’ll hear the term “pastor” used. After all, pastor simply means “shepherd.” It doesn’t mean “Jesus, the Good Shepherd.” It just means “shepherd,” and that’s what these hired people are–shepherds who are in charge of leading the congregation in a specific area (e.g., youth, music, children, visitation, etc.)

In the churches where everyone is called “Brother” or “Sister,” you will sometimes find that they don’t recognize that anyone in the church has any more authority than anyone else. Someone is usually hired who has been through seminary and has credentials that allow them to marry and bury people. But that person is simply viewed as another “elder” in the church.

That’s another term that’s used in some denominations–“elder.” And sometimes you’ll hear “deacon.”

But these titles don’t matter, and they shouldn’t upset Catholics. Think of it this way: Different families have different “names” that they call their family members. E.g., in some families, it’s “Grandmother”, while in other families, it’s “Grandma”, or “Granny” or “Nana” or “MeMa,” or whatever. She’s still your beloved relative! The name isn’t an issue.

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