Although many ministers become ordained after studying at a seminary or other religious educational institution, many are self-ordained. This is perfectly legal, as long as the proper procedures are followed. These procedures vary from state to state. Many ministers become ordained online. While several organizations that offer ordination online are legitimate, many are scams.
Select the desired denomination or organization to obtain ordination, such as the Universal Life Church, the American Fellowship Church or Ordination Online (see Resources). Many self-ordained ministers are ordained through an individual church; others are ordained through nondenominational organizations, either in person, by mail or online.
Check with the Better Business Bureau to determine if the organization is legitimate. This is especially important with organizations that offer online ordination.
Check with your state to determine if the ordination will be recognized. This is very important. If the particular denomination or ordination is not recognized by the state, it will be void.
Determine the actual procedure for ordination. Check the website or literature to determine what the requirements are. Some organizations require coursework. Others require a written statement or other documentation. Others require nothing more than a completed application, either online or by mail.
Complete the requirements for ordination, either online or by mail. If there is an ordination fee required, pay the fee. Respond to any inquiries or questions from the organization or place of worship promptly to complete the process as quickly as possible.
Register with the state if necessary. If a church is being established along with the ordination, this step is nearly always required. If not, it may or may not be necessary to register with the state.
If you are becoming ordained to perform a wedding for a friend or family member, allow sufficient lead time to complete the process before the wedding day. Depending on the denomination or organization selected, the process could require weeks or even months to complete. See Resources for marriage laws by state.