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How to Start a Church: a Complete Guide

Joanne Owens
Content writer @Casual
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Every church is a spiritual community bound by common fellowship. If you are displeased with the local church, you can start your own to worship according to your own beliefs. All you need at early stages is a group of people who share your thoughts.
There are many reasons to start a church, but the most important thing is your passion to faith. It would be also great to get support from your spiritual community as the process of starting of a new church is quite challenging.
If you’re going to start a church from scratch, be ready your faith will be tested as never before. The process is expected to be difficult, making you doubt your calling. Organizing a house church doesn’t require skills in building management or outreach strategies. There’s also no need to be a leader, but some leadership gifts may still come in handy. In other words, for starting a church, you just need to open your home to like-minded thinkers. This article will explain how to start a church.

Prepare to became a preacher

How do you start a church without having knowledge in preaching? The right steps to becoming a preacher depend on the church and the confession you choose. Some preachers have to take seminary courses or complete college, while others may need to complete a course, which curriculum is compiled in accordance with the particular confession. You also can fill out an online application.

Define what kind of preacher you are going to be

Depending on the confession you choose, you may need, for example, theological training and a degree in religious studies. Some Christian organizations and churches don’t have any particular requirements for their preachers at all. And the doctrine of some denominations requires their preachers to finish a few specific courses instead of getting a formal degree. Check out websites of biblical colleges for more information.

Be dedicated and try to do your best

Before starting your life as a preacher, ask yourself if you really want to do it, and if you are confident in your faith enough to share it with others. Learning to be a preacher requires a lot of time and strength, so make sure that you have made the right decision and be prepared to dedicate yourself to the cause. 

You also need to ask yourself if you feel passion for becoming a preacher, and if you have a strong compassion for all people. 

Meet with representatives of the church you're interested in to talk about the requirements for becoming a pastor and discuss other minor details. Make the list of questions that concern you beforehand. Ask about your future responsibilities and duties. Usually, a preacher provides different kinds of services. You should know how to perform weddings, funerals and baptisms, provide psychological, marital, and grief counseling, arrange for adult religious instruction and Sunday school classes, plan community outreach activities, and so on.

Pick a college

Find the educational facility with good religious studies programs.
Education is a keystone of being a preacher. As a rule, a preacher has to take a 4-year degree to start a career. The majors for a religious leadership career include Bible or pastoral studies, theology and ministry. The program courses include topics in the Old and New Testament, ethics, theology, sociology, and pastoral studies.
It should be noted that the above is not an essential requirement. Various congregations and churches have different requirements. Some of them may require a strong background in Bible studies or several associated courses. Other religious groups may require bachelor’s or master’s degree of seminary university.Talking about master’s degree, we should note that most of these programs include hands-on experience. E.g., a preacher-student may be sent to some local church or student ministry.

Preaching experience

To have a job of assistant preacher, associate preacher of worship requires an experience, which can be gained by the students during internships. As an alternative, preachers may obtain experience in other areas of a church, e.g. music ministry.

Prepare for ordination

After finishing all formal studies, you need to get ready for ordination. Preparations involve studying the doctrine of the church you chose and being ready for examination by an Ordination Council, which may take up to several hours.

Prepare a non-profit

The next steps will guide you through the process of how to make a non-profit organization. Let's have a look.

Understand the rules and guidelines of tax-exemption and structure your corporation

Your church has to meet these requirements:
  • The organization needs to operate only for religious, scientific, educational, or other charitable purposes.
  • Net earnings cannot go to shareholders or private individuals.
  • The organization’s activities cannot be illegal and cannot intervene in political campaigns, influence legislation, or violate fundamental public policy.

Consult a lawyer

Preparing the paperwork and consulting a lawyer before applying for incorporation and tax exemption would be a wise step. A specialist will give you more details on how to start your own church. Always check all the work you’ve done twice; you can save some money if you do as much as possible yourself.

Get incorporation documents in your state

Business Bureau in your state will provide incorporation documents for you. If you have already established a belief statement and corporate offices and meet all the requirements, you've done the half of the work. Be sure to obtain several copies of the same documents. This way if you make a mistake, you can try again.

Open a bank account of your church

It is a necessary step to be done. Based on the prepared documents you should open a bank account for the funds of your church. Analyze the market of banks and learn what banks are used by other churches or ministries for this purpose.

Begin Fellowship

You became a preacher and know how to establish a church. Here are next steps.

Start a home spiritual discussion group

Before filing for non-profit status of your church and making it official, you need to build a decent fellowship of people who share common beliefs. Start meeting with fellow believers and organize regular meetings. 

According to Internal Revenue Service, you need to have at least three founding members not related by marriage or blood.

Define the scope of the church

You can establish a church at different levels. Establishing tax-exempt status of your church depends on how clearly you define your aims for it. For instance, forming a corporately structured church differs from establishing a ministry. You should consider the size of your fellowship, the location for the church, your commitment (will this be a full-time or part-time job), your financial aims (will your church accept donations).

Name your church

An important step is to give a name to your new church. Think how you can bind the focus of your church with the name. It is recommended to avoid names used by other churches in your area. The name of a church would increase its status and raise confidence of your fellowship.

Draft church bylaws and a statement of belief

When making up a statement of belief, you need to define the core beliefs, decide why you are starting a church and which creed and doctrine will distinguish your church from others.

Forming a religious organization requires establishing bylaws, a kind of rulebook for your church's operations, to govern your organization. These bylaws define whether your church performs funerals or weddings or not, and community outreach programs your church will take part in.

Assign corporate officers

In order to file for incorporation with the state, you are going to need a board of directors, corporate officers, and a membership. So be sure to find the right people for different accounting and procedural positions that will help your church run properly. You don’t need to hire secretaries or janitors right from the start, but it’s better to have people for the roles of the board of directors and someone to involve in fundraising. All the needed staff has to be in place and know their duties before you proceed.

Know whom you are called to reach

Another important step in understanding how to open a church is to know whom they are called to reach. Draw people from your circle of influence together. Maybe you have non-Christian colleagues whom you know for some time. Invite them to your house, for example, to study the principles of organizing business, using a book of proverbs as a textbook. The main thing here is to make your discussions run smoothly and avoid hard rules to it. Gradually, begin to introduce prayer and worship to your conversations, and some of your colleagues may become Christians over time and form the nucleus of your church.
When your church starts, first of all, start seeking pre-Christians or new believers to join you; you can also find laborers to help. Some newcomers may just want to check the church out; others may be interested in the latest Christian fad. In order to attract new believers, you may consider asking these people not to come to the meetings. A lot of old Christians in your group would make new believers uncomfortable.

Form meeting components

Every house-church meeting shouldn’t just replicate usual Sunday morning meetings on a smaller scale. Instead, all micro-church meetings must include for important components: meeting, eating, small groups, and "the gathering after the gathering."

1) Meeting
House churches should gather mostly for worship, study and discuss how the Scripture applies to life.

2) Eating
People who go to house churches love to eat. All participants should bring food with them.

3) Small groups
If the house church consists of more than six or seven people, such groups can be pretty effective. They usually find time to meet outside the micro-church gatherings. Mostly newcomers agree to discuss their lives and learn to pray with others due to small groups.

Besides, gender-specific small groups can also be effective. A house church consisting of ten or twelve people may include a couple of small men’s groups and a couple of women’s groups. Leaders of house churches may hold monthly meetings with leaders of these groups to encourage and train them. Some of these small-group leaders even start their own micro-churches sometimes.

4) The gathering after the gathering
After services in conventional churches, people usually go home. But in house churches things are bit different – their members enjoy being together. The actual meeting usually takes about one - three hours, depending on participation from every member.

Special Events

Conducting special events is a great way to attract interest and new people. Invite guest speakers, musicians and, possibly, other ministries or fellowships. This step would encourage your people and may bring new members. Try to mix various styles and focus to reach different age groups and target audience. It is highly encouraged to promote amateur performance among your church that will strengthen its reputation.

Some tips in use when starting a church

1. Do not haste to hiring people, but let volunteers developing.

2. Fair and softly goes far. This means not to hurry with starting new things, such as various programs and ministries. Time for them will come gradually and there is no need to accelerate.

3. Ignore the critics. The God will test your faith and the main objective is to believe in your calling.

4. Try to separate family and activities related to starting a church. You will need strength and energy, so try not to spill it.

5. Do not ignore other local churches and ministries. Of course, the baseline principles of various churches often do not comply with each other. But this is not a reason to ignore and neglect the environment.


Advertisement is necessary to attract new people. Consider the purchase of newspaper, radio or television ads. Do not avoid the online advertising in some local publics or websites. Of course, advertising requires funds and if you don’t have very much money, draw your attention to various radio and television stations, which could offer free church news or announcements.

If money is not a problem, consider to buy a mailing list for your area and distribute flyers or post cards. A bulk mailing permit from the post office would be required.

Build your church

The amount of time required for setting up a church depends on your skills and determination. First of all, in order to build the church you need to be a preacher, so you’ll have to obtain a proper education. Its duration depends on the confession you are going to choose. It may take from several months to 2-3 years to get the degree.
Defining the scope of your church, drafting its bylaws and rules, and forming membership could take about a year, depending on your abilities and willingness to attract people. You also shouldn’t forget about the preparation of documents to form a non-profit. In total, the creation of your own church can take from one to four years.
The process of preparation should not be accelerated and decelerated either. You should perform step by step, trying to avoid various pitfalls and enemies. Do not refuse any help that could be offered to you on this way. The world is full of kind and good people, who can provide their help and services in order to assist you in your challenging task. 

Decide the size of the house church

If you are running a house church, you may soon come across the problem of free space. Some new believers can invite their family and friends, and after some time your house may become too small for your meetings.

It is recommended to keep the number of people between 6 and 12 per meeting. Experience shows that the groups of less than 6 people usually fall apart over time due to the insufficient number of relationships and communication. However, the groups of more than 12 believers are affected by the lack of close friendly relations and the possibilities of participation of each member.

Check frequency of meetings

The meetings at house churches should be held at least once a week to preserve a sense of connectedness. It should be noted, though, that the ability to remain flexible is important. Some micro-church meetings are held at the same place every week, while others gather at different locations, for instance, at homes of its members. Some meet more frequently, and others don’t. Some house churches hold their meetings during the week, and some do it on weekends.
It is important that your meetings served as an expression of members’ desire to build community and not just as an addition to their already filled schedules. If meetings are concentrated around food and communication, they’ll help people feel more natural. Pick a convenient time for all the participants, and then try to keep in touch with other members all the time. The creation of the spiritual family requires more than a few hours a week. 

Story by
Joanne Owens
Content writer @Casual