Start Your Own Church: What You Need to Know First
A church can take on many different forms, at its core a church is a spiritual community of like-minded people. Many people may find they’re not happy with the way their current church is being operated, so why not start your own?
Wondering how to start your own church? In this article, we’ll go over all the aspects you need to get started.
1. Start with Fellowship
Many religious organizations choose to file for non-profit status with the IRS, but in order to do this your church needs to have an established fellowship.
A fellowship is merely a group of people who share common interests and beliefs. Start talking and meeting with like-minded people regularly to share ideas.
Keep in mind that in order to obtain non-profit status with the IRS you’ll need at least three founding board of members who are not related to you, by marriage or blood.
2. How will your church be structured?
Churches can be organized in a variety of ways. For example, do you plan on forming a ministry or will your church have a more traditional corporate structure?
Whichever structure you choose, it’s important to clearly define the scope and goals of your organization to establish the church. This also makes obtaining tax-exempt status easier. Here are some key factors you should keep in mind:
- Your location
- Number of members
- Your commitment (Whether it is full-time or part-time)
- Your financial motives, such as fundraising
3. Create a statement of belief along with Church bylaws
When it comes to a statement of belief, there are many questions that you need to answer such as:
- Your reason for starting a church
- The core beliefs that will govern your ministry
- What makes your church’s creed and doctrine different from other churches?
- What activities will your church participate in? (Weddings, funerals, outreach and education programs)
When starting your own church, you need to establish a series of bylaws that will govern your organization. This serves as a rule book for the operation of your church. It also clarifies the role performed in the Church.
If you’re still not sure where to start, try searching online for the bylaws that govern other churches, then modify them for your church’s purposes.
4. Establish church officers
In order to file for incorporation in your state, you need to form a team of corporate officers and a board of directors. Of course a church’s board of directors will operate differently from that of a traditional corporation but their roles are important nonetheless.
Make sure you have members who are experts in accounting and administrative roles to make your church runs smoothly. In addition, think about other responsibilities that need to be filled.
For example, who will be in charge of fundraising efforts? Will you have a youth ministry, if so, who will run it? Does your church need a choir, and if yes, who will organize it?
5. Name your Church
Most pastors are not able to select the name of their church. Church names frequently last as long as the church. But on sometimes, a church name change is necessary.
Other times, a church may only be beginning, and a name has to be chosen. What is the best course of action for naming your church, then? The most popular categories of church names are as follows:
The Denominational Church Name - Example: Putting “Baptist Church” in your title.
The Spiritual Lingo Church Name - Example: “Bible Baptist Grace Ministry Fellowship Unity Assembly of God Community Church”.
The Geographical Church Name - Example: "The Methodist Church of Maryville"
The Number Game Church Name - Example: “Second Presbyterian Church”
The Normal Church Name - Example: "Grace Community Church"
You can explore more naming options in this article on Best Practices for Naming Your Church.
6. Create a fundraising plan
Church fundraising ideas nowadays need to be original and successful. Churches have been severely impacted by the pandemic due to closures and the inability to communicate with congregation and community members for more than a year.
Furthermore, it's crucial that churches have the financial resources to support their efforts to serve as sanctuaries in their communities and offer necessary services.
Many touching tales of towns coming together to support their local churches in difficult times have been told. Even better, many churches are once again free to collect member dues and tithes since limitations have been loosened across the US. Sadly, sometimes this assistance is insufficient.
If you have a solid grasp of the motivating factors behind church fundraising, coming up with fundraising ideas will be much simpler.
Here are the Top 10 Fundraising Ideas for Churches from Vanco:
- Basket Raffle
- Church Yard Sale
- Community Event
- Conduct a Bottle and Can Drive
- Host an Auction
- Virtual Offering Plate
- Host a Movie Night
- Partner with a Local Business
- Bake Sale
- Social Media Giving Campaign
7. Make sure to apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
7. Make sure to apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
Some people might believe that a church doesn't require a tax ID because it typically isn't required to pay taxes. Even though it might not pay taxes, a church must still file them, therefore it requires a tax ID.
In addition to using it to identify itself to the government, a church also utilizes it to hire staff and create bank accounts. The church must submit an application for non-profit status using its tax ID.
Your EIN is essential for tax purposes, even if you’re not hiring employees. The IRS needs an EIN to withhold Social Security taxes and income on your tax return. An EIN will also be needed in order to open a bank account for your church.
Consequently, even if a church was exempt from filing taxes, it would still be a good idea for it to obtain an EIN.
Consider hiring a consultant or lawyer to guide you through the legalities of dealing with the IRS.
8. Open a Bank account
This is another crucial point you need to consider when planning to start your own church. Look for the banks in your area and see which one can provide you with the best benefits.
Some of the essential aspects to look are:
- Location: Easy access to the branch or ATM
- Minimum opening amount
- Monthly fees
- Loan availability
- Minimum balances
You will need the following to open a bank account in your church's name:
- The church's bylaws
- Statement of Beliefs
- Statement of Faith
- 501(c)(3) status certification to prove your church's tax-exempt status
- Money to fund the opening balance
Find out more from this article by UpCounsel.
9. Purchase insurance for your church
You might be thinking, “why would a church need insurance?” But the reality is, unforeseen accidents can happen anywhere, anytime--even to churches. For example, a churchgoer may slip and fall on your property and if you don’t have the right insurance you’ll be stuck paying for their medical bills.
You require property insurance if your church owns both the building's physical structure and any inside-church personal goods. This includes real estate like furniture, gardens, and buildings.
This may also apply to priceless artifacts in the church. Pews, church pianos, and other pieces of musical equipment that have historical significance may also be included.
This kind of insurance protects you safe in the event of further occurrences, such as a fire, burglary, natural catastrophe, and more. Property insurance is essential for recovering from a sudden financial crisis.
The thought of purchasing commercial insurance for churches and religious organizations may seem daunting, but it doesn’t need to be a painful process.
You can apply to get a quote online and instantly have access to proof of insurance, allowing you to get back to running your church.
10. Grow your community
After you have started the establishment process, it’s time to grow your church family. To expand your services, you need to:
- Welcome new members
- Maintain productive communication
- Keep a strong management presence
- Sustain a strong congregation
- Make efforts to reach out to the community.
Softplay emphasizes 8 tips to expand your church community and increase attendance:
- Create a welcoming environment
- Offer online services
- Ask your congregation for feedback
- Encourage church members to bring friends
- Share videos on social media
- Promote small groups
- Challenge people to serve
- Focus your church’s programs around the mission
How to Start Your Own Church: Key Takeaways
Starting a church can help some realize a life-long dream of helping their community.
Visitors must feel that you care about them if you want your church to expand. People will leave your church if they believe that all you care about is growing, adding members, or promoting your doctrine.
If you try to improve people's lives, word-of-mouth in the neighborhood will work in your favor. Excellently enhancing a community is the only long-term sustainability strategy that works.
Starting a successful church can take time and patience, but with the tips above, you’ll be on the road to starting your own church.