How to Prepare a Church Charter

by Si Kingston

A church is not only an organization built on faith, but it is a business organization. To apply for a church charter, you must prepare your organization's business structure and tax-exempt status with the IRS and state Department of Revenue. After you do so, the charter application can be submitted to the parent ministry. Without taking the appropriate steps with the IRS and state department, you will not have the information necessary as well as the legal standing needed to apply for the charter.

Meet with the church board to discuss the organization's bylaws and define the church's purpose.

Write the church bylaws. The bylaws have several articles and each one list information about the organization such as the church name, church members and officers, and even how patrons become members of the church. There are different ways to format the bylaws, see Resources for an example.

Apply for an employer identification number, or EIN with the IRS. Apply for the EIN online, by fax or by phone. Submit the following information as part of the EIN application: your full name, the name of your church, the address of the church, the type of business you're starting (e.g., non-profit) and the social security number of the person starting or representing the church.

Complete Form 1023 to apply for 501(c)(3), or non-profit status. Answer all questions on the form. For example, enter the full name of the organization, the mailing address, the EIN you received in step 1, the name of the primary contact as well as contact information and the date the church was formed. Enter "Religious" as the reason for your exempt status application in Part III, Section 1, and list the names of the top five employees, officers and independent contractors who will receive compensation.

Submit Form 1023 to the IRS address listed on the last page of the form.

Contact your state's Department of Revenue and request an application to become tax-exempt. This form is typically similar to Form 1023 and must be returned to the state department.

Open a checking account once Form 1023 is processed and approved by the IRS. Use the EIN to create the checking account under the church's name.

Apply for a church charter with the appropriate ministry. For example, if you want to start a church under the International Gospel Assemblies, contact that organization for a charter application. Enter the name of the church officials and offices held, the name of the church and address, the pastor's name and address, the EIN and all other required information. The pastor, and sometimes the secretary, must sign the charter application.

About the Author

Si Kingston has been an online content contributor since 2004, with work appearing on websites such as MadeMan. She is a professional screenwriter and young-adult novelist and was awarded the Marion-Hood Boesworth Award for Young Fiction in 2008. Kingston holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Mills College.

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