There are roughly 380,000 churches in the United States today. Are you thinking of adding another one to the list?
Well, we applaud you. After all, with COVID-19 causing chaos and a population that’s growing increasingly polarized, there’s never been more need for the connection, community, and spiritual healing that churches provide.
Yet wanting to start a church is very different from knowing how to start a church. If you’ve felt the call to serve your community by starting a church, then it’s 100% possible. But you have to know what you’re doing to make it work.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to the steps you should take from start to finish. Check it out!
You might have big dreams and plans for what your future church will look like. Yet Rome wasn’t built in a day, right? You need to start small and build from the ground up for your church to reach its full potential.
Begin by bringing together a small, dedicated community of people together who share your beliefs and aspirations. This spiritual discussion group (or whatever you choose to call it) will form a springboard to bigger and better things. Start meeting up every week, talking about faith, and forging a strong core of like-minded people from which to expand your church.
Establish Your USP
In the business world, any start-up needs a unique selling point (USP) that distinguishes it from the competition. Their product could be cheaper, better, serve a unique segment of the population, or do something that’s never been done before! Whatever the case, this USP helps them find their audience and tap into the market.
It’s up to you to do something similar with your fledgling church. Sooner or later, your spiritual discussion group needs to get serious about starting a church ministry around its shared understanding of Christianity. Whenever you arrive at that point, you need to figure out (and write down):
- Your raison d’etre,
- Who you want to serve in the community,
- Where you want to set up shop,
- How you’ll collect funds (and how much money you’ll need), and
- What your doctrinal statement will be.
Every church needs a rulebook for how they’re going to operate in the world. Referred to as your church’s bylaws, they dictate everything from practical roles and responsibilities to the functions you serve in the community. For instance, you might have bylaws that define the authority and obligations of board members, whether or not your church will conduct weddings and funerals, and others that specify the core beliefs that distinguish your church from others.
These bylaws are important for two main reasons. First and foremost, they’re a necessary part of forming a religious organization! Second, they dictate your church’s creed and its rules of engagement.
At this point, you’ll need to establish how your church will be structured and who will serve on its board. That second part’s crucial!
For one thing, these ‘corporate officers’ form your church leadership team and will represent your church in the community. For another, assigning them is an essential part of registering as a non-profit and becoming ‘official’. It pays to have these people lined up in advance to save time and hassle filling key roles.
As for the church structure, you could take the self-governing route, assign a board of directors, or opt for a democratic ‘member led’ setup. There’s no right or wrong approach. It’s a matter of settling on a method that’s best suited to your vision.
Pick a Name
Naming your church can be harder than you think. You’ve got to find a title that everybody in the group agrees upon, which describes your doctrine, and that attracts people in the community to come along! Of course, the church name also has to be different from anything else in the local area.
If you do get stuck, know that most church names include where it’s based and a hint toward its theology. For example, a soon-to-be Baptist church in Chicago could call itself anything from ‘Chicago Baptist Church’ to ‘Baptist Church of Hope in Chicago’ or ‘Dream Big Baptist Church, Chicago’. Put your thinking hats on and do some brainstorming until you settle on a name everybody agrees upon.
Sort Out the Legality
The next all-important step is to register your new church as a non-profit entity with the Inland Revenue Service. It’s an exciting time! You’ll be recognized by the government as an official church as soon as this part’s done and dusted.
It might be sensible to speak to an attorney though. The legal process involved can be complicated to navigate alone, which makes their expert input invaluable. Your lawyer will walk you through the application process itself, alongside the legality of tax exemption, structuring the church correctly, and your forthcoming legal responsibilities.
Let the Fun Begin
With the registration over and your legal status secured, you can begin the real work of growing your church! You can start promoting yourself in the community, buying church equipment, deciding upon sermons, meeting as a congregation, and so on.
Think about the venue as well. Assuming you already have a suitable place to worship, you could decorate the space, improve the facilities on offer, and/or invest in special Icon CMO church management software to facilitate affairs.
Now You Know How to Start a Church
Building a church from the ground up isn’t easy. However, given the current societal struggles around the country, there’s never been a more important time to do it! Succeed in your efforts and your new church will bring peace, solidarity, and a sense of togetherness to the local community.
We hope the insights in this article will help in that regard. Keep these tips on how to start a church in mind and you should be one step closer to making it happen. Would you like to read more articles like this one?
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