Deciding to start a new church can be an exciting—and nerve-wracking—time of your life. After all, making the decision to establish a place to build community, worship God, and love one another is no small undertaking.
The great news is that with The Lead Pastor, no ministry leader is ever alone. That includes those who are interested in joining the field! We’ve taken the time to compile a helpful checklist that can assist you take the small but important steps toward planting your own church, allowing you to get started on that journey with resources and confidence.
How To Start A Church
Before you go down the path of establishing a new church, you need to sit down and ask yourself a hard question: Why do you want to start a church? Is it to connect with and serve others in a certain part of your community? Is it to teach the Word of God? Is it to live out being image-bearers of God? Or is it a combination of all these reasons?
Answering this question will be your north star, guiding you as you go down the path of creating a church. Without a clear reason, or reasons, as to why you want to start a church, it might be hard to find your footing and establish yourself, especially if you live within an area heavily saturated with other churches and religious organizations.
Take some time to sit down with paper and pencil and try to answer what your church will be about in one sentence. This can be altered and tweaked throughout your process, but having something to go back to as you’re continuing on this journey will be helpful for you to stay the course.
1. Define Your Church
Once you’ve answered why you want to start a church, you can take the next step in defining it. This can also be called a mission statement. If you’re wondering what a mission statement is, it is what the core beliefs of your church are and why it exists, delivered in a clear and compelling manner.
To establish your mission, try asking yourself some more detailed questions like what your goals are, where you will be located, your statement of beliefs, who will be a part of your mission team, and what your church name might be.
This is also a good time to start considering a church bylaw structure. Bylaws are a tool that can help ensure your church is operating in a way that is consistent with its mission.
Most importantly, bylaws define the roles of leadership in the church, including the roles of full-time and part-time church leaders, board of directors, elders. Bylaws establish the oversight of these roles, who makes decisions, the process for various crises, and more.
Unfortunately, more and more people have brought abusive church leadership to light. With this in mind, having a clear set of bylaws that are open and transparent with your congregation ensures that you’re operating in a way that is always above reproach (Colossians 1:22).
Having bylaws for your church is not just a good idea theologically, but it is also smart legally. Bylaws ensure your church’s First Amendment rights are protected as well. So establishing a clear and honest set of bylaws will be a very important step as you create a new church.
2. Consult With A Lawyer
Is a lawyer necessary to help you start a church? While it isn’t necessary, it is certainly recommended.
Since a church is technically a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and reports to the IRS, using legal counsel can greatly benefit you.
By engaging with an attorney, they can help you learn more about legal business accounting procedures, obtaining a tax ID number, meeting IRS requirements, business practices, and HR procedures.
Some other things a lawyer can help with:
- File the necessary information for you to be established as an official incorporation with non-profit status.
- Establish policies and procedures to help your church run smoothly and lawfully.
- Set up a church bank account for you so you can have everything in one location.
Once these items are in place, the next step in the process of starting a church is fundraising. Many leaders dread this aspect of church planting, as asking for money can feel awkward or daunting.
However, there are some tried and true methods that can help you get started on fundraising for a new church with ease.
The first step in fundraising for a church is gathering an in-depth contact list. Think of everyone you know: family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. Once you’ve done that, start identifying people from that list who would be interested in contributing financially to the church or joining a prayer list.
Once you’ve done that, start preparing your ask. Create an outline of a pitch for your church and why they should invest in it, including facts and figures to back up your ask.
Some things to consider in making a fundraising pitch:
- Start with a thank you for their time and consideration before you ask anything else.
- Explain your church mission and what your goals are to put the pitch in perspective.
- Create an emotional connection to the donor by introducing the needs that your church plans to solve.
- Describe what you’re doing today and the progress you’re making toward your goal.
- Go into what your plans for the future are. Where do you want to be in one, five, or ten years and what impact will that have?
- As you round the corner toward the end of your ask, start giving a bigger picture of how your church will help others.
- Finish it off with an official ask. Make it clear and concise, and wait for a response.
It’s also important to remember that your pitch should be done in person, or at the very least, over the phone. Fundraising over email or text is not recommended, as it isn’t as clear and doesn’t allow time to answer specific questions.
Doing it in person or over the phone also shows respect for the other person’s time who is considering giving you their money.
4. Find Your Congregation
So, you’ve got all the business squared away. Now, how do you find people to build a congregation of dedicated church members? Start by getting out in your community! Going to town halls, farmers' markets, and other events in the neighborhood helps establish yourself as an integral part of it all.
Another smart idea to get the word out to people in your community is by sending out print collateral. You can send postcards out to people in their mailboxes, letting them know that a new church is getting started and you’d love to meet with them. Include your contact information so they can get in touch with you.
In addition, putting up signs around town promoting your new church can be a good form of advertising as well.
There’s also a lot to be said for just going out into the community and meeting people one-on-one. Going to coffee shops, grocery stores, or football games in your area helps you have an organic opportunity to meet others.
And once you’ve been coming around for a while, you’re likely to start seeing familiar faces. Make connections and say hi to these individuals, and ask if they know anyone else who’s looking for a church. Like many things, word of mouth can help your congregation multiply before your eyes!
Why Start A Church?
Simply put, start a church because you want to. It is a big deal, and it will require a lot of work, so don’t start a church because you think you should or because someone told you it is a good idea.
If you feel that God is calling you to ministry and you are excited to embrace that calling, then you should get started.
Now that the most important reason is out of the way, there are some other important reasons you should start a church. This could include the fact that there aren’t many churches in your specific community, people are in need of resources and support, or you see a need for your specific denomination.
What Is Church Planting?
Church planting is the act of training up leaders who go out and establish thriving and healthy churches. As a result, more people can come out of that congregation and turn around and start another church in the future. Church planting can happen naturally or be a part of an official church planting network. Church planting networks can help with various obstacles to starting a church, including funding, landing on a denomination, establishing bylaws, and more. Here are some popular church planting networks:
What’s The Difference Between a Ministry & A Church?
All churches have ministries, but not all ministries are churches. A ministry is a specific form of outreach that glorifies God and cares for others and is typically run by volunteers from within a church. A few examples of ministries include prayer ministry, men/women’s ministry, kids ministry, and more.
On the other hand, a church is the hub where multiple ministries are supported spiritually and financially. Ministries are just one part that makes up a church. Churches also include worship gatherings, non-worship activities, and official leadership structures.
How Much Does It Cost To Open A Church?
According to MissionalChallenge.com, the average cost of starting a church falls between $200,000 and $300,000.
The cost of opening a church can vary depending on a few factors, especially if you decide to establish your own building or rent out a location. If you decide to purchase a building, the cost will largely be determined by the real estate in your area. Renting out another building, church, or school can be a cost-effective option when you’re still growing and establishing your church.
After those costs are considered, there are startup costs to think about as well. This includes hiring staff, properly branding your church, and purchasing various resources and equipment.
Are There Any Legal Requirements For Starting A Church?
Similarly to any other business, there are legal requirements if you want to start a church. This includes the following steps:
- Incorporate your church: Choose a name and mission for your church and file the Articles of Incorporation with your Secretary of State.
- Obtain a federal employer identification number: You can apply for this IRS form online with the IRS website.
- Establish bylaws for your church: These protect your church from laws that pertain to your church’s First Amendment Rights.
- Apply and obtain a 501(c)3 tax-exempt status: This establishes your church’s legal foundation.
How To Create A Church Website
One of the last steps in starting a church is establishing an online presence. This can be done through social media and a church website.
The article outlines how you can create a church website in six simple steps:
- Secure a domain.
- Choose a platform.
- Find a host.
- Web design and development.
- Add content.
How To Collect Church Donations
You don’t have to pass around an offering tray during the church service to collect donations. There are plenty of apps that allow people to set up automatic donations every month in one simple location. Some of these donation apps include Tithe.ly, The Church App, and Church Center.
Learn more about how to steward donations to your church and the best donor management software here.
Here To Help Your Future Church Grow
We hope this has helped you learn more about starting a church. But once your church is fully established, there’s plenty more you can learn about the ins and outs of pastoral leadership.
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