Church Business Resources
Please know that the items on this page are not official recommendations from Church Venture Northwest. They simply reflect resources that have come to our attention and/or that have proven helpful and useful in the past. We realize that each ministry and each of our churches is unique in terms of operation and staff background/expertise. Therefore, we hope that the contents of this page will provide a sound, positive, and constructive starting point in your search for the best possible tools to answer your questions and meet your needs.
Audit/Certified Public Accountancy (Oregon)
Church Law & Tax Resources
Please visit the Church Law & Tax Store website (store.churchlawandtax.com) for a plethora of resources to help you in ministry, including:
- Church and clergy tax guides
- Compensation handbooks for church staff
- Pastoral liability
- Legal training for church boards
- Toolkits to help you hire the right people for your ministry
- Purchasing property
- Emergency preparedness toolkits
- And more
Church Loans & Estate Planning
Our partnership with the Northwest Baptist Foundation (NWBF) provides CVNW churches the unique opportunity to be in covenant community by assisting one another in better making disciples through investing in the CVNW Loan Pool and borrowing from the CVNW Loan Program.
The CVNW Loan Pool focuses on investing in the ministry of other CVNW churches and the CVNW Loan Program offers exclusive interest rate discounts for being in covenant community while borrowing to refinance, purchase, construct or renovate a facility to enhance the ministry through it.
The NWBF also assists individuals with the stewardship of estate planning and they offer several options for presenting estate planning to your church. They provide a complete service to individuals who desire to establish or update an estate plan, as well as full church presentations on the value and importance of this type of planning.
Church Venture Northwest recognizes how difficult and emotional deciding to dissolve a church can be. Our team is here to help ensure that you know and understand all the necessary steps and provide you with needed support throughout the process. As you work through this document and have any questions or discover any needs, please don't hesitate to contact us at [email protected] or 503-669-1515.
Disclaimer: Dissolution is a change in the church's nonprofit status, which is governed by state law. Church Venture NW does not claim this article as legal advice. It is strongly recommended to seek guidance from an attorney, accountant or another qualified advisor who has experience in this field to help guide you through the dissolution process.
Important Things to Know Ahead of Time
- Dissolution is not a simple, quick process, and can likely take several months-even after operations have ceased.
- Sensitivity and transparency are key in communicating to the employees, volunteers, beneficiaries, congregation and community.
- The church isn't considered dissolved until dissolution papers are filed with the state, the final annual IRS 990 form is filed, and other important final steps are completed.
- It is helpful to have readily available: the church's federal and state tax identification numbers and documentation stating the church's nonprofit status.
Board of Trustees/Elder Board Roles & Responsibilities
After prayerful consideration, if it is determined that it is necessary to dissolve the church, the Board of Trustees/Elder Board must complete the following before the church is considered dissolved:
- Refer to the church's Bylaws/Articles of Incorporation to determine who is entitled to vote on dissolution (i.e., elder board only, congregation, etc.).
- Develop a written Dissolution Plan that includes a timeline of when and how the church will dissolve and how assets will be distributed.1
- Plan to maintain at least the minimum board members (according to Bylaws) until the entire dissolution process is complete.
Drafting the Dissolution Plan
A Dissolution Plan is a written description stating the church's intent for distributing the remaining assets and address any remaining liabilities.
- Every state has specific instructions and required forms to file for dissolution. Select the state the church is located in for instructions. (Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington) Do not submit Articles of Dissolution until voted upon.
- According to federal law, all assets from a dissolving nonprofit must be distributed to another tax-exempt organization. Schedule N from the IRS 990 is required to report a description of the assets, fair market value of said assets, information about the recipients and date of distribution.
- Request a TRIO Report and title search from a title company.
- Identify any liabilities the church may have, including taxes and creditors. Draft a plant to pay off debts and cease any future or recurring liabilities.2
- Review all service contracts to determine how much notice is required to terminate any contracts or service, as well as any early termination fees the church may be responsible for. Develop a plan to notify vendors and to pay final bills/fees.
- Notify employees and volunteers of the intent to dissolve and be prepared to answer any questions pertaining to their last day of work, eligibility for unemployment, etc.
- In compliance with the Bylaws, notify the congregation of the meeting to address issue of dissolution. (Notification must include a copy or summary of dissolution plan.)
- Conduct meeting according to Bylaws3 and record minutes.
- If "yes", notify any beneficiaries, such as other nonprofit groups that may use the facilities or mission agencies that the church has financially supported, providing them enough time to make alternative arrangements.
Filing for Dissolution
- If "yes", execute a formal resolution. A sample resolution is provided for your reference.
- Oregon and Washington also require dissolving nonprofits to first seek permission from the Attorney General before filing for dissolution. A sample letter is provided for your reference.
- Once the preceding steps have been completed, Articles of Dissolution can be submitted to the Secretary of State for filing. Select the state the church is located in for instructions and the form to submit the Articles of Dissolution. (Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington)
- Once submitted, the state will return the official document to the address on record with a stamp of approval for dissolution.
- Any transfer of property should be executed through legal paperwork (a warranty deed) and recorded along with the copy of the resolution at the county records office.
- Relinquish keys to facility, alarm code information, etc.
- Notify utility companies of transfer of ownership.
- Transfer ownership of bank accounts or close all bank accounts and send a check with remaining monetary assets to nonprofit designated to receive assets.
- File final quarterly federal and state payroll reports.
- Following the Records Retention Guidelines, box up church corporate, tax and accounting records, copies of reports, etc. and contact us to arrange for storage. (Email: [email protected] or phone: 503-669-1515.
1 Federal law requires a dissolving tax-exempt charitable nonprofit to distribute any remaining assets to another tax-exempt organization. (See IRS 990 Schedule N.)
2 NOTE: If the corporation/church dissolves and there is a dissatisfied creditor, or if assets are given to an entity that should not be receiving them and the Attorney General's office investigates, the Board may be held personally accountable.
3 NOTE: Unless the Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, Board of Directors or members require a greater vote, dissolution is authorized if it is approved by the members entitled to vote on dissolution at least two-thirds of the votes cast (AK, ID, OR), or a majority of the voting power, whichever is less, (ID, OR) or by a majority of the votes cast. (OR)
Finances for Churches
ECFA has a wide variety of resources for churches related to church finances.
First Steps of Incorporating a Church
Church Venture Northwest (CVNW) recommends that churches become incorporated. There are a number of benefits for an incorporated church, the most important is the protection it provides for individual members from personal liability associated with negligent or criminal acts.
This document provides a step-by-step guide to help churches understand all that is needed to incorporate. It is important to understand that every state has different legal requirements for incorporation. Our website provides resources for the four states in our association, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska.
Write your Bylaws
Simply put, bylaws are a guide to how your church will be organized. Too often, churches create Bylaws that are unnecessarily complex and cumbersome to live by. (Bylaws are often called the "Constitution" of the church. Bylaws are required by the state. Whether you call it Bylaws or a Constitution, the state will consider it Bylaws.)
The polity page on our website contains resources to assist your church in developing bylaws. Since legal requirements vary by state, the website is organized by the four states of CVNW. Click on the state the church is located in and download the following resources (this will be a zip file with these four documents):
- Guidelines for Bylaws
- Sample Bylaws
- Articles of Incorporation
- Legal Requirements
Get an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
An EIN number is a personal number assigned to a church (or business). It is not only needed for tax purposes, but necessary for establishing certain documents and opening a bank account.
The process is simple. Apply online by completing the SS-4 form. The form will ask for basic information about church, including name, address, and type of entity. (Select "church or church controlled organization".)
You can also apply by phone, mail, and fax. More information can be found here.
Obtain Articles of Incorporation
Articles of Incorporation specify the financial and legal structure of the church. This process varies by state. Our website has helpful resources to understand the purpose and the steps of the process according to your state. There is also a form available for each state to use to submit your Articles of Incorporation.
Open a Bank Account
Once your church has an EIN number, you can open a bank account. Some banks may require proof of 501(c)(3) status before proceeding.
Obtain 501(c)(3) Status
Churches that meet the requirements of section 501(c)(3) are automatically given tax-exempt status without having to apply; however, there are several reasons it would be good for a church to officially apply for 501(c)(3) status.
If a church chooses to obtain 501(c)(3) status, there are two options available.
- Churches affiliated with CVNW are covered under the 501(c)(3) umbrella of Venture Church Network. To obtain a copy of a letter confirming your church's 501(c)(3) status, please visit the VCN website to submit a request. (You have to have an EIN number to request a copy.)
- Churches may choose to obtain their own 501(c)(3) status. There are several resources online to help churches in this process. Things to remember and consider:
- You must have an EIN number before applying. To learn about other requirements, visit the IRS exemption requirement page.
- Go to the IRS Application Process page to help determine eligibility and next steps.
- Determine which form to file. For smaller churches, the 1023-EZ form is primarily used. Larger churches or churches with potential growth, churches with a larger budget and/or churches that will be applying for grants should use the 1023 form.
- Once you've submitted your application and are approved, the IRS will send a letter of determination. This letter gives the church eligibility to receive tax-free contributions.
Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company® is one of the nation's leading insurers of churches and ministries. In business since 1917, Brotherhood Mutual provides property, liability, commercial auto, workers' compensation, mission travel insurance, and payroll services to ministries throughout the United States, including:
- Church day nurseries
- Christian camps
- Association/Denomination offices
- Colleges and universities
- Other related ministries
Brotherhood Mutual is represented by independent agents who subscribe to a code of ethics based on scriptural principles and serve in churches and ministries of their own. The company consistently earns an A (Excellent) rating from A.M. Best, a leading authority in rating insurance companies.
We recommend our partner in ministry, Brotherhood Mutual represented by James Reed & Associates ([email protected]), for your insurance needs.
Question Hotline: 800-829-1040 (for questions raised by individuals)
Business & Specialty Tax Line: 800-829-4933
Exempt Organizations (EO) Division:
For help in completing forms W-2, W-3, 1099, or 1096 call 800-455-7438 Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM Eastern time.
Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company
Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company provides free resources for churches and related ministries that extend vastly beyond insurance-related topics. Ask a question, request an attorney referral, and more by visiting their website: www.brotherhoodmutual.com/legalassist.
Alliance Defending Freedom
We are excited to be partnering with Alliance Defending Freedom so that our churches and ministries are supported and defended in situations where our religious liberty is under attack. Their legal team is ready to assist us in our efforts to bring our faith into everyday life and to promote the gospel of Jesus Christ with wisdom and grace.
As a part of Church Venture Northwest, you will receive a 20% discount on your annual membership. For more information, please visit the ADF Church Alliance Partner site.
Non-Profit 501(c)3 Status
Many years ago, Venture Church Network successfully filed paperwork with the IRS which grants 501(c)3 non-profit status to all churches affiliated with our Association. For a copy of this crucial documentation for your church (which you will want to retain in your permanent archives for ready access), contact:
Venture Church Network
PO Box 7586
Goodyear, AZ 85338
Payroll & Taxes, and Other Tax/Legal Issues
Please know that the paragraphs below are intended to be purely informational and do not constitute an official endorsement by Church Venture Northwest of any individual, organization, or resource tool. If you are searching for assistance in one of these areas, we would encourage you to go through a responsible "due diligence" process in praying and seeking the Lord's direction to the service provider(s) best equipped to meet your specific need.
Does your church operate a preschool? An elementary school? A secondary school? A college? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then you are required to file a certificate of racial nondiscrimination (Form 5578) to the IRS each year by the 15th day of the fifth month following the end of your fiscal year. You may obtain Form 5578 and instructions for completing it by calling the IRS forms number (800-829-3676) or by downloading a copy from www.irs.gov.
Church reporting requirements, IRS regulations, tax issues, the clergy housing allowance, contributions, designated funds, business expenses, and a variety of related legalities?
You may wish to invest in the Church & Clergy Tax Guide. This valuable resource tool is available for $39.95 (price subject to change without notice) by visiting yourchurchresources.com or calling 800-222-1840 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. eastern time. Edited and updated annually by an attorney who is also a certified public accountant, the Church & Clergy Tax Guide is a comprehensive, authoritative source for answers to your questions. The book includes dozens of helpful, easily understood examples; comprehensive illustrations with forms; tables and case studies. 700+ pages.
How do I obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN)?
Information on applying for an Employwer Identification Number (EIN) is available here: www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Apply-for-an-Employer-Identification-Number-(EIN)-Online
Compensation for your pastoral and support staff?
You may wish to consult Church Law & Tax Report's Compensation Handbook for Church Staff. Currently selling for $39.95 (price subject to change without notice), this publication provides salary and benefit information on various different positions - based on the responses of thousands of survey participants across the country. The handbook provides breakdowns by church size, budget, setting, education, years-of-service, and more. Also included is Information on base salary, average salary increase, housing allowance, retirement funds, health and life insurance coverage, paid vacation, and much more. Visit store.churchlawandtax.com or call 800-222-1840 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. eastern time to place an order.
How to prepare your tax returns? (If you are a licensed or ordained minister.)
You may wish to contact James Rickard's staff with Stewardship Services Foundation. With over 90 years of collective experience and expertise in clergy tax preparation, SSF may provide just the information or assistance you need. The staff may be reached at 661-362-2829 or visit their website - www.ssfoundation.net.
The video at the following link will answer a number of questions about Housing Allowance: https://trust.guidestone.org/MHA_WebinarVideo.
Any issues involving the state where your church is located?
A good place to start is often the corporation division of your state government. Following are phone numbers and website addresses for our Church Venture Northwest churches.
If your church is located in Alaska, call 907-465-2550 or visit www.corporations.alaska.gov.
If your church is located in Idaho, call 800-972-7660 or visit www.sos.idaho.gov/corp.
If your church is located in Oregon, call 503-986-2200 or visit sos.oregon.gov/business.
If your church is located in Washington, call 360-725-0377 or visit www.access.wa.gov.
Policy & Procedures
The Frieze Resource Library provides:
- Organizational Manual
- Policies & Procedures Manual
- Administrative Forms Manual
- Internal Audit Checklists
- Employee Handbook
If you are addressing policy issues and are looking for sample documents, Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company has a wide variety of sample policies (vastly beyond insurance-related issues) that have been compiled by their legal staff. To investigate the helps available to churches in this area (free of charge), visit their website at www.brotherhoodmutual.com; in the search field on their home page, simply type in Sample Policy.
Real Estate Advice/Assistance (Oregon)
Mr. Michael Beirwagen
Prudential Northwest Properties
224 Corporate Center
6400 SE Lake Rd Ste 200
Portland, OR 97222-2129
Church Venture Northwest has a 50-year commitment to a secure retirement investment platform for our churches, their pastors, staff, and missionaries. Our retirement plan is a defined contribution (DC) plan designated in the Internal Revenue Code as a section 403(b)(9) plan. Eligible employees must receive taxable income from a participating Church Venture Northwest, Venture Church Network church or ministry in order to participate. This retirement program is very flexible and allows the local church/ministry to set participation parameters. Contributions can be made by the employer, employee or both.
The Church Venture Northwest Retirement Plan will:
- Help ministers and other Church Venture Northwest church employees better prepare financially for retirement years.
- Provide a tax-free housing allowance for eligible ministers in retirement.
- Allow participants individual investment options and 24/7 access to account information.
- Allow participants to invest in Christian-based, socially-screened investment funds.
- Provide free investment advisory services that are available to all participants.
There are several benefits and advantages to participating in the Church Venture Northwest retirement plan through the partnership with GuideStone:
- There is no cost to the local church/ministry for participation and no required minimum contributions.
- Salary-reduced contributions can be made tax-deferred or as Roth contributions.
- Easy-to-use internet-based management tool with 24-hour access is available.
- GuideStone is a leader in church plan administration, ministerial tax issues, and housing allowance.
Guidestone also offers a number of Articles, Websites, and Calculators on their website to help you with a variety of issues related to retirement and finances at www.guidestone.org/Resources/Education
For general plan information contact:
Senior Relationship Manager
Shawn is our primary advocate and consultant at GuideStone Financial Resources. He can be contacted for general questions about the plan or help navigating the plan resources.
For churches that would like information about getting started in the plan contact:
New Business Specialist
Kent should be contacted by churches that want to get started in our retirement plan. He can also help enroll employees into the retirement plan and set up contribution payments.
For Participating Churches and Participating Employees
You can access your account at https://my.guidestone.org
Senior Retirement Account Specialist
David is the contact for questions about monthly contributions, Employer Access Portal (EAP) updates, issues, or questions.
Your Employer Access Program (EAP) administrator (the person at your church who is responsible for interfacing with GuideStone) can access your account at https://eap.guidestone.org
For questions, please see this page for contact information: http://www.guidestone.org/AboutUs/ContactUs.aspx
Safety & Security
The ministry of the church can be seriously compromised by a failure to appropriately and effectively respond to an emergency situation. Emergencies can present themselves in all shapes and sizes, such as medical emergencies, environmental hazards (i.e. fire, earthquakes), and immediate threats to health, safety, and property. Developing and maintaining effective emergency operations plan for local churches and establishing a security team to implement the plan has become a vital part of ministry.
Please check out the following recommended resources. For a consultation or assessment we recommend you contact, Chris M. Olsen at [email protected].