How to Apply for Your Church Plant 501c3

You know that your new church plant falls under the IRS’ blanket 501c3 exemption, but you’ve run into several situations where you really need the 501c3 Determination Letter in writing.

Or maybe you’re just planning ahead and see the long-term advantages to sending in the application now, before your Grand Opening.

What’s the Problem?

The IRS Form 1023 can be daunting: pages and pages of questions covering every minutia about your church plant, many requiring extended essay answers. It  answered all of those and assembled the supporting documents for upload, it can take. This is the typical church planter’s nightmare.

What to Do

Break it down & take it a step at a time. Better yet, get someone who is detail-oriented on your team to help put the church plant 501c3 application together:

  1. Create a business account at
  2. Search for Form 1023 (the 501c3 application) and start filling it out
  3. Many of the questions on the form itself require essay answers, so you may need to save and come back to the application more than once
  4. Attach your organizing document(s). They only allow you one single PDF upload, so you’ll have to merge your Articles of Incorporation (make sure it includes a purpose statement that satisfies IRS requirements, along with a dissolution clause) and bylaws into a single file
  5. If you have one handy, merge the senior pastor’s resumé in that single PDF file (but don’t create one just for this)
  6. Secret sauce: merge in a copy of your facility lease or agreement. They don’t ask for it, but IRS still thinks in terms of brick-and-mortar
  7. Make sure the church’s name and EIN are on every page that is submitted
  8. On the final pages of the online application you’ll be prompted to “sign”, upload the single PDF and pay the $600 application fee

Now you get to wait 3-6 months for them to get around to looking at it.

Check the IRS Website for current processing times.

Bonus: Tips for Filling out the IRS 1023

  • Use churchy language – this is your chance to pull out all the theological words that would impress your seminary professors
  • Carefully word your answer to their new, specific question about financial training classes (Section IV, question 8). Emphasize that you’d be teaching financial principles from the Bible and that the classes not the major focus of your ministry (presumably). I’ve seen on several occasions the IRS reply with “we think you might actually be a credit counseling agency.” Seriously.
  • Answer their questions truthfully but succinctly; don’t offer any extra, non-essential information as it will surely prompt them to ask questions, slowing your approval

Next Post: How to Get Faster 501c3 Application Processing


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