Central Baptist Church of Southington Connecticut


I’m From the Government and I’m Here to Help You

  • Jim Townsley
  • May 1, 2017
Starting a church involves more than preaching the gospel. The church planter must learn how to work with government leaders. Some leaders will be very accommodating, while others say they are from the government and they are there to help you. But you must beware; some government officials may cost you much time and money. Remember, these officials are in the stead of God and they have all the power of the town and perhaps the state to back them. It is unwise to fight with them. You must learn to work with and make friends with them. In the end you will be more successful by befriending them than by fighting them. 
When starting a new church several legal issues must be dealt with almost immediately. Before holding the first service two initial decisions must be made. The first decision you must make is the matter of incorporation. (If you do not incorporate you may personally become vulnerable to lawsuits and other serious liabilities.) Secondly, you must decide what you will do about federal tax exemption. Both of these tasks can be done by you personally, however with the challenges of our modern society I would suggest using an attorney. If you do not have the money to spend on an attorney perhaps there will be one available from a sister church or home church that will assist you for a low fee or no fee. I would highly recommend utilizing the services of a lawyer because the cost for making wrong legal decisions can be very high. 
Also, many communities have zoning laws that require permission from the town to meet in certain locations. Checking with the local zoning officer is a must. You would never want to start advertising a meeting place and be evicted just days before your first service. In some cases even using a rental hall requires town approval at a scheduled board meeting. Approvals can take a few weeks so keep in mind you will need to start early in seeking approval. It is best to be certain of all zoning laws before signing a lease agreement. In addition, never purchase property without it be contingent on zoning approval. It would be devastating to buy property and not be able to use it.
The use of temporary signs may also have restrictions. Can you put them out on the street or is it prohibited? Old timers from your community may help you to determine the way things are done. Seeking counsel from someone well ingrained in the community can be a huge help. Sometimes seeking permission is a mistake and being too up front can be counterproductive. I have known town officials to say, “If you hadn’t asked me you could have done it, but since you asked I must deny your request.” Each town is different so it is important to find out how your town works. You do not want to disregard your local laws, but some things are better done without asking questions. Putting out temporary meeting signs may technically violate local ordinances but it may be a common practice in the community. Local residents can help you determine the rules of the road.
When the church reaches the stage of buying property and building a church building it will be important to know your leaders well and to have earned their trust. Visit your town hall or county courthouse often and befriend the key people. Relationships with these people will help you in the end. You can fight city hall, but the chances are you will lose. Some day you will be thankful you sought their friendship and support.