When you hear the call to start a church, it’s not always easy to get started. You may have all the passion and dedication in the world, but without a solid plan – and helpful resources – you may struggle to answer that call. 

Don’t worry – you are not alone. God is with you, as are the many brave people who have gone through this process before. In this article, we’ll share some basic tips about how to start a church, from creating a strong foundation to handling the logistics and building a lasting community of worshipers. 


Why Should You Start a Church? 

First, it’s important to consider the why. Why should you start a church instead of getting more involved in an existing one? 


1. You have a personal calling

Sometimes, God calls on us to build something special. Hearing the call to start your own church is one important reason to move forward. 

In addition to this calling, you need to understand your personal strengths and weaknesses. Are you the right person to start a church? Do you have the organizational skills to see a large project like this through to the end?

If your answer is yes, you may still need to consider some other factors before moving forward with starting a church. 


2. There’s a need 

To justify your new church, there must be a pressing need. Consider the following questions: 

  • Are there other churches with the same denomination in the area already filling that role? 
  • Would my church be competing with another church? 
  • Are there unreached people here who could benefit from hearing the gospel? 

Depending on your answers, you can establish whether there is a true need to build another house of God. 


How to Start a Church: Building Your Foundation 

Once you decide your reasons to start a church are valid, it’s time to begin with the basics. 


1. Define your core beliefs 

First, establish the core principles of your church. This includes any specific information about your denomination, but it also includes anything unique about your church’s ethos.

If there are any guiding bible verses or other touchstones that are important to your church, now is the time to identify them. This will help you when it comes time to craft your mission statement, too. 


2. Write your mission statement 

After you have defined your core beliefs, it’s time to write your mission statement! This statement is the guiding principle for your church, and it serves two important functions:

  • It helps newcomers understand what your church is all about and what you stand for.
  • It guides church decisions so they are more aligned with your church’s founding principles. 

Post your mission statement on your website, where it can be easily accessed by prospective church members. You should also include it in your programs, around your church, and in your newsletter. 

Pro tip: For some inspiration, visit the website of a well-known church. Look at the language they’re using in their mission statement. is it clear? Do they cite relevant scripture? Review a few different church mission statements to get a good sense of what yours can look like. Then start drafting!


3. Create a strong team 

Choosing your church team members will be some of the most important decisions you make as you start your church. The size of your team will partially depend on what resources you have available to you, but it’ll also depend on how you choose to structure your church.

For example, will you install a board of directors to guide your church decisions? Or will you identify a handful of church leaders and assign decision-making power to each of them?

You also need to consider what your role in the church will be. Will you be preaching in the pulpit every Sunday, or will you take a more behind-the-scenes role like handling the bookkeeping, fundraising, and other administrative tasks?

Note that a new church has a greater chance of success if they identify a pastor that will attract audiences. This can be someone who already has a following or someone with the charisma and ability to craft compelling services.


Planning and Logistics for Starting a Church 

Next, jump into the details involved with planning out the details of your church, and how you will get it off the ground.


1. Write bylaws 

While these aren’t required to start a church, bylaws will outline exactly how your church will run – including leadership structure, how decisions are made, and what happens when conflict arises. If your church chooses to apply for official 501(c)(3) status, then you must have bylaws to apply (more on that in a bit!). 


2. Apply for an Employer Identification Number

An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is your church’s identity with the IRS. It is required for a variety of start-up tasks, such as opening a bank account. 

To apply, fill out form SS-4 with your basic contact information and be sure to select “church or church-controlled organization” for the type of entity. 


3. Incorporate your church 

The process for incorporating your church varies from state to state, so be sure to check for the specific requirements in the state where you plan to start a church. 

You’ll likely need the following: 

  • A registered agent – a person or business with a physical address that can accept mail on your behalf. 
  • An incorporator – a designated person to prepare and file the incorporation paperwork. 
  • Consent from your church – a vote with your church leaders will do! 

Incorporation isn’t necessary to run your church, but many churches find that the legal protection it provides is well worth the additional paperwork. 


4. Consider applying for 501(c)(3) status 

Many churches choose not to go through the logistical headache of applying for 501(c)(3) status, especially since most churches are eligible for tax-exempt status without applying.

However, 501(c)(3) status gives churches a level of transparency and credibility in the following areas:

  • Since churches with official status must file Form 990 with the IRS, they are perceived as more transparent because donors and supporters of that church can see how they spend their money.
  • To receive tax-exempt status from the IRS,  churches must go through a rigorous application process and submit many foundational documents for review, meaning their materials have been vetted by the IRS. 
  • Official 501(c)(3) status confirms for donors that their donations are tax-deductible. 
  • Tax-exempt status also helps churches ensure that they remain tax-exempt as long as they are in good standing with regular IRS reporting. 

These added benefits make it worthwhile for some churches to apply. Consider if it’s the right choice for your church! 


5. Create a budget 

Many who feel called to start a church might groan when it comes to this step. Although creating a budget is not as inspiring as reaching the public with God’s word, it’s an important step to ensure the longevity and financial health of your church.

There are many resources available to make this process easier! Choose an accounting software and start familiarizing yourself with it. Outline your monthly expenses, including any start-up costs you’ll have. 


6. Craft a fundraising plan 

A church fundraising plan is crucial to ensure your church gets the funding it needs. Because fundraising is where the bulk of your income will come from, you must create a plan to ensure you reach your minimum income requirements as well as your loftiest fundraising goals.

Consider a fundraising platform that will help you seamlessly collect the following types of donations:

  • Tithes and offerings 
  • Donations to specific funds or projects
  • In-person donations
  • Online donations 

 And more! 

Pro tip: If you need funds to get started, you might consider launching a capital campaign. These types of fundraising campaigns help you raise a significant amount of funds for a large project such as a new church building, purchasing land for your church, or buying an existing building to meet in.


7. Find the perfect meeting space 

Once you have established the basics of your church, you’ll need a physical space to meet with your congregants. Consider how many people you expect each week and any other activities you plan on launching, such as Sunday school classes, community meetings, and more. This will help you identify the best space for your new church. 


Cultivating Community to Start a Church

You can’t have a church without people! Here’s how you can take the steps to start building your congregation and welcoming new members.


1. Create your church’s brand 

Brand identity is a term that is more associated with businesses than with churches. However, a church’s brand is a crucial element of how it begins to cultivate a community.

Brand elements include but aren’t limited to the following:

  • Your name
  • Your logo
  • The overall look and feel of your website
  • The voice you use in your marketing materials
  • The general sense or attitude your church has (i.e., are your services more reserved and serious? Or on the more casual side?) 

Creating a strong brand will help the public understand your new church and see themselves as a part of it. 


2. Market your services in the community 

You may not think of marketing when it comes to spreading the word about your church, but that’s exactly what you’re doing. After all, you can’t have a thriving church community without any congregants!

Start by creating a social media presence, a website, and some promotional materials like a postcard that you can mail out to the surrounding area or leave with local businesses.

These materials will serve as the welcome mat of your church, so it’s important to get them right. They must reflect the brand that you worked so hard to create in the previous step and should outline exactly what your church plans to offer.


3. Build a welcoming atmosphere 

Welcoming new church members is a crucial element of recruiting and retaining church attendance – and even more so when attempting to start a church. To create a welcoming atmosphere, think about ways you can mitigate feelings of confusion or uncertainty. For example, if your church building doesn’t have a clear entrance, post signage around your parking lot to guide people to your front door. Better yet, stand out in front of your doors to help guide people in and welcome them as they arrive. 

Your pastor can also help by encouraging new members to rise and shake hands with those around them during the service. Go a step further and provide an icebreaker to facilitate getting to know each other and building that strong community. Some churches find success with a welcome mixer where new members can get to know each other as well as the leaders of your church. 


4. Encourage involvement 

There’s no community without involvement! Encouraging your new members to get more involved in all church activities will make for a more meaningful and robust experience for them while providing your new church with the help it needs.

Start with a simple volunteer outreach program and ask new members to sign up. This will be a fulfilling experience for them, which makes them more likely to continue returning to your new church. Highlight the value of this kind of service in God’s eyes to encourage more people to participate.


Conclusion 

Starting a church can be a daunting process, but just remember that you’re not alone. Not only is God there to guide you, but there are tons of resources and help available along the way so you can answer the call to start a church fearlessly and with grace. 

You can also collaborate with existing churches to build one strong community. Remember – other churches are your friends, not your competition! Get together to learn valuable lessons and grow in tandem. 

Donorbox MinistryMatters helps thousands of churches grow by raising more through comprehensive online and in-person fundraising tools. Learn about these tools and other features and sign up today! 

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