This article is written with the assumption that you have already prayed, fasted and asked God for direction.  At this point, you are ready to form your church or ministry as a Non-Profit Corporation.  Some information to get you started can be found here.  Your Secretary of State’s Office will have specific requirements for your particular state.

  1. Choose or Reserve an Available Name.  Your state office will have instructions on incorporating your church or ministry and how to conduct a name search.
  2. File your Articles of Incorporation and pay the filing fee.  Once you file the Articles of Incorporation, your name will be registered.  Some states call this Articles of Organization, Certificate of Incorporation, Certificate of Formation or a Charter.  Make sure your articles conform with your state’s non-profit laws.
  3. Apply for your Federal 501 (c)(3) Tax Exemption.  After the state returns  copy of your Articles of Incorporation, you can submit your 501 (c)(3) tax exempt application to the IRS.  You will need IRS Form 8718.  Complete instructions are in IRS Publication 557.  After the IRS has reviewed your application they will either approve it or request additional information.  If your application is denied, you might want to seek the help of an attorney that specializes in non-profit organizations.
  4. Create Corporate Bylaws.  Bylaws can be written with a self-help document, from a model set of bylaws or with the assistance of an attorney.  Your bylaws set the standard by which your corporation will be governed.
  5. Appoint your Board of Directors.  All non-profits are required to have a board of directors.  The board is responsible for running the corporation and making major decisions.  Most states require at least three directors, some states will allow only one.
  6. Hold your first board meeting.  Adopt your bylaws and elect officers.

For your convenience, a list of Secretary of State Offices can be found on our Resource Page.

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22 Responses to “How to Form A Non-Profit Corporation, Church or Ministry”

  1. Praise King JESUS!!!

  2. I really like this article. Thank u for so nice article

  3. Church Incorporation is divorcing Jesus Christ as your exclusive head. The early church was persecuted to death because they would not incorporate. The American Patriots fought and died so that the state would not rule over the church. Now preachers waive Jesus Christ goodbye, and adopt Caesar as head. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” -Almighty God. Jesus Christ is to be the exclusive head and final authority and chief cornerstone. A 501c3 tax exempt corporation is a religious business and is subject to the jurisdiction of its creator, Caesar. Check out Peter Kershaw’s ‘In Caesar’s Grip’.

  4. HELLO FRIENDS I AM JOHNY RAJ.
    I NEED A YOUR PRAYER HELP FOR MY MINISTRY.

  5. Can a contemporary christian band qualify to be a non profit organization.

  6. Eric, your bylaws and Articles of Incorporation are what determines whether or not you qualify for non-profit status. If your band is a “for profit” band, it probably won’t qualify as a 501(c)3.

  7. Eric,
    If you are concerned that incorporation will remove Jesus as the head of a church then don’t incorporate. Of course this means you will lose your tax exempt status, but then leave to Ceaser what is his right?
    Some of us must look beyond the necessary beuracracy in order to do the good work that can be done.
    We pray for guidance and inspiration to help us make the best decisions that we as mortals are capable of.

  8. I have a small support group i started seven years ago i am always ask to help some small church by helping with V.B.S we have been sending support we even went to help but i want to know how can i do an international ministry what is the requirement

  9. The article was a very useful guide for anyone seeking to incorporate their ministry. The decision as to whether or not to incorporate is a difficult one and must be made prayerfully. In point of fact, one does not need to incorporate in order to be tax exempt or for their contributions to be tax deductible (for full details see article at http://ecclesia.org/truth/501-church.html – article has a very libertarian slant, but the tax code and legal references provided are very informative). We have definitely been given the false impression that incorporation is necessary or somehow lends legitimacy to a ministry, but that is simply not true… give it some thought, most missionaries are not incorporated yet they are exempt from taxes and we don’t think twice about filing contributions to them as tax deductible (just get a receipt in case of audit, if they refuse to provide a receipt then something seems a little fishy, and not in the feeding of 5000 way). After much research and prayer we opted not to pursue incorporation and thus we do not have to concern ourselves with issues of “hate” speech when taking a Biblical position on homosexuality or abortion – corporations, as created entities, are not provided the same protections of freedom of speech as “individuals” are. If you are in a medical ministry incorporation does provide certain liability protections which, considering the litigious climate we live in, may be very important. Though we chose not to incorporate, as a matter of accountability, we did create a Board of Advisors and our books are kept transparent for those that might have a legitimate need to review them. Not sure if this was any help. We wish you Gods blessings in your endeavors, stay strong, and don’t let these tedious details discourage you in the cause for Christ. mark@totallyChrist.com

  10. Thank you so much. We were floundering a bit trying to figure out what to do; seemed like an overwhelming problem. But like I’ve told my kids, every question is an easy one when you know the answer. Simple yet just what we needed to get us going. I appreciate you using the gifting God has given you to further His Kingdom!

  11. Hi.
    Im from Ecuador.

    I want to know if I go to T & T like tourists its possible to do the procedures for incorporating a not for profit??

    Further, The Articles of the MInistry or the not for profit should be translate official?? or maybe the articles could be translate for anybody?

    thanks for your help.

  12. HI MY NAME IS PENNY MY CHURCH IS NOT RECONISED AS A CHURCH IT HAS MAYBE 12 MEMBERS AND IS A HOUSE ON ONE SIDE AND CHURCH ON THE OTHER THEY ARE SEPRETE BUT ON THE SAME LOT WE TAKE IN VERY LITTLE AND PAYING OUT A WHOLE LOT AND BEING TAXED FOR BOTH SEPRETELY WHAT CAN WE DO?

  13. Penny, being tax exempt does not mean you will not pay property tax. Basically it allows your members to deduct their donations to the ministry on their tax returns. Also, the church that is tax exempt still has to file taxes with the IRS but they are exempt from paying federal taxes.

  14. I am in complete agreement with Eric and am wondering how churches can justify becoming a business? Our government is running out of money and they won’t tax churches and ministries who are led by people that are living luxurious lifestyles. Really? Non profit doesn’t really mean non profit or the pastors and leaders would be living in poverty and NOT profitting from their tax exemptions. Why do they charge money to the people they are supposed to be helping? Be warned, God is NOT mocked!

  15. Dorian,

    While churches that are non-profit are exempt from income tax, the employees and pastors are not. They have to pay taxes on their income. Churches pay taxes on everything else. One of the benefits of being designated non-profit is that donations to the organization are tax deductible for the person who made the donation.

    While there are indeed pastors and ministers who live luxurious lifestyles there are many many more who are not. Those living such luxurious lifestyles are the minority, not the majority. Unfortunately, they are the ones who get the most attention. Furthermore, I’m not aware of the statistics, but our church undergoes an audit every August. That audit is conducted by a CPA firm that ensures that we are in compliance with non-profit regulations.

    Please explain to me how the church “charges” people. I have never been affiliated with a church that charged me.

  16. My husban and I started a church about a month ago and we got the the number for the bank so we can start a church account.But we need help to charter our church and we do not want to go under a nother church to do this can you tell how I can do this?

  17. Jeanette,

    An attorney can set this up for you. It is not really very difficult but for an individual who has never done this before, it is quite tedious. Depending on where you live, you may be able to get it done for less than $300.

  18. Can an LLC become a 501c3 ? Or does it need to be incorporated ?

  19. Dave, an LLC and a 501c3 are two entirely different types of business. A 501c3 is a corporation that is designated non-profit. You can change an LLC to a 501c3 by filling out and submitting the proper paperwork.

  20. Please heal me and please pray for me I suffer anxiety and fear and worry and panic attacks. Please pray for me. My phone number is 07549480376. Blessings from Addie

  21. This information is very helpful. I am starting a minstry and I need help in what to do as the business part the word says u give Gods his and u give Ceasers his I want to do this in order so I need help to do so. I want God to get the glory out of this minstry that he gave me..-

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