If your church plant is self-governing, self-supporting, and self-multiplying, you are ready to graduate from church plant to organized church! Follow the steps below to organize.
- Make a request to the classis to become organized.
- Write and file articles of incorporation. Click here for more information about articles of incorporation and examples. All articles of incorporation must include:
- All provisions that are required by the laws of the jurisdiction where the church will be incorporated. These vary by state.
- Any provisions that are required by tax authorities, such as the United States Internal Revenue Service or the Canada Revenue Agency (a.k.a. Revenue Canada), to help ensure that the corporation is (a) exempt from taxation and (b) an entity to which contributions are tax-deductible.
- Formulary 15 from the RCA’s Book of Church Order (BCO), which reads as follows:
Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in this [insert description of organizational document], this [corporation/organization] is a member church in the Reformed Church in America; is (and at all times shall be) subject to and governed by the Constitution of the Reformed Church in America; and agrees that the provisions of this [article/chapter/paragraph] shall not be amended or modified in any manner without the prior written consent of the classis of which this [corporation/organization] is a member.
- Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN), which is the organizational equivalent of a Social Security number.
- Adopt internal accounting procedures so you no longer depend on a parent church to provide these services.
- Adopt bylaws. Make them concise; include only the necessary elements. Develop a separate document of policies that can be more fluid and adaptable. Your bylaws must be reviewed by the classis, which is responsible for approving the election process. Include Formulary 15 from the RCA’s Book of Church Order here as well. Click here for more information about bylaws.
- Elect elders and deacons according to the process determined in your bylaws. Stagger the terms of those first elected to office to avoid complete turnover at the end of the first term. The Book of Church Order says: “The first elders and deacons of a newly organized church shall determine by lot, at the first meeting of the consistory following upon their installation, who of their number shall serve for one year, two years, and three or more years” (BCO 1.II.7.11b).
- Schedule an organization service. Make sure representatives of the classis are there to preside over the formal steps of organization. During this service the newly elected elders and deacons will be ordained and installed. The pastor will be installed as well. A brief history of the new church is commonly celebrated with stories and pictures.
- Function according to your bylaws.
Once these steps are completed, you’re organized! The clerk of classis will notify the denomination of the church’s organization and pastor’s installation, and the new congregation will be recognized at the next gathering of the General Synod.