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Do you want to contribute to the community by reaching out and changing the lives of its members? Starting a church is one of the best methods to do so.
A lot of great things can happen if you start a church. It can kick off a charity and use the donations or tithes of members to help the needy. Ministries can be also created for promoting women’s rights, praying for others, and developing the talents of the youth.
Additionally, if you have a knack for business, a church will even help you start a coffee shop.
Contrary to what others say, we frankly state that starting a new church isn’t a walk in the park. The steps you need to follow in how to start a church are:
Deciding to become a non-denominational church
Prepare the legal requirements
Get a church building
Form your church’s social environment
Creating a church service
We’ll discuss these steps in the following sections below. There are also sections that answer related questions in the later parts of this guide.
How to set up a church is a question that’s open to different answers. Some say you need to start with preparing the legal requirements and think of a name. Others will suggest you start collecting funds.
There are a lot of ways to do it, and all are correct. However, only a few are effective. We recommend that when starting your own church, the prime consideration is to think whether it will be non-denominational or denominational.
Churches in the US are generally classified as non-denominational or denominational. Choosing between the two is the most important step in how to start your own church.
If you don’t pick one over the other, the process of how to open a church is very disorganized -and even safe to say- will surely result in utter failure.
A denominational church is a type of church that’s created as part of a religion. As such, it follows the traditions, beliefs, and dogma of the religion it conforms to. Examples of denominational churches are Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Seventh Day Adventist churches, etc.
Denominational churches in the USA are seeing a slow decline in recent years.
Non-denominational churches are churches that function on their own. They do not operate under the authority of any specific religious group. A non-denominational church is free to set up its own dogma, traditions, forms of worship, and belief.
In the USA, the number of non-denominational churches is steadily increasing.
When thinking of what kind of church to start, we suggest you pick the second option. Starting a non denominational church is advantageous because:
It easily unifies people of different beliefs and traditions from all walks of life
Your church isn’t bound to the dogma, tradition, and belief of a specific religion
You’re free to create a form of worship and change it as you see fit
Your church must be legal so that it can enter contracts safely and its operations aren’t associated with terrorism or other criminal acts. If you’re wondering how to create a church legally, then here are the steps:
Create articles of incorporation
Create your church’s bylaws
File a tax exempt status at the IRS
Get an employer identification number
Open a business bank account
Articles of incorporation will be required when you register your church. This is a document that describes your non-profit profile. See to it that your articles of incorporation provide the following details:
Name of your church-Articles of incorporation shows your church’s name. The name shown will be what your church will be legally known for. This will be the name that will show in contracts, government filings, and other legal documents
Your church’s structure-The articles of incorporation state the structure of your church. It will describe your church’s non-profit status and the nature of its operations
Church address-Church address must be shown in the articles of incorporation. Particularly, this address is the physical location where your church will be found. If you build multiple churches, then multiple addresses must be specified in the terms of your articles of incorporation. Note that you can’t use a P.O box as an address
Details of your church’s representatives-In the articles of incorporation, you must state the name, contact details, and address of the representative who is responsible for the day-to-day operations of your church
Length of operations-Will your church operate for one year, two years, or even more? The length of operations must be stated in the articles of incorporation. In practice, you’ll describe your church’s length of operation as perennial or perpetual, meaning that it will exist for as long as possible
Name of incorporators-The name of incorporators will be stated in the terms of your church’s articles of incorporation. You don’t need many. One or two incorporators are already enough. The contact details of your church’s incorporators must also be provided
A purpose statement-This is a clause in the articles of incorporation which explains how it operates as a non-profit organization and why it’s eligible for a tax-exempt status from the IRS
The second step in how do you start a church legally is creating your church’s bylaws. The bylaws provide further details about your church not stated in the articles of incorporation. Typically, it will describe the following:
How directors and officers become eligible for their positions
The organizational structure of your church
The duties and responsibilities of the officers
Requirements for becoming a member of your church
The rules and regulations of your church
Sanctions for the violation of your church’s rules and regulations
All churches in the USA can choose not to pay a tax. However, this isn’t given automatically. You have to apply.
Understand that you must apply for a tax-exempt status within 27 months starting at the end of the month when your church was formed.
To start the application process, you have to download the Form 1023 from the website of the Internal Revenue Service. Fill out the form completely by providing all the details asked on the form.
Send your Form 1023 to the IRS once you're done with it. Note that you can’t send through mail. The IRS only receives Form 1023 from individuals who send the document via Pay.gov. To send, you must create an account at the website and upload your Form 1023.
Approval for tax-exempt status isn’t guaranteed. The IRS can reject your application if your church’s profile doesn’t meet the eligibility criteria for tax-exempt status.
You might need to provide additional information about your church if the IRS can’t fully decide to either approve or reject your application.
While your church can enjoy the liberty of not paying taxes, it still needs to have an employer’s identification number to operate legally.
You need to get an EIN if your church is located in the United States or in locations considered US territories such as Guam, American Samoa, Mariana Islands, Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.
You need an individual taxpayer identification number or social security number to get an EIN for your church. Getting an EIN is mainly done online through the IRS website. This will take 15 minutes.
The IRS will immediately provide a digital copy of the EIN once you’re done with the application process. This can be downloaded as an electronic media or printed depending on which is more convenient for you.
You can download an EIN application form, fill it out, then fax it to the IRS. In this method, you’ll wait for four weeks to get your church’s EIN.
In case you’re a foreigner planning to get an EIN to start a church in the US, then you can apply by phone aside from the internet. According to the IRS, its toll-free hotline 267-941-1099 is available on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. eastern time.
The final step in how to start a church from scratch legally is opening a bank account. The requirements for creating a bank account for your church depend on which financial institution you decide to work with. Nonetheless, all will commonly request you to provide:
A social security number or individual tax identification number
A valid ID- driver’s license, passport, state ID, or military ID
A minimum deposit of $25-$100 as your initial bank account fund
You only need to do 5 things to start a church legally. Now that you’ve understood what they are, let's talk about the third step in how to establish a church-forming it.
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Forming your church means that you create its social environment.
Obviously, the first step in how to form a church is getting members. You do this by inviting the community to attend one or two masses at your church. Another way is to host community meals, sports events, and other activities that pique the interests of people.
Second, you must get musicians. Music is an integral part of worship so your church must have a choir. Your church’s choir is best composed of members. Don’t forget to provide compensation or training to maintain and boost the choir’s morale.
Employ religious authorities who associate themselves with the belief or tradition of your church. This, by the way, is the third step in forming a church. It’s important to have other religious authorities other than you, so that masses and other church activities are more dynamic.
Of course, your church can’t operate without a building. There are two ways for you to get one.
The first option to have a church building is renting or leasing. Some successful churches started in apartments, small commercial spaces, and other similar locations owned by landlords. This is feasible if you don’t have the money to get a church facility built.
Obviously, the second step is to get your own church facility built. You do this by purchasing a lot and building the church facility from the ground up or buying a building and then renovating it into a church facility.
The final step in creating a church is learning how to start a church service. You start a church service by creating ministries funded by your church. A ministry isn’t a church. It is an office or sub-organization operating under your church’s name.
So how to start a church ministry? There are many and you must be clear what kind to start. Popular church ministries are those that protect the rights of women, conduct intercessory prayers or prayer chains, foster prayer groups, etc. Let’s discuss how to start a ministry step by step.
An intercessory prayer ministry is a type of church ministry that prays for the betterment and wellness of others. Its services include but are not limited to:
Praying for the peaceful passing of a deceased
Praying for the blissful union of two individuals
Praying for the good fortune of an individual taking an exam, looking for a job, giving birth, etc.
There are no fancy requirements in how to start an intercessory prayer ministry. Your church only needs to:
Gather members passionate about intercessory prayer activities
Create an intercessory prayer
Gather prayer requests (by the way, you can ask fees for these)
Set a time when the intercessory prayer session will take place in the church
A prayer group is a collection of your church’s members who gather and meet on a specific date and time to conduct prayer meetings, bible studies, and other related activities. It can host charitable initiatives or conduct prayer vigils. So how to start a prayer group? Here are the steps:
Set a meeting with your church members
Inform everyone that you want to create a prayer group ministry
Take note of people who want to join
Create a prayer group organization under your church’s banner
Provide funds if possible
Your church can start a women’s ministry, which is a community of female members or non-members who support each other and initiate activities that promote and uplift the lives of women.
Many women’s ministries provide livelihood coaching services, relationship advice, and parenting services to the community.
So how to start a women’s ministry in your church? To start a women’s ministry successfully you must:
Foster an environment in your church that’s non-discriminatory of women regardless of their marital status, educational attainment, social status, etc.
Create a women’s ministry under your church’s name which provides excellent physical and emotional perks
Lay down the activities of the women’s ministry that female members can easily associate themselves with
There are a lot of approaches in how to start a prayer chain. Nonetheless, the most effective way to do it is to have a prayer agenda, tell members of your plan to have a prayer chain, explain the purpose, then set a time and date.
So how much does it cost to start a church? The minimum investment for a church facility is $250-$285 per square foot.
Church equipment and furniture such as lighting, sound systems, instruments, seats, and decors will cost $5,000-$45,000+ depending on how fancy you want the interior to look.
If we take all possible costs into account, then building a small church will cost $300,0000-$1 million.
Money is always involved when starting your religious venture. That’s why you need to know how to get money to start a church. While there are many ways to do this, the most effective ones are:
Bank loan-Banks are an excellent source of funds for starting a church, provided that you have a property to be given as a collateral
Approach companies providing church loans-Financial institutions now exist that give church loans. Examples are AG Financial, Christian Community Credit Union, and BCLC Lending
Donation crowdfunding-You can use donation crowdfunding websites. In donation crowdfunding, you just create a business proposal and send it to a number of people. Those interested will then provide money. The good thing about this is that you’re not required to return the money you received. Top crowdfunding sites are Donorbox, Classy, CauseVox, Donately, and Chuffed
In connection, here’s a list of the least effective ways how to start a ministry without money:
Credit card loans
Venture capital and angel investors
Preaching via digital media such as Youtube, Tiktok, and Facebook are the most effective ways if you’re asking how do I start a church with no money. All of these platforms help you reach out to many people for free. And if you do it right, then you might earn money through ads.
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A house church is a type of church that conducts masses in the premises of a member’s house. While home churches don't have a formal organizational structure, they’re gaining traction in some parts of the USA like Alaska for example.
If you’re asking how to start a home church, then the first thing you need to know is that there’s no need for titles of incorporation, EIN, and other legal requirements. All that you will need are bylaws and a simple organizational structure.
When starting a church in your home, you only need to gather members and discuss with them when and where the mass will take place.
But such a step in how to start a house church is easier said than done. Many members of the community might not be very keen on the idea. That’s why we recommend you consider starting a house church with friends, family, and close associates first.
Starting an online church works well if you don’t have the money for a physical church. But if you do own one, creating an online church is also a useful method for having a presence on the web and inviting new members.
So how to start an online church ministry? These are the most effective methods:
Build a website-You can build a website and make it an online church. You can live stream your church’s mass using it. Also, you can easily cater to prayer requests of different individuals
Create a Youtube account-Building a website is costly. And if you’re looking for an option that’s 100% investment free, then create a Youtube account and live stream masses on it. This method in how to start an online church ministry doesn’t only bring in followers but also additional revenues because you can make money from ads if your stream has a lot of viewers
California is a melting pot of different races in the USA. At present, it has 39 million occupants and is one of the most populated states. That said, if you want to provide religious services there, then here’s how to start a church in California:
The first thing to do is think of a name for your church. You must provide your church name when filing the paperwork for California’s secretary of the state. By the way, don’t forget to check if your church’s name is already taken.
The second thing you need to do to start a church in California is to draft bylaws. After creating this, you proceed to make the articles of incorporation. Once done, the next thing to do is register your church as a legal entity in the state
California authorities require your church to register as a non-profit in the Internal Revenue Services. And so, application for a non-profit status is the third step
Florida is a good place to start a church as surveys show that 54% of adults in the state consider themselves religious. Also, it is the most populated state in the southeastern United States. If you’re wondering how to start a church in Florida, then here are the steps:
You must first meet the age requirement. All church founders in the state must be 18 years old. 16-year-olds can start their own ministries but parents must give consent
Create bylaws and articles of incorporation then register as a legal entity in Florida’s Division of Corporations
Get an employer identification number
Send an application for tax-exempt status to the IRS
Texas is one of the most religious states in the USA. 64% of those living in Texas go to church. Aside from it having a high number of church attendees, consider building a church in the state because it’s the only location in the USA where you don’t need to purchase workers’ compensation insurance.
These are the steps in how to start a church in Texas:
Hold a meeting with your church’s members, officers, and incorporators to make a resolution of incorporation
Prepare a certificate of incorporation
Visit https://www.sos.state.tx.us/corp/forms_boc.shtml click on Form 202 and provide the details requested
Once your church is incorporated, you must hold a meeting to adopt the bylaws of your church, change documents to the new corporate name, and transfer any property vested to it by virtue of incorporation
There’s no legal requirement if you want to promote a new system of religious belief. And so, you don’t need to follow a set of steps in how to start a religion legally.
But if you plan to start a religious organization instead of a church, then you’ll need to file a tax-exempt status at the IRS, prepare articles of incorporation, and other related documents.
Finally, let’s answer the question; is church a business? A church isn’t a business. It’s a non-profit. The purpose of church activities isn’t to generate revenues. This is why most churches get their money from donations. And if they do engage in commercial activities, revenues must be spent for charitable purposes.
Aside from learning how to become a church, you must also understand what kinds of insurance to buy. The following are the most useful policies for a church:
General liability insurance
Commercial property insurance
Workers compensation insurance
Commercial auto insurance
Covers costs if third parties sue your church for personal injuries or property damage. This policy also helps if your church faces a slander, libel, or copyright infringement claim. General liability insurance pays for settlements, administrative costs, and attorney fees.
Recovers your losses if the church is damaged or destroyed by fire, theft, sinkhole collapse, sprinkler leakage, civil commotion, and other covered perils. Commercial property insurance is available as a named-perils or open perils policy for churches.
Covers medical treatment, hospitalization, lost wages, and other resulting costs if an employee of your church sustains a work-related injury or disease.
Covers the cost of accidents caused by your church’s vehicle. This also pays for repair or replacement costs if your church vehicle sustained damage because of a collision or an act of God.
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