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The first thing you need to think about is WHY you want to start a church. Is it a full-time calling for you? Do you just want to formalize your current situation of preaching in someone’s living room? Are you interested in fundraising? Doing weddings and other services? Outreach to the community? These are things to consider because they are things that you will be asked when filling out all of the forms.
You need to decide also if you are going to do a simple ministry or if you are going to want something more formal, to solidify your tax-exempt status. It really just depends on the size of your church. If you are planning on making a fair amount of money through the church and plan on having it support you, then you will also need to Incorporate. We will cover that down below. If you don’t plan on making any money or only small amounts that will be spent on the ministry itself, it may not be necessary. I found that incorporation was inexpensive and easy to do and made it easier to do a lot of the other things I wanted to do with the Church and Ministry.
Once you have decided your purpose, the next thing you need to do is to decide upon a name for your church. Be aware that there is a difference between a church and a ministry. A church is a legal entity and a ministry is just people preaching, teaching and many other things. The difference is something quite legal.
Once you have decided upon a name, you need to get your own EIN number. EIN stands for Employer Identification Number. It’s kind of like a social security number for a business. You have to have one to have a church. To acquire this number, you’ll need to get an SS4 form from the IRS. This can be found at the www.irs.gov website. http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=102767,00.html
First things first, look over the SS4 form and jot down your answers. Then call the toll-free Business and Specialty Tax Line at 1-800-829-4933 should you need assistance applying for an EIN. Foreign Addresses (addresses outside the continental USA, Alaska and Hawaii) call 215-516-6999. They will walk you through the process of getting the number. They were very helpful and polite and made the whole thing very easy.
In a few days, you will receive a paper from them that states that you have a church, you are the one in charge and what your EIN number is. Keep this paper safe and make some copies of it. Again, you’ll need it later.
When you go to open a bank account in the church's name, you will need an EIN#, Statement of Faith, Beliefs, Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws and Opening Resolutions. It is best to have all of your information ready to go.
You’ll need to create some bylaws for your church, as well as to personalize your Articles of Incorporation. Please feel free to use the ones supplied in the links below.
You may have been told to apply for tax-exempt status, you D NOT need to fill out a 501(c) (3) application. If you don’t have a specific determination of tax-exempt status. See "Non Profit Status".
Starting a New Church can be a daunting event for those that are not sure what is needed and troublesome for those that do. There are companies that will help you and there are many documents available (found on the internet and in bookstores) on what is needed to legally start a New Church but the ones that I have seen, do not tell you how to build the Church Membership to a level that will support the Church. For those of us that are just starting out, I have a suggestion.
Small Group Bible Study.
Start your ministry by meeting at a home or other small meeting place and hold a Bible Study. This type of ministry can be started with just one other person and grow from there. Once you start invite the participants to bring a friend to the next Bible Study meeting. As time goes by, with a successful Bible Studying group, your attendance will outgrow the meeting place have to move to a larger venue to hold the meetings.
Now let’s step back a little and explain why starting with a Small Bible Study group helps. Small group bibles studies and fellowship groups not only contribute to your members' spiritual growth, they contribute to church growth as well. This works for new and existing Churches. Healthy church ministry includes developing relationships that assist with the spiritual well-being of members while growing them toward maturity.
One of the characteristics of church life which necessitates small groups is that every pastor has a personal contact limit (PCL). He or she is only able to minister effectively to a certain number of people. No pastor can continue to minister to increasing numbers of people indefinitely. At some stage or other the PCL level will be reached.
Each pastor has a different capacity. For some, their PCL may be 80 people; for others (super-pastors!) it may be 280. When the PCL is reached, however, the church will simply plateau. There will be no further numerical growth until delegation takes place. The church will need to be broken down into various small groups, each with their own leader, for the purpose of pastoral care.
This is nowhere better illustrated than when the children of Israel were in the wilderness. In Ex.18:13-27 we read that Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, observed the frustration of Moses attempting to care for the needs of the people on his own. He suggested a program of delegation to solve the problem. Moses listened to his advice and introduced an effective strategy of delegation.
In Deut.1:9-18 Moses recalled that situation and noted the following points:
1. Moses was not able to bear the burden of all the people alone (1:9&12)
2. He appointed leaders to share the responsibility with him (1:13&16)
3. They were leaders of groups the size of their abilities, i.e. some were captains over tens, others over hundreds, and even others over thousands (1:15)
4. They counseled according to their ability and referred the difficult cases to Moses (1:17)
5. The leaders who were chosen were spiritually fitted for the task (1:13&15)
6. The leaders themselves were shepherded by Moses (1:18)
This is a great model for church life today.
So, by using the Small Group Bible Study formula, you not only build up a membership but you are also able to start identifying future Church leaders.
Now, how do you conduct a Small Group Bible Study? There are many resources available on the internet to help you conduct your Small Group Bible Study. Some of these resources are free and some for pay. Either way you go they will allow you to grow in your Bible Study while teaching others. To give you an ideal of some of these resources, you can find study guides for the leader and students, adult and youth courses, handouts, etc.
A couple of things to keep in mind when dealing with any Bible Study are the following two questions.
Ok, so you’ve decided to give the Small Group Bible Study a chance. Now what?
Launching a new small group is never as easy as it would seem. There are several different variables to consider, different steps to take, and different types of people to interact with. If one thing goes wrong in the launch process, the whole group can unravel in a hurry.
Fortunately, there are some broad factors that can increase your chances of success when launching a new small group. Take each one of them into consideration before launching your group. They are outlined below. Group leaders who take these simple steps before launching will increase the likelihood of that new group taking flight.
There's good reason why Jesus sent out his disciples two-by-two when they first did ministry together. (So find a friend and tell them you'd love for them to partner with you in the start-up of a new group.) This creates built-in encouragement for both of you, which will further ensure you don't drift away or drop out from God's complete plan for your new group (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
Make the effort to invite people into your group before it even starts. Contact your friends and invite them to be a part of your group and then invite them to invite their friends, too. The goal is to create your group's nucleus before you even go public.
In other words, don't wait to form your group until the launch date. Start inviting people ASAP and view the "launch week" as an opportunity to build off the core you've already encouraged to come together.
Have a vision for what you'd like to see happen in your group:
Affinity . What people hold in common has a way of attracting and bonding them together in a group. "Affinity" can motivate some people to join a group who would have otherwise not been interested in participating.
Vision . Catch a vision for what you'd like to see happen in your group! What do you want to see happening a month from its launch? What would you like your experience to be? Try to forecast the experience you hope participants will have and convey that in your promotions. Vision will help to set expectation, ensure more "right fits" with prospective members, and help people feel more comfortable in their new commitment.
Short duration / high frequency . Groups that launch with a shorter duration (4-6 weeks) and meet uninterrupted every week have a much greater chance of sticking together after their first season than those who don't. This combination of meeting logistics works well in the American culture. People entering a new situation like to know there's an ending point, just in case the group experience proves not to be a fit for them. Furthermore, the weekly meeting frequency accelerates relationship-building and actually creates more time for people to get to know each other. This is because groups that meet bi-weekly or monthly find themselves allocating more time for members to "catch-up" before they can build off their previous group experience.
Food . Don't underestimate the attractional power of food. It's the ultimate ice-breaker! Food conveys hospitality—it brings people together, makes people feel more at ease (at home), creates conversation, and enables people to open up more together. Groups that include food as a part of their first gatherings (especially a meal) amplify their message of welcome to newcomers.
Childcare . As soon as you know you'll have people in your group with childcare needs, talk about options for childcare so you can convey this to other people inquiring. If your host home has a play area for the kids, communicate that in your promotions. People with young kids will be instantly drawn to groups that express an early plan (no matter how simple it may be) for how kids can be a part of the group or be in another location of the host home while the adults meet.
When letting others know about your new group, help people to construct mental pictures of what they can anticipate by "advertising" everything you just planned (affinity, vision, food, and childcare). The more questions you can answer up-front, the better. This also helps them to invite friends to join them who may not have any prior church or small-group experience.
With all the planning involved in building the small group, do not lose sight of the ultimate goal of building a Church.
“What is the single most important thing to keep in mind when leading small groups?”
One answer is this:
“The key principle to keep in focus is that small groups offer a completely different way of ‘doing church’ compared to a congregational setting.”
Now, of course, both formats are needed. It’s not either/or, but both/and. The point is that when we meet in small groups we should exploit the advantages they offer to the full. What is different between the two ways?
1) We do them in a completely differently way. The style presented in a congregational meeting is mainly that those present are spectators. Whereas the emphasis in a small group is that everyone gets to become a participator. This can best be summed up in the New Testament recurring phrase “one another”. Every believer present is a recipient of the grace of God and therefore has something to share with the rest of the group. The body edifies itself in love (Eph.4:16).
2) We also do things in groups which do not happen in a congregational setting. For example, discipleship. Small groups are the ideal setting for making disciples.
The New Testament clearly recognizes the need for both. In the book of Acts we often come across the two formats of church life in terms such as “in the temple” and “from house to house” (e.g. Acts 2:46&47; 5:42; 20:20).
These are the thoughts from one who has been researching what it will take to start a New Church and how best I can build it. I hope that this has at least got you to thinking about Bible Study as a means to not only start a New Church but also how to build an existing one larger.
Most of the early Churches started this way as there were no formal Church buildings in which to meet and hold services and that the teachers, disciples and other ministers were being persecuted in those early years.