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How do I start my own church?

from: Jay

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I'm curious how to start an agnostic church in the local area I live in. Any suggestions on where to acquire this information?

The Patriarch replies:


I assume you are talking a physical church where people actually meet. To be honest, I have no experience in this area. I've only started one online and that basically involves starting a website.

In my opinion, the concept of a physical agnostic church is only sustainable in a major metropolitan area where there is a large population to draw from. In a small town of a population of less than a thousand in a southern US state such as you live in, I cannot see it working, though I'd like to be proven wrong on this.

There is nothing to start a church in the USA - just have a place to meet - your living room, your basement, anywhere. You just declare yourself a church. It's pretty simple, unless you want to incorporate and seek tax-free status. In that case, you need to seek legal advice. See a lawyer.

But in starting out with no revenues and minimal expenditures, it's rather pointless to incorporate. Concentrate on the real problem - finding and keeping a congregation. That takes leadership, charisma, a program or plan, and publicity.

You can start out with a classified advertisement in the local paper. In a small town, you want to draw from as wide an audience as possible. So I suggest that rather than advertising a "church" for "agnostics", advertise for those interested in setting up a "discussion group" for "skeptics, freethinkers, atheists, agnostics, and non-believers." And rather than putting your phone number or address in the ad, set up an email address specifically for this project for people to reply to. (In a small southern town, you are going to get some disagreeable responses - aka hate mail - to such an ad.)

Once you have a few names, organize an initial meeting. Use that meeting to determine if people would like to meet regularly, and get suggestions for what they'd like to discuss. Involve others in the organization so they feel ownership for it.