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New Churches

Starting Up? Starting over?

"Where two or more are gathered..."

Resurrection Lutheran Church
Mankato, Minnesota

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Ya gotta do it!...

Our approach was:

Establish a meeting for those uncomfortable about remaining in the ELCA and interested in forming a new Lutheran Church--with most of our talk being about affiliation with LCMC so as to allow for ordained women to serve as pastors. The list of interested people was typically generated by visiting (over coffee) with fellow church members on Sunday morning after worship. In our town, we have used a meeting room at the Happy Chef Restaurant, the community room at a car dealership, and even an AFLC church at times. We've had up to 40-50 in attendance at times.

After a few meetings to discuss possibilities, the group elected a "steering committee" to formally initiate the process of establishing a new congregation. We felt weekly steering committee meetings would allow us to move on this with some dispatch. The committee typically met the night before the weekly meeting of our larger group (congregation) so we could keep them constantly informed of the process.

After reviewing several churches' articles of incorporation, we drafted our own articles of incorporation that the steering committee and "congregation" reviewed for a couple weeks. I recommend using the Minnesota Non-Profit Corporation Act (statute 317) to do this. Though we did not use a lawyer in all of this, I spoke with a friend who was a lawyer (now retired), and that was helpful. If you would like, I could send you a copy of our articles which you could use/modify. I found considerable information on the Internet, including some from retired IRS agents, suggesting that it probably is not wise for a church to establish a 501(c)(3) as doing so makes the church subject to the restrictions in the law established for "non-profits" in the late 1950s. IRS people have said that a church is AUTOMATICALLY exempt from filing tax returns, etc., and gifts to a church (which must function like a church--with worship services, church school, etc) are AUTOMATICALLY fully tax deductible without establishing 501(c)(3) status.

The steering committee asked me to be the "initial registered agent," so my name is listed in Article Five and my home address became the registered office for this new church. Be certain that when the name of the church is used in the document (the articles of incorporation), only the full legal name of the church (no abbreviations or shortened forms, etc.) is used. One can use the Minnesota Secretary of State's Office website to peruse a list of names that are taken, so are no longer available to others. Since there are other Resurrection Lutheran Churches, our submitted name became Resurrection Lutheran Church of South Central Minnesota. That was approved by the Secretary of State's office and we have our certificate of incorporation. I personally went to the SOS office in St. Paul to file it. It doesn't require a lawyer to do this.

With a church now legally established, one can apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. This is necessary to do banking and will be needed when the church employs staff personnel. You can apply for it by going to the website or calling the IRS at 1-800-829-4933. You can get the number the very day you call in. They will need the legal name of the church and the address. They will need the date the church was started. I used the date the Minnesota SOS's office issued the Certificate of Incorporation. Since we have no permanent address for our church, my address has continued to be used to minimize any confusion. Incidentally, when I made application for the EIN, I had to give them my SSN as the "responsible party," so, if you have someone who's apprehensive about offering such information, best use another person as the "initial registered agent" when filing the articles of incorporation in the first place.

After securing an EIN, we established a checking account, so we can now deposit offerings and pay bills. Of course, it's critical that donations be accurately documented.

All the while we have been working on our constitution--which has used "best options" from several church constitutions. We are close to final adoption and I can send you the latest draft--from our meeting last night--if you want.

Also critical is securing a worship setting. As others have reported our "best deal" came from the AmericInn in Mankato. The motel has a conference center and is located close to the MSU campus. We will have our first worship service on 7/11 using the liturgy in the ReClaim introductory hymnal and then will use a DVD for the sermon and repeat that format on 7/18 so we have a chance to worship together for a couple weeks--to "work out any kinks"--before we invite people to join us in worship. We figure we'll have the liturgy down pat by then so we can "help" our "guests" at the 7/25 worship service. Pray for us! We then anticipate several Sundays hearing visiting pastors preach and teach a Bible study so we can assess their compatibility with our situation and their abilities as preacher and teacher. We feel it crucial to get a quality pastor for a new pastorate like this. Not every pastor is equipped for "home mission" work. We have a member making a (nearly 4 feet tall) cross to stand on the altar. We will get a portable keyboard to assist in worship (the motel doesn't have a piano). We will be able to provide our own coffee and refreshments for fellowship, and use the conference room from 9:30 to nearly 12 every Sunday morning, since motels don't typically have demand for these spaces on Sunday morning. They have offered us this space for only $125 each Sunday morning. We plan to meet Wednesday evenings for fellowship and review of the previous Sunday's worship experience.

If you're aware of other factors we should be considering, let me know. We plan to submit an application to LCMC for membership, too, and their 501(c)(3) is in force, but that makes sense, since the national association itself is not a church. We will be happy to meet with any and all who are going through this or like processes: