Nonprofit Church or Ministry


Ministries and churches are similar and often get confused as the same thing. They both are religious entities and are working to spread the word of a higher power. However, when filing for the 501c3 status there are a few main differences that matter to the IRS.

Ministry is defined as the service, functions, or profession of the body or class of people authorized to conduct religious worship. Usually, ministries are put in place to help someone in the name of a deity. For example, a Christian ministry would hand out food to the homeless in the name of Jesus. When filing for the 501c3 nonprofit status as a ministry, most are able to file the 1023-EZ form. If a ministry is doing more extensive work (like housing or disaster relief) and know they will go over $50,000 a year in revenue for the initial years, they must file the 1023 standard form. Each of the forms have different fees.

Church is defined by the IRS as a building for the public worship of a deity or deities. Although the common term “church” is used in the 501c3 applications, any type of religion can apply for the nonprofit status. Churches tend to have a building (rented, owned, or donated), meet weekly for services, and have an already written doctrine. For example, a mosque is a place of worship for the Islam religion, meeting weekly either on Friday or Saturday, and has the Quran as the main book of doctrine. The only type of form a church is allowed to file for the 501c3 nonprofit status with the IRS is the 1023 standard form.

Even though they are similar in the sense that they are both centered on a religion, there are a few big differences between ministries and churches. It matters greatly when it comes to filing the 501c3 nonprofit status with the IRS. Deciding which type of religious entity to file mainly relies on these questions: does the organization have a building and weekly services; or is the organization simply going to do good deeds in the name of a deity?

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