Knowing how to plant a church requires research, sound guidance from those who have gone through the process and plenty of planning. The idea of starting a whole church from ground zero can be intimidating. With so much work to do to lay a strong foundation and create a framework that will help your new church start strong and continue to grow, creating a road map to guide your journey is a crucial first step. Below, you’ll learn the key steps in the process, when to tackle each one and how to handle challenges along the way. Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
- 10-12 Months Out
- 7-9 Months Out
- 4-6 Months Out
- 2-3 Months Out
- 1 Month Until Your Church Launch
- Prepare Your Launch Team
10-12 Months Out
When you're 10-12 months out from starting a church, you'll need to focus strongly on the community around you. Are you moving to a new area? If so, this is the time to find a home for you and your family, along with a good school system and a job in the desired location.
Once you choose a community, you're probably wondering how to plant a church. You'll want to forge relationships with neighbors.
If there are community gatherings, you'll want to attend and introduce yourself and your family. Look for ways to engage with others, such as volunteer work and helping out at local events.
At this stage of church planting, you'll also want to look for demographic information with your Ministry Area Profile. This will help you understand your community's unique demographic and how you can best connect with community members.
Next, you'll want to update your ministry plan. If you have a prospective partner, ensure they have a copy of your most recent ministry plan.
Identify Your Mission and Purpose
As you identify your mission and purpose for your church plant, you'll want to ask yourself some questions.
- What does God wish for you to accomplish with your church?
- What makes your ministry important?
- How can you help the community?
- Why are your relationships important, both with your family, friends and the community?
- What's your purpose for existing?
Once you have a clear understanding of your mission and purpose, you can analyze where you're presently at using the power of prayer.
The Power of Prayer: Consider Where You Presently Are
Now is the ideal time to ask God for help with a learner's spirit, and to achieve so humbly. It's best to write out all your strengths and weaknesses, along with what can hinder your church planting.
When analyzing how to plant a church, remember to consider each opportunity that lies ahead. You can ask others to give you honest feedback about what they think of your church planting strategy and what they feel you should improve. Brutal honesty is key.
Think of Initiatives
This is where the fun begins, as you can analyze everything you want to do over the upcoming year as you start a church. You initially want to ask God for the creativity, vision and wisdom needed for successful church plants.
Welcome new people in your life, and look to them for brainstorming ideas. During this phase of planning, you're not focused on what's doable, but rather on what you'd do if you had unlimited resources. Think about what your church and your mission mean to you and the community, and be sure to include children and young adults in this planning process.
You might find that you have hundreds of great ideas during this stage of the planning process, and that's okay. You're dreaming up church planting strategies, and all ideas are on the table.
Consider Reasonable Plans
Once you consider every initiative possible, it's time to listen to the voice of reason. Although it would be wonderful to see all your initiatives come to fruition, you'll need to select reasonable, achievable ones you could do within the next year.
Consider what initiatives are the most important to you, and look for ways to incorporate them into your mission, even if on a smaller scale. If one of your initiatives is to help everyone in the world secure stable work, you might tailor it to hosting a monthly employment fair for community members.
You should also aim for a short plan at first. Next, select a way to check in with your progress. This should also be simple and not time-consuming, such as a reminder on your phone, or an accountability buddy such as a friend or family member.
And, no matter what, remember to enjoy God's blessings.
Now is the time to seek incorporation for your church. If you have church members already, you'll need their consent to incorporate. Once you vote on incorporating your church, you'll need someone to handle all the paperwork, including the articles of incorporation. You might want to hire an attorney or an accountant to help you with this step.
Whoever you designate your registered agent needs to have a physical address in the state you're starting your church so they can accept any official mail on the church's behalf. You might even be allowed to use the church as its own registered agent and use its address.
You also want to prepare any nonprofit articles of incorporation. Ensure they comply with your state's nonprofit incorporation laws. You can usually find a template online to download from your secretary of state's office.
This template walks you through the information needed. Nonprofit articles usually classify a church as a nonprofit that's member-based. You may want to include a purpose clause that comes from your church's constitution.
Next, file the nonprofit articles of incorporation with your state. Sign them by the incorporation and include the state's filing fee. Once it's accepted, your church is incorporated.
You'll now need to invest in financial software. Popular brands include , PowerChurch, Church Windows, Ministry Platform, Shepard's Staff, IconCMO. Vanco's online giving software for churches seamlessly integrates with each of these systems to make accounting and giving management a breeze.
You might want to consider hiring an accountant to help you with this process. Next, you need to establish a budget.
Remember to identify what your church's vision is and forecast donations and possible income. You also need to audit your current expenses and burger for next year's expenses.
Plan for how your church will grow and the impact that will have on your budget. Then share this budget with other members and continue to monitor it.
Track everything in a spreadsheet and fill out payroll tax forms for employees.
Legal and Corporate Actions to Take
As you wonder how to plant a church, you're probably wondering what legal action to take. At this point, you should get in touch with your AG District/Network Office and complete their New Church/PAC form. As an AG church, you won't need a 501(c)(3).
Ensure you have a temporary Board of Directors and an EIN. You can get your EIN by visiting the IRS website.
Next, create church bylaws. They help you avoid liability, so be sure they're written in clear, concise terms. You'll want these written before your incorporation with the federal government.
Once you've completed all these steps, you'll need to check that your church's name is available with the state. It's important to familiarize yourself with trademark law to protect your business from using the name of a competing business where you'd be forced to change your name or pay monetary damages.
Register with the State Department of Revenue to pay income tax, apply for Sales Tax Exemption and obtain a license to perform marriages.
Begin to Market
Now's the part of your church planting where you begin marketing. Start to develop your website.
You can use sites such as Wix that let you choose your domain name and create the website yourself. You also need to create social media accounts to connect with a larger audience.
Whatever user name and profile pic you use, keep them consistent between accounts. It's best to create accounts on Facebook (Meta), Twitter and Instagram, to start.
If you're interested in creating a brand or logo design, now is the best time. You should also create business cards.
As you continue your journey, asking yourself how to plant a church successfully, you're probably wondering about ways to fundraise. You'll need denominational support. If there's a denomination that helps fund your church planting, be sure to adopt some of their values and reflect them in a show of solidarity through the word of God.
It's essential to build networks. These relationships will help you raise crucial funds for starting your church. You can contact church planting networks such as Acts 29, Association of Related Churches (ARC), Redeemer City and more.
Getting others involved, such as local businesspeople, is also a good idea. However, when going this route, be sure to have a strategic plan in place.
Individual donors are also a great source of church planting donations. You can create a fund-raising brochure or letter and send it to prospective financial donors.
Crowdfunding allows you to access friends, family and colleagues using social media to spread the word about a new business venture. It also allows you to attract new investors.
Start by creating an online giving portal and create a tentative operating budget.
Are you considering matching funds? CMN and AGTrust provide matching funds during a church's pre-launch phase.
CMN may match funds raised up to $50,000. Your church would need to replenish these funds back into the Matching Fund.
During this stage of starting a church, you'll also need to establish a prayer team to regularly pray for your new church plant and your community, keeping in contact with them regularly. You also want to connect with a CMN coach, asking them questions as they arise. Also, meet with your network/district leaders or church planting directors at this time.
7-9 Months Out
Now that you're only 7-9 months out from the launch of your brand new church, you can begin recruiting members for your launch team. When recruiting members, be sure to ask them why they want to be a part of your team and if they can financially commit, along with any other interested community members they might know.
Ask yourself what your team is missing and how you can find these members. If you have some members in mind, determine who's going to ask them to join and if they agree, when they can start.
Once you have your launch team selected, you need a blueprint of each member's roles. You should break your launch tea into sections. These include the following:
- Kids Ministry
- Youth Ministry
- Worship team
- Creative arts team
- Hosts team
- Community leaders
It's your job to ensure every launch team member has clear guidelines of your expectations for them. This includes events they need to attend.
Now is the time to market more aggressively within your community. At this point, your website needs to go live, you need all social media pages up and running, and you'll need to invest in Google ads for your website.
You also need to apply for nonprofit status with USPS for any mailers you'll send out. If you have any upcoming events leading to your church launch, you'll want to make them publicly available for your community members to see.
Be sure your website has a donation form on it. Start sending out direct mailers to community members. Launch your crowdfunding campaign, and participate in community events to spread the word about your church launch.
Current Fundraising Strategy
Consider your 6-month operating budget. This is what you'll base your upcoming fundraising goal on. You also need to give your launch team a list of clarified expectations so they're kept in the loop.
As you continue to think about how to plant a church, you'll want to hold your first community event. Here are some ideas:
- Host a Church Potluck: You can ask everyone to bring their favorite covered dish, along with the recipe for some great conversation starters
- Prayer Meetings: This gives you the opportunity to pray together as a community as you plant your church
- Worship Nights: You can choose one night a week or host worship nights bi-weekly
- Missions Celebration: Celebrate missionary work you plan to do
- Christmas Pageant: Host this around the holidays to get community members involved
- Easter Picnic: This can also be a potluck, or you can work with local restaurants to see if they'd sponsor your event
- Easter Egg Hunt: You can host this in conjunction with an Easter Picnic
- Fourth of July Fireworks: Host Fourth of July fireworks, but be sure to have them professionally run to avoid injury
- New Year's Eve Celebration: This should be for families so everyone can attend
- Community Service Event: Consider a beach cleanup day, trash collection day, or other charitable events such as volunteering at a soup kitchen
- Banquet to Thank Volunteers: Get together to celebrate your volunteers for their hard work
- Summer Family Camp: This is great for the entire family to come together, spend time and see what your church has to offer
No matter what type of event you host, just be sure to promote it as much as possible. Make use of your social media pages and encourage interested members to spread the word to friends and family.
This is also an ideal time to join your local Chamber of Commerce and begin volunteering at local schools. You can also run a benevolence ministry. Forge relationships with other local pastors and churches.
You also want to host interest meetings at this time.
Begin Scouting Venue Locations
Where do you plan on physically opening your church? You should make a list of your top five venue locations and begin visiting them.
Ask God for assistance as you begin this part of your church planting process. Ask Him how to plant a church and He will reveal where you should set down roots.
Is there a part of your community that calls to you? If so, this is where you should begin looking for venue locations.
Investigate areas that don't have any churches yet. You may need to go where the need is greatest.
As you scout out prospective venues for your church, consider the layout. How do you want your church organized? Is the layout of the prospective venues easily accessible for all your members?
Is it handicap-accessible? Is there ample room for meetings and groups to gather? Is there space for childcare if needed?
Is there ample parking? Are the bathrooms in clean, working order? Is there a kitchen space, a stage and plenty of lighting?
As you look for a church, think about how a visitor would see it.
This part of your church planting should include the cost of each venue. Does the cost fit into your budget? Even if you find the perfect venue, you need to ensure you can afford it.
Consider if you'll pay rent monthly or quarterly and if everything you need to launch your church is included with the venue or if you need to purchase additional items before opening your doors. Remember to consider ongoing expenses, including cleaning services, utilities, electricity, internet, and so forth.
As you look for a venue, you'll need to ensure you have all your equipment set up and ready to go. If, for example, you're setting your church up in a community center, you'll find you need different equipment than you would if you rented out a restaurant.
If you rent out a school on weekends, you may have use of their projectors. However, if you rent a movie theater, you might not need chairs. Each venue has advantages and disadvantages with equipment requirements, so be sure to keep this in mind when selecting the perfect location for your church.
You also need to inquire about on-site storage locations. This prevents you from bringing your equipment to and from your church every weekend. If there's an on-site storage facility, you can simply store your equipment there when it's not in use.
Consider Your Church's Vision
A venue can tick every box on paper, but if it doesn't match your church's vision, then it might not be the venue for you. If you're looking for a warm and engaging atmosphere to attract those without a home church, then you may want to consider something warmer and more laid back, such as a bowling alley or a pizzeria.
If you're looking for a strong emphasis on children's ministry, then the venue you select needs to be safe yet fun for all children and ideal for children of all ages.
The end goal is a church where everyone feels welcome and secure.
Connect With Local Pastors
Networking is essential for starting a church, just as it is with small businesses. You can share knowledge with like-minded individuals and discuss local opportunities.
You can also forge connections and increase your confidence as your start your church. You'll also gain credibility as other trusted community members voucher for you and your church planting.
It's important to connect with other pastors in your area. Discuss where the greatest need for a new church is in your area.
Ask them what specific challenges your community faces, and what solutions they're looking for. And don't forget to ask other pastors to pray for you and your church planting strategies.
4-6 Months Out
At 4-6 months out from the start of your church, your questions about how to plant a church are slowly turning into tangible answers. This is the time when you'd want to ensure you have a venue finalized.
If you're torn between two venues, bring some trusted church members with you and ask for their opinion. You also need to finalize all logistics. If you're renting a venue, ask to see the lease and review its terms and conditions.
You can also ask a business lawyer to review the lease. If you have a security deposit due, be sure to add this to your budget. You should also complete a final walkthrough of your venue to check that everything is in good working order.
And don't forget to communicate openly with your venue's owner. Discuss your expectations so you're both on the same page.
Host Launch Team Meetings
Now is the time to lean on your launch team, and vice versa. You all need to be in sync with your church planting strategies, so it's a good idea to start hosting prayer nights if you haven't already done so.
You should also hold bi-weekly team meetings to discuss your progress with church planting thus far. You can also host bi-weekly interest meetings at this point.
Although you've been steadily working to recruit members to your church, now is the best time to double down on your recruitment process. It would be best if you tracked each launch team's progress of members they're added.
If there are any vacant launch team roles, you'll need to begin filling them at this time. You also need to recruit a worship team. Each team needs to be taught about your church's cultural values.
The next step in your marketing plan involves finalizing designs and gathering any resources you still need.
For example, you should start creating invitations, information cards and connect cards for community members. You'll need to work closely with your church launch team's designer unless you're handling this aspect of marketing yourself. If so, you can use free sites such as Canva.com.
You should also create a church app at this time. Your app needs to include the following:
- Your personal sermon notes
- Push notifications for members
- Daily Scripture/Devotional
- List of Events' Calendar
- Bible Study times and locations
- Other church groups and meeting times and locations
- The Bible
- Blog entries for your church
- Appointment setting options
A marketing company can help you with your app, should you choose to go this route.
Are there large equipment purchases you need to make? If so, now is the time to do so.
This may include instruments for live music, projectors and screens, computers, a sound system, platform decorations, furniture for a nursery or daycare center, tables, chairs, a trailer and a vehicle to pull the trailer.
Non-Profit USPS Status
As you continue to ask yourself how to plant a church and what steps are next, you'll need to apply for non-profit status with USPS.
This is not the same as securing non-profit status with the IRS and is a completely separate step.
2-3 Months Out
With only 2-3 months until your church plant comes to fruition and your launch your church, it's more important than ever to increase your community outreach efforts. This means heavily involving yourself in community projects and catering to your community's needs.
If you're looking for a church that appeals to families, you'll need plenty of programs for kids. Focus on your kid's ministry program ad include a Sunday School curriculum to help reach more families in the area. Always perform a thorough background check on any volunteers working with children and youth.
Who is your church management database provider? If you don't have one, you'll need to select one at this time.
You also need to determine who's going to count the offerings collected, who will follow up with connection cards and who will be responsible for conducting background checks for any volunteers that will be working with children and youth (this is s crucial step, so be sure to vet each volunteer very carefully).
You'll also need to host volunteer recruitment and assimilation sessions, assign volunteer roles, conduct new believer follow-up and outline your weekend logistics.
Contact your venue owner and clarify any expectations at this point. Be sure to obtain liability insurance as well.
Create Your Discipleship Growth Track
At this point in your church planting, you'll need to sit and write lessons for each membership class. You also need to prepare content for discipleship and leadership classes.
If you're wondering how to plant a church and which licenses you need for your meetings, you'll need to obtain your CCLI license. This is for any congregation that sings traditional hymns and modern songs. CCLI allows you to reproduce these songs in your church.
If you rely solely on sacred music, you might only need a license from OneLicense.
Check In With Your Family
There is a significant amount of stress associated with planting a church. However, you need to evaluate the health of your family unit. If the stress of church planting is too much for any of you, then take a week off to recoup and be with your family.
Plan Your Sermon
You should plan your sermons 6 months before your launch. You also need to develop a message for launch day.
Funding and Resources
This is the time to follow up with your strategic partners for funding. Create a list of resources you need to purchase. You may need to go to prospective donors if you need additional funds, but be specific with your needs.
At this stage in your church planting, you may want to purchase ProPresenter. This is for your slides and videos. You'll also need to purchase your sound system and lighting.
At this stage in your church panting, you'll need to finalize your marketing package design. Be sure to print materials, obtain pathfinding/directional signage, locate offering buckets and envelopes, design t-shirts and lanyards for members, and design flyers, connection cards, signage and mailers.
Your current marketing plan should reflect a reformatting of your website to reflect where you are in your launch phase.
Approach local sports teams, coffee houses and restaurants to market your church launch.
Last of all, you'll want to include prayer in this stage of your church planting. You need to continue leadership development as well.
1 Month Until Your Church Launch
Now that you've wondered about how to plant a church and have done so successfully, you can celebrate as you're only one month until your church launch!
It's time to prepare your first sermon series. Here are some examples of what you need to do when completing sermon notes:
- Choose a topic for your sermon
- Prepare yourself and your heart to preach your sermon
- Consider the topic deeply, and reflect on it
- Review any original languages
- Read commentaries about your sermon topic
- Create an outline
- Write with your specific audience in mind
- Speak so your listeners learn something from your sermon
You'll also need slides, video bumpers, music and countdown clock and video announcements.
Weekly Practice Services
Practice for your church launch by running through weekly practice services. After each practice run, debrief and discuss what went well and what needs work.
Now is the time to hype op launch day. You can invest in paid social media campaigns, hand out flyers in your community, send out mailers and use Google Ads, linking to your church's website.
Assemble Church Equipment
Have all church equipment assembled and ready to go. If you need to make any additional purchases, do so at this time. This includes toys, mints, cards, offering buckets, cables and other supplies.
You should also order any indoor and outdoor signs for your church. These should define spaces and help direct your guests.
You'll also need to order print materials such as bulletins and connection cards. Order invitations and ask your launch team to distribute them to friends, family and neighbors.
Order door hangers so you can invite neighbors to attend your church launch. Remember to purchase any other marketing materials you previously designed, such as t-shirts and lanyards for volunteers.
How to Plant a Church: Prepare Your Launch Team
Work with your launch team for on-the-job training and be sure to throw them a party to celebrate them and their hard work.
Next, create your launch day run sheet and prepare to launch your church!