Church Planting Checklist

Planting a church involves piecing together many small organizational details that cover the spectrum of theology to management.  A launch team with a wide set of skills is useful to tackle the different kinds of tasks required to open your doors.  An administrative checklist can be helpful to ensure that you aren’t missing any critical items as you work through the steps required to start your church.  This list covers many of the business type items that form the foundation of getting off the ground.

  • Pray for God’s direction and blessing.  A church must be established by Him, for Him and based on the principles He’s given in Scripture.  It goes without saying that this should be continued indefinitely.  A good book to help you pray Biblically is A Call to Spiritual Reformation, which takes you through Paul’s prayers for the church
  • Select or write a statement of faith to define what you believe.  Consider seriously what are the essential elements that you’re going to bind the members to.  For example, is a position on eschatology so important that you want to define your church by it or is it a relatively minor doctrine that you’ll allow people with a spectrum of beliefs to join.  Some examples of statements of faith are from the Westminster Confession, Bethlehem Baptist and The Gospel Coalition
  • Select or write a church covenant to outline how the church will behave as a body of believers.  This document isn’t discussed much, but goes hand-in-hand with the statement of faith.  Desiring God explains why a covenant is needed.  Examples here include Capitol Hill Baptist and Bethlehem Baptist
  • Establish a constitution to frame how the church will be governed including voting rules and administration.  This is a legal document, so it should be carefully constructed including specific content to protect the church
  • Set-up a not-for-profit corporation with your state (and possibly apply for 501(c)(3) status).  Apply for a sales tax exemption. This allows you to avoid state sales tax at retailers based on your not-for-profit status
  • Open a bank account: Some banks have special accounts for not-for-profits.  Consider the minimum balance requirements, branch network, number of free transactions, bill payment offering and fees for going over the free transaction threshold.  BMO Harris has a good offering if they’re in your area
  • Purchase liability insurance: The amount you need will depend on your situation (e.g., size of the space)  and the requirements of your lessor.  You may also need to add sexual molestation insurance
  • Rent a facility: Schools are often a good place to start because they’re relatively reasonable to rent.  They will need to see your certificate of insurance.
  • Purchase a Church Copywrite License (CCLI) for music to ensure that you’re in compliance with copywrite laws
  • Put up a website.  This can be easily done through simple templates at WordPress for free, but they reserve the right to advertise on your site.  If you want to avoid advertising, you’ll need to find a hosting provider and WordPress will direct you to some options.
  • Register the website with Google and Bing.  Register your location with Google maps.
  • Create a Facebook fan page and Twitter handle
  • Consider purchasing church management software for a membership directory, children’s check-in, contribution tracking etc.  Some of the software options are FreshVine, Fellowship One (the most expensive) among others
  • Create professional e-mail messages with  something like MailChimp, which is free if you have less than 12,000 messages per month
  • Register your church with external directories such as The Gospel Coalition9 Marks or others specific to your denomination
  • Develop a budget to cover building, staff, equipment, supplies, benevolence, missions and other needs
  • Decide what to pay your pastor.  Pastoral compensation is complex because of the tax laws associated with it including the housing allowance and double FICA, so study this closely.  Compensation surveys are available from the SBC, CRC , and a large church survey for free and a paid site called Ministry Pay to help guide you on what to pay staff.  There also a guide to negotiating compensation
  • Tackle the issue of ownership of the intellectual property associated with the sermons directly, so there is no conflict about whether they’re owned by the church or the pastor
  • Develop a policies and procedures manual that covers everything from how to count contributions to guidelines for volunteering.  Create a separate one for children’s ministry which may be required for insurance purposes
  • Plan your children’s ministry objectives, what age ranges you’ll teach and what curriculum to use.  Some good options are Children Desiring God, The Gospel Project (SBC) and DiscipleLand (PCA).
  • Within a reasonable time, you’ll want to establish elders (qualifications) and deacons (qualifications) in accordance with 1 Timothy 3
  • Educate your congregation on what membership means.  What is a Healthy Church Member is a great, brief book to use for this purpose

This list isn’t exhaustive, but will hopefully give you a jump start to work through some of the key administrative items when starting a church.  More importantly than fulfilling a checklist is to ensure that the whole council of God is preached in season and out of season, so that disciples are made who love God and their neighbors and observe all that God has commended.

About PS

The mission of James’ Mirror is to guide you to Christian resources such as books, articles and sermons that will enhance your knowledge of God (doctrine) and encourage your obedience to Him (discipleship).
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