Apart from the popular belief that starting a church is complicated, anyone can learn how to start a church. It does not require people with administrative skills or great talents, but ordinary people who are determined to practice their faith. It is just similar to creating a nonprofit organization. Religious people can learn how to start a church by doing the 8 fundamental steps, below that are both state-specific and federal.
Planning is vital whatever you are starting to establish. With your founding members, draft the purpose, mission, doctrine and beliefs of your church. Think about the activities your church will undertake, schedule of church services and estimated expenses for the next three years along with a plan for how to get the needed funds. Furthermore, give your church a name.
- Appoint directors
As an organization, the church needs directors who take legal responsibility and accountability for the congregation. They are also called deacons or church council.
- Determine the size of the church
The size of church matters, and it is wise to keep the number of people manageable. Less group members tend to dwindle while a larger group would lose intimacy because all members may not be able to participate. Hence, big churches tend to reproduce smaller ones with 10 to 30 people.
- Prepare and file the Certificate of Formation aka Articles of Incorporation
Get ready with preparing documents that establish the church as a nonprofit organization. The Certificate of Formation is also known as Article of Incorporation in other states. It defines what the congregation will do, and who are responsible for the management. When ready, file the certificate with the Secretary of State, which is what most states require.
- Draft the Bylaws or the Constitution or Charter
The bylaws is the operating manual of the church, setting out the rules that govern the internal management. The initial board of directors prepare and adopt the bylaws simultaneously with the Certificate of Formation.
- Set a schedule for church meetings
The church should hold a meeting following the finalization of the Certificate of Formation. The meeting is to be called by the majority of the directors or the incorporator. Members should meet at least per week to maintain a sense of connectedness, either during the week or on weekends. Choose the time that is convenient to everyone.Having food at meetings can make the gathering more natural and people will be more comfortable. Meeting format can be teaching, prayer and worship.
- Apply for an Employer Identification Number (“EIN”)
The church must obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number or EIN, whether the organization has employees or not. The EIN will be used on all receipts and federal tax returns, and is needed to open a bank account.
- Obtain from the IRS Tax-Exempt Status and State Tax-Exempt Status
Even if it is not a requirement for churches to apply for federal tax-exempt status, it is recommended; more so when the church has no affiliated denomination. The process of applying for a federal tax-exempt status is similar to nonprofit organizations. Furthermore, obtain a State Tax-Exempt Status.