Are you passionate about your faith, but unsure how to start a church? Before you can file for non-profit status, you need to first establish a fellowship of like-minded people that share the same beliefs. The IRS will require you to have three founding members who are not related by blood or marriage. Ideally, you have already built up a fairly sizeable following, and are now looking to make your church official.

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Once you have a following, you can take the steps to formally incorporate your church. If you prefer not to go through the process of incorporating on your own, we can show you how to start a church and take care of the incorporation paperwork for you. Leaving the hard work to us will give you time to focus on more important things.

Drafting Your Church Bylaws and Belief Statement

Starting a church is not unlike starting a corporation. A set of Corporate Bylaws and a belief statement must be drafted to define exactly what your church’s mission is, the beliefs you intend to follow, and how your “corporation” will be structured.

The church’s bylaws will outline how the church will be governed. Consider the following questions when drafting your bylaws:

  • Why are you starting a church?
  • Will the church be performing funerals and weddings?
  • Will the church be participating in community outreach programs?
  • Will the church be a part-time or full-time commitment for you?
  • Will fundraising be a part of the church’s activities?

Example bylaws are available, and you can modify them for your own purposes.

In addition to bylaws and a belief statement, you will also need to establish a list of officers and a board of directors for your corporation.

Naming and Structuring the Church

When learning how to start a church, it’s important to determine whether or not you’ll be forming a basic ministry, or if you’ll be establishing a formal church that includes plans for new buildings. Consider the size of your church and the activities you wish to engage in. A basic ministry will allow you to use small community spaces for your worship activities. A formal church with hundreds of members, on the other hand, will require you to secure a dedicated worship space and find employees to help manage church activities.

The naming of your church is also a crucial part of the process, but one that many people overlook when starting a church. Legally, there is a difference between a church and a ministry. Churches have much more complex legal requirements and many benefits, whereas a ministry is far less complicated and generally involves smaller groups of people.

Getting an EIN From the IRS

Before you can officially incorporate your church, you’ll need to get an EIN (Employer Identification Number). The IRS will issue one once you have submitted all of the appropriate paperwork. In order to get an EIN, you’ll need to fill out and submit an SS4 form from the IRS. This form can be accessed on the IRS website, or you can get a paper copy from your local library.

Opening a Church Business Account

Having an EIN will allow you to open a church bank account and hire future employees if necessary. In order to open a business account for your church, you will need the following:

  • Your church’s bylaws
  • EIN
  • Statement of Faith
  • Statement of Beliefs
  • 501(c)(3) status certification (for tax exemption)
  • Funds to serve as an opening balance

Some banks will have fewer or more requirements to open an account on your church’s behalf. As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to contact the bank first to find out what documentation is required to open an account.

Get started Start Your Incorporation Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest.

Get started Start Your Incorporation Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest.