Start Your Own Independent Church Ministry
Beginning a church of your own is a rewarding and soul-enriching process, but at the same time it is a very significant undertaking. The ULC is not able to provide counsel or legal advice to you, but we are able to point you towards information that will be helpful. Due to our own experience in setting up a church, we are familiar with the best resources to help you realize this goal. To get you familiar with the process, we offer a number of helpful guides through courses. Be sure to check out nolo's book on staring a non profit.
It is essential to complete the beginning steps in the right order -- if not done properly from the start it will be difficult to correct any mistakes without spending extra time and money. To ensure all of your paperwork is in compliance with the laws of your area, we suggest hiring a lawyer to look everything over. A quick tip: filling out the forms beforehand can save both time and money spent with the lawyer. It will also give you first hand knowledge of your new organization’s legal structure.
Structure of the Corporation
One of the most essential requirements for your organization is a set of bylaws. This document will lay out the basic governing statutes of the church. Sample bylaws from other churches can be found online, and are helpful to use as a frame of reference when writing your own. You can easily embrace clauses you feel are appropriate, but you should rewrite them to reflect your own church. You will also be required to create a "belief statement" in which the framework of your church’s belief system and practices are presented.
Additionally, you will need to procure a set of incorporation documents by visiting the state business/corporation website for the state you will be based out of. These documents are not necessarily difficult to complete, but remember to fill them out with care. Another vital document you will be required to present is a list of persons that will serve as officers of the corporation. Churches generally fall under the non-profit category, but they are also legal corporations. Even under the 501(c)(3) status, your incorporation will need to be accompanied by a list of the board of directors.
There are several basic concepts you should thoroughly deliberate when starting to build your own church. Ask yourself the following questions:
- For what reasons are you starting this organization?
- Will your new church be a full-time or part-time professional calling?
- Are you changing from a home-based church to a legally recognized organization?
- Will you be involved in fundraising through your organization?
- Will weddings, baptisms, funerals, or other services be performed by your church?
- Will the organization be engaging in local outreach?
When filing the forms to start your own church, you will be expected to answer basic questions like those listed above.
The size and scope of your church is another important aspect to consider. Estimate the number of members you expect to attend your services on a regular basis. This can help decide if you are in need of new structure(s) to be a home for your church, and whether you should form basic ministry or a formal church corporate structure.
The legal difference between a church and a ministry is substantial. A church is an organization with greater legal requirements (and greater benefits), befitting of a large number of members. A ministry, on the other hand, could be a simple prayer group in a coffee shop.