It is quite often said that there is no typical way to start a church, church plant, or grow a church membership. A church starts with no members, no funds, and no team. It starts as an idea in someone who is typically called to provide church services. Church operation is among the service professions where purity of heart and dedication to human service is stringently expected. Start planning church growth by writing a new business plan or business strategy for the organization. This will include addressing organizational formalities, church service plans, fund-raising, team-building, serving members, and marketing.
Write the Church Organizational Plan
List and describe organizational planning needs. Churches are governed by the law of the state where it is organized. Consider seeking professional counsel from a lawyer in developing a church charter or articles of organization, and to obtain information on state legal requirements in the state of intended operation. For instance, generally, only an ordained minister, magistrate, or a judge can perform marriage ceremonies. Federal law applies to obtaining tax exempt status for an organization. The Internal Revenue Service publishes an exception publication called Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations.
Write about the church facilities. The largest church expense is often facility costs. A business plan for a church includes describing the church building. Will the church start as a new construction or a purchase/lease of an older building? While a church can be started in a home, this will be a small congregation. If it grows, the members will require larger facilities.
Create a church team and list them in the business plan with their talents. The initial church team often starts with the church leader and his immediate family and friends. The church team helps with the operational aspects of running the church. This includes operating the church building, housekeeping, and kitchen. The church staff is that circle of members that monitors and insures that the church services operate efficiently. A church may also have a separate board of directors.
Draft a rough draft of church services. This will include writing the days and time the church will open and close and the exact time of services. Describe in writing the anticipated basic church service schedule. This may include a formal opening of service to guests and members, public reading of the Bible and prayer, a sermon, a musical selection, donations, and closing of church services. Church service planning materials is often provided to church leaders operating under a larger church association.
Raise funds for church operations. Fund-raising will be important for new churches without use of donated personal wealth from its start-up leadership. This includes fund-raising among the membership, organizing church fundraisers such as a church bazaar, or securing a bank loan. This can be fleshed out in writing in the start-up business plan.
Market the church services and community services. Many churches provide various services to the community. This includes providing free community meals, providing youth activities, and even providing daycare services for working parents. The best advertising is word of mouth for a local church. For more information on marketing church services purchase or check-out a book such as "Launch: Starting a Church from Scratch," by Nelson Searcy and Kerrick Thomas.
Stay balanced by exercising, maintaining a sound diet, and balancing sufficient time to personal family life. Building a church can be a great service to a community and will require lots of hard work from its start-up leadership. A healthy church atmosphere is created when the church leader maintains a healthy work-life balance.
This article is intended to serve as a general discussion of the subject matter and is provided for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice.
Vanessa Cross has practiced law in Tennessee and lectured as an adjunct professor on law and business topics. She has also contributed as a business writer to news publications such as the "Chicago Tribune" and published in peer-reviewed academic journals. Cross holds a B.A. in journalism, a Juris Doctor and an LL.M. in international business law.