Starting a church is very much like starting a business, and it takes a bit of bureaucratic navigation to obtain your charter. Part of going through the process of getting a church charter is sorting out how your church will be organized and managed. You must also incorporate your fledgling parish and comply with IRS regulations in order to obtain a charter. A church charter is granted by a parent ministry and will sanction your operations as a legal organization.
Obtain a business tax ID number (EIN) from the IRS. This will allow the IRS to identify you as a nonprofit organization. See Resource 1 for more information and to apply.
Fill out IRS form 1023 to apply for 501(c)(3) status. 501(c)(3) status will identify you as a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization. It is not a requirement for a church to be nonprofit, however being nonprofit legitimizes your ability to receive contributions. See Resource 2 for more information and to apply.
Apply for your sales tax-exempt status. Contact your state’s Department of Revenue for information and to apply.
Establish a checking account. Open a business checking account using your tax ID number. Many banks offer free checking to nonprofit organizations.
Create a church constitution and bylaws that outline the internal church government, administrative organization and management procedures for your church. Establish a written policy regarding commissioning and paying ministers and staff. Outline and define your finance and budget parameters. Visit www.ucc.org/ministers/pdfs/cblformat.pdf to view the United Church of Christ’s sample constitution and bylaws format.
Hire a certified pastor.
File for a charter certificate with the appropriate parent ministry.
Mason Howard is an artist and writer in Minneapolis. Howard's work has been published in the "Creative Quarterly Journal of Art & Design" and "New American Paintings." He has also written for art exhibition catalogs and publications. Howard's recent writing includes covering popular culture, home improvement, cooking, health and fitness. He received his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Minnesota.