How to Start a Church from Scratch(36tips)

How to Start a Church from Scratch: A church is a spiritual community that comes together in common fellowship.

If you’re dissatisfied with your local options and have a group of like-minded thinkers and believers.

You may be interested in branching out on your own to worship in your own way.

Where to start? You can learn to begin the early informal processes and plan for an incorporated community, apply for legal status, and expand your church in the community.

See Steps for more information.

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How to Start and Grow a Church

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How to Start a Church from Scratch

1. Start a home spiritual discussion group.

Before you attempt to file for non-profit status and make your church official.

It’s best to establish a somewhat sizable and united fellowship of people with similar beliefs to undergo the process together. Start talking with like-minded people and getting together on a regular basis.

  • The IRS requires you to have three founding members who are not related by blood or marriage.

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How to Start a Church from Scratch

2. Define the scope of the church.

You can establish a church at varying levels and the better you define your aims for the church.

The easier it will be to establish your tax-exempt status.

Establishing a ministry, for example, is somewhat different than forming a corporately structured church, housed in its own building. Consider:

  • Your possible membership. How many do you reasonably expect?
  • Your location. Where will you worship?
  • Your commitment. Will this be a part-time job, or a full-time calling?
  • Your financial aims. Will your church collect funds? How? How much will be necessary?

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How to Start a Church from Scratch

3. Draft church bylaws and a statement of belief.

Why are you starting a church?

What core beliefs will govern your ministry?

What distinguishes your church in terms of doctrine and creed?

These are questions to take up in a statement of belief.

Think of this as the “Declaration of Independence” for your church.

  • To form a religious organization, you need to also establish a series of bylaws by which your organization will be governed. Think of this as the rule book for your church’s operations. Will you perform weddings and funerals? Under what protocol? What community outreach programs will your church participate in?
  • Sample outlines of bylaws are available online that you can use and modify for your purposes.
How to Start a Church from Scratch:
How to Start a Church from Scratch

How to Start a Church from Scratch

4. Assign corporate officers.

You’ll need corporate officers, a board of directors, and a membership to file for incorporation with the state.

Make sure ahead of time you’ve got willing participants to fulfill the various procedural and accounting roles necessary to make a church run smoothly.

  • These roles will be different than church staff. You don’t necessarily need to think about janitorial and secretarial roles just yet, but make sure you’ve got some idea of the board of directors, visiting and youth ministry, music, and fundraising. The decision-making players need to be in place before you move forward.

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How to Start a Church from Scratch

5. Name your church.

A commonly overlooked step.

Give some thought to naming your church something distinctive.

Unique, and descriptive of your niche in the ministry.

Also make sure you’re not repeating a commonly-used name.

How to Start a Church from Scratch

6. What is a statement of belief?

How to Start a Church from Scratch

7. Consult a lawyer.

It’s perfectly possible to apply for incorporation and tax exemption without consulting a lawyer.
But it’s not the most straightforward process in the world and it would be beneficial to consult a lawyer after preparing the paperwork to the best of your abilities.
Always get your work double-checked, but try to save money by doing as much of it as possible yourself.

8. Understand the guidelines and rules of tax-exemption and structure your corporation accordingly.

Your church must satisfy the following requirements:

  • The organization must be organized and operated exclusively for religious, educational, scientific, or other charitable purposes.
  • Net earnings may not inure to the benefit of any private individual or shareholder.
  • No substantial part of its activity may be attempting to influence legislation and may not intervene in political campaigns.
  • The organization’s purposes and activities may not be illegal or violate fundamental public policy.

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How to Start a Church from Scratch

9. Get incorporation documents in your state.

Obtain the documents of incorporation from the Business Bureau in your state.

If you’ve already configured your corporate offices, composed a belief statement.

And meet the proper requirements, youre halfway there.

  • Get a few copies of the same documents to practice on. If you mess up, just start over.

How to Start a Church from Scratch

10. Confirm your 501(c)(3) status.

At the regional IRS office, ask for a formal revue of your documentation and a notice of exemption.

As long as you meet the requirements, all churches should automatically qualify for 501 status without more action.

  • It’s not necessary to take any extra step to ensure tax exemption.
  • However, many churches take the extra step of IRS recognition to ensure to church leaders, members, and contributors that the church is recognized, exempt, and in good legal stead with the state.
  • This is especially important when a church is just starting out and hoping to promote legitimacy.

How to Start a Church from Scratch

11. Fill out the SS4 form with the IRS to get an Employer Identification Number (EIN).

Regardless of whether or not you hire employees, it’s important to acquire an EIN from the IRS to allow you to open a church bank account and also to file returns with the IRS.

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How to Start a Church from Scratch:
How to Start a Church from Scratch

12. Open a church bank account.

Use your EIN and other documentation to open an account used specifically for the church’s funds.

To open an account, you’ll typically be asked to provide:

  • Proof of your EIN
  • Photo ID, and social security numbers of the principal signers
  • Master list of the churchs board of directors and corporate officers

How to Start a Church from Scratch

13. If you want your church to be tax-exempt, you must make sure that:

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How to Start a Church from Scratch

14. Find an appropriate place to worship.

 Eventually, as your church grows, youll probably want to take it out of the living room and into the world.
Find an appropriate location that will be easy to grow in, and easy for new followers to find and make it to.

Find somewhere you can afford and take the time to organize and decorate it according to your particular aesthetics and core beliefs.

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How to Start a Church from Scratch

15. Develop a compelling message.

 Why should people come listen to your interpretation of your common beliefs?
What do you bring to the table?
How can you enrich their spiritual life in a way that other churches and communities can’t?
These are important questions to consider as you build your program and begin holding services.

Address basic questions:

  • Who will preach?
  • What sort of music will be included?
  • How will a service be structured?

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How to Start a Church from Scratch

16. Consider joining a district office in your denomination.

If you’re within the umbrella of a pre-existing denomination.

Consider joining up with the regional office and sending representatives to the yearly meetings in your area.

This can be a good way to make connections in your area and attract new members.

  • In general, be careful about leeching off the memberships of established churches in your area.
  • It’s probable that people who attend your church might be dissatisfied with their options.
  • And you should create a welcoming space for those people.
  • However, don’t actively preach against other local churches, or attend their services and sow dissent. Create harmony rather than strife.

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How to Start a Church from Scratch

17. Establish your unique personality and presence in the community.

When you’re first getting started and have built a small group of followers and regular attendees.

Set a regular time for services and actively seek new members.

Hold informal functions like cookouts and street festivals to attract neighbors and other potential members.

And maintain an open door policy to build your church.

  • Regularly hold open-house events to attract new members.
  • Advertise your church regularly in local weeklies and maintain an open-door policy to cultivate a welcoming presence. If you want to gain a membership and a solid community, get the word out.

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How to Start a Church from Scratch

18. Include a time of fellowship and get to know your members.

A church without a community is just a building.

People will continue to come if they feel welcome and cared for.

And you want to make sure that your church is a place people feel free to worship and come together.

  • Take a personal interest in each person and their family.
  • Visit or call during the time between the meetings.
  • Taking an honest interest in their beliefs, their lives, and their needs from the church.

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How to Start a Church from Scratch

19. As the group grows, make decisions together as a group.

As a founding member, you may have a great idea about having a Christian Metal festival with a pop-up skatepark, but your congregation may not be thrilled about the idea. Discuss it openly and come together to make the decision. It’s not your job to push legislation through–it’s your job to build up a community that worships together.

  • If funding or charitable needs increase find ways to encourage giving in your church.

How to Start a Church from Scratch

20. How can you gain more church members?

21. More tips

  • It is best to get good legal and financial advice to set you in good stead.
  • Examine the reasons you want to start a new church. If it is because you are upset with your old congregation, then your anger will affect your new church.
  • If you want this church to be different than an already established church, then you need come up with your own valid ideas on which you base your spirituality.
  • Have a lawyer double check your work to make sure that you’re in full compliance.
  • Start a church with benefits. Gather thousands of members and start a pool. This way every Sunday will be a day that a member is bailed out of debt, puts their kids in college, etc. Have lots of live music from mainstream artists. Have a breakfast for members, a housing complex for the pasture and an artist paint murals everywhere.

    How to Start a Church from Scratch

23. Gain experience as a preacher.

24. Start a nonprofit and structure it accordingly. …

25. Give your church a name, a mission statement, and bylaws.

26. Hire a lawyer, a finance team, and form a board of directors.

27. Build your congregation.

28. Develop and implement a fundraising strategy.


Know the risk factors for the virus. This can help you make decisions on staffing, volunteers, and whether you will return sooner or later. For example, those with preexisting conditions and those over 65 years old are at a higher risk of experiencing worse symptoms than others if they contract the virus.

How to Start a Church from Scratch

30. Prepare a non-profit

The next steps will guide you through the process of how to make a non-profit organization. Let’s have a look.

31. Open A Bank Account

Open a bank account in the name of your church so that you have a place to start handling all the necessary finances. Be sure to research the banks in your area and decide which one will best align with your needs as a church.

32. Set Up Donation Platforms

In order to collect tithes, offerings, and donations from supporters, you’ll need to provide access to a reliable giving platform. You’re no longer limited to just passing the offering plate around on Sunday mornings!

How to Start a Church from Scratch

33. Apply For A Grant

To help take care of the startup costs to start your church, it may be beneficial for you to look into applying for a grant. You can seek startup grants through grant-giving foundations, private foundations, and other organizations that may provide support for developing churches.

34. Build a good Communication

Communication is the key to building trust with your church’s members and prospective attendees. Although it might make you feel vulnerable to be entirely transparent with your supporters, it is a necessary step to establish trust for your new church.

This trust is so important for your church planting process. It gets harder when things don’t go exactly as you planned— but you should still communicate the truth in these trying times! When people trust your leadership, they will be more likely to give to the project, pray for your success, and become a member down the line.

How to Start a Church from Scratch

35. Draft Your Church’s Bylaws.

Think of your bylaws as the Constitution for your church— this is where you lay out all of the internal rules and governance that your church will abide by. If you haven’t hired an attorney yet, this is another time that many churches decide they need some legal assistance.

When drafting your church bylaws, you’ll need to include information such as:

  • Member qualifications and expulsion rules.
  • Worship times and meeting places in addition to those of other regular meetings.
  • Qualifications for and responsibilities of church board members and leadership positions.
  • The procedure for amending standing bylaws.

This official document will hold accountable your church leaders, board members, and other key individuals, so while the paperwork may not be the most exciting part of starting a church, it is a necessary task for the governance.

Plus, spelling out the rules in bylaws forces you to set standards upfront instead of waiting until something goes wrong. If something does go wrong (although we all hope it doesn’t!) this document protects your church from un-standardized processes.

How to Start a Church from Scratch

36. Advertisement

Advertisement is necessary to attract new people. Consider the purchase of newspaper, radio or television ads. Do not avoid the online advertising in some local publics or websites. Of course, advertising requires funds and if you don’t have very much money, draw your attention to various radio and television stations, which could offer free church news or announcements.

If money is not a problem, consider to buy a mailing list for your area and distribute flyers or post cards. A bulk mailing permit from the post office would be required.

  • Good luck!

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