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Starting a Church

To Start a Church requires someone or people coming together sharing beliefs to want a home church of their own. Starting a church does not have to be as complicated as so many sites pretend and want to sell you expensive packages to file. This may seem a bit long winded, but please bear with us as we want you to begin correctly and build your church right. Starting a Ministry is even easier as it often is the fore runner to opening a church in the future. One of the first steps is of course have one or more members ordained in an older church. This provides one of the 14 point guidelines of the IRS to be legal.

So let's begin shall we? First we often find that person that wants to share faith. This person whether man or woman, and yes women can grow a church just like men as we believe in the Ordination of Women in the UM. The days of keep their place are long gone and their place is now everywhere in life as God originally expected, so get over it. The person, an Ordained Minister, man or woman, seeks authority in mans' world to be more than some crazy shouting on a corner though there is nothing wrong with that if you wish. They start a fellowship, a prayer circle, or Ministry to share through. As this grows we often find need in law to make our organization more visible to share with more people. This now begins to require that we meet regulations of man.

First, building a church or Ministry does not demand anything when the group is under half a dozen people praying and discussing beliefs of faith. However if your ministry wants to advertise or be seen in public you will now want to establish your legal presence. Contrary to what so many scare you with Starting a new Church this does not have to be complicated.

Let's look at the legal formations of a church in Federal Law since all over the internet you see Incorporating and 501 which is expensive and complicated unless you pay even more for someone to file it.

We want to Start a New Church. There are three(3) main ways to do this and comply with State laws in most States. All three require these first steps even though some States show a church can have as few as one member. A one member church is often not an exempt church so be careful. The common requirement is to create a Governing Board of at least three people. Remember a church is not owned by anyone once formed, but controlled by its Board. You may choose to call your Board Elders, Deacons, or a variety of names, but basically you will have a President, not always the Minister Vice President, Secretary/Treasurer that will vote to decide how to handle the many needs of your organization. This is like an incorporation, but does not require incorporating as will be discussed below. The IRS 14 point guidelines suggest five (5) or more to please them as this creates more discussion and control of different aspects, but what do they know? The Government likes Bureaucracy and this is about sharing faith, not making committees.
So we discussed a small group does not have to form to be able to fellowship, but now we are wanting to create a church. So we now look at the two (2) forms of establishment in Federal Law.

USC Title 26 section 508 has special rules to 501C3 that state in subsection c1a that churches are automatically exempt from 501c3 requirements.

In USC title 26/508c1a and b we read: (A) churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches, or (B) any organization which is not a private foundation (as defined in section 509(a)) and the gross receipts of which in each taxable year are normally not more than $5,000. This allows Private churches which are not a Foundation to establish legally without 501C3 incorporation and all its complications. As for the Taxable receipts, well we DO NOT want to confuse income with freewill gifts, Love offerings and freewill donations which are not income. Those are covered in various other sections of Tax Rules and Regulations. Basically you form a Board as a private church covered under the rights of private citizens and then you may file a local DBA or with your Secretary of State as a Private church/ministry for State exemption. Now you do not have to file with your SOS unless you care about Property Tax and Sales Tax exemption to be legal, but you should at least file a DBA or AKA with your County to provide an official formation. It is really that simple for a basic church to establish. This of course does not consider local Zoning laws for your building, just the membership as a legal entity.

What will you start with is a Board, an Ordained Minister and a building owned or leased. Contrary to many Internet Sites just making a website is not proper legal formation, be careful folks. Lots of Shysters online wanting your bucks. You will establish your Articles, Bylaws or Constitution of the church. You will create a Statement of Faith of the Church, and Doctrines of the direction of the church. The second two are usually included in the Bylaws, but are also separate Documents for membership and filing requirements. Depending on your State they may also ask for an initial Congregational membership list, but in law that is optional for you to provide. Unless of course you are in a UK Nation that demands a list.

IRS Publication 1771 discusses charitable contributions. The IRS Publication 1828 discusses income taxes and exemptions with page 3 being important to your new private church as is page 19. Then we read page 22 which reduces filings to the IRS within proper establishment. Both are free publications that need to be a MUST READ for your Board.

Now we get to the most commonly pushed form of establishment the USC Title 26sec.501c3 for incorporations.You see this all over the Internet and hear it from Accountants that want to dig deep into your pockets. First they pretend you have to incorporate though they seldom mention incorporation really does not protect your organization from most threats. Remember, they get paid to file paperwork. You pay them. You still need insurance for liability and you just created more chances at taxation and Government controls.

USC 501c3 is exemption from taxes for corporations, certain trusts, etc. Section "C" lists the exempt corporations and (3) includes churches. 501 c 3 is for Corporations. Corporations are considered Separate Entities from individuals or association of individuals within a common cause. 501 c 3 provides your corporation similar benefits already exempt for private churches. Did you know that if you forget a receipt or to mark down how money was spent you can be arrested for embezzlement from the Corporation?

Incorporation of your church may be the right way for you to go if you feel there are enough liabilities to members and the organization to merit such, but for most small churches it is simply complicating the reason for establishing a church. If you wish to seek various Government Grants or other Corporate Grants you will most likely need to incorporate as private churches are omitted from such offerings. If you believe in separation of church and State then DO NOT Incorporate as your church would then be under the Control of the IRS as its own entity. Hundreds of churches that filed 501 in the 80s and 90s unincorporated and returned to 508 status to get the IRS off their backs and out of church coffers after the turn of the century.

501c3 is expensive as you must pay the IRS to consider your application, form the Corporation, meet the 14 point guidelines and then have someone on hand to file the monthly and annual forms they require. This is an area where if you want to know more feel free to contact a CPA or Tax Attorney to lead you through it.

The Universal Ministries remains a 508 church as we do not care about Government money, do not have a salaried staff, do not own multiple properties or feel the need to have these. We maintain our local Chapel to serve as part of the overall single property of the church. We formed to share faith and each Minister of the UM is considered an independent ministry associating with the Home church verses a satellite controlled by the church as are so many denominational churches. You do not owe us monthly titles or Franchise dues as you are your own church/ministry sharing freely. When you make a church you and your Board control it. As in Christ, we share the gifts of God that you may be greater in the Kingdom than we may ever be. Go forth in knowledge and know how to grow a church in faith.

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