So You Want to Start Your Own Ministry, Part 1

post date: June 21, 2010

But we have learned a few things along the way. Upon reflection the following thoughts came to mind:

1. Starting a ministry by itself is a fairly simple process. You need an idea, you need a name, you need a board, you need some officers, and you need to incorporate in your home state. The actual process is fairly simple.

2. The much bigger hurdle is getting non-profit status from the IRS, the 501c3 designation. That took us a full year of hard work. The IRS requires very careful record-keeping, budgets, detailed statements of purpose, explanations of what your ministry will do, and so on. Part of this is due to post-Katrina reaction when many non-profits sprang up to “help” the victims but instead fleeced the donors who wanted to help. So the IRS has gotten more picky about it. You’ll need a good lawyer to walk you through this process.

3. How much money do you need? The answer is, it depends. All you’ve got and then some. And definitely more than you think.

4. By far the best way is not to depend on your ministry for your salary at the beginning. It’s much more difficult if you plan to be supported from the get-go.

5. The purpose part is very hard because in the beginning you don’t know what you want to do. Or you do, but it usually changes over time. I had a wise person tell me that it took him 5 years with his ministry to begin to figure out what they were supposed to be doing. Another friend said it took 10 years to feel comfortable with their mission. 

6. You need a website. Start one now. Don’t wait to start your ministry and then start a website. Start one now and get it up and running. Doesn’t matter if anyone sees it or not. What you want is a well-developed website from Day 1. And you also want to be on Facebook and Twitter from the beginning. It’s a lot of work, but we live in a social networking world.

7. And start a blog . . . now. Focus the blog on the focus of your ministry.

8. Find some noteworthy friends to be on your Board of Reference. That helps in the beginning. Tell them, “no meetings and no money.” You want to borrow their good name while you get your ministry off the ground. You’ll have to ask 15 to get 10 but that’s okay. Throw those names around liberally in the beginning. Put them on one version of your letterhead. List them somewhere on your website.

9. Be conservative about money. Don’t go into debt early on if you can help it. 

That’s enough for the moment. A few more thoughts tomorrow.


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