Below is a list of the 14 Points which the IRS uses as a guidlines to determine whether or not an entity can be called a 'church' and therefore be entitled to tax-exempt status.
The Universal Life Church Seminary has been working dilligently since its inception to meet the criterion for non-profit status with the IRS. These 14 points are discussed in the Zondervan Tax Guide for Churches. I'm going to discuss how the ULC Seminary meets each of these points.
1. Distinct legal existence. - The ULC Seminary was incorporated in 2004. We elected a board of directors at that time and have had regular meetings.
2. Recognized creed and form of worship. - We have a posted Declaration of Intent and Statement of Beliefs. The congregation of this ministry get regular communication in the form of newsletters, emailed sermons, Sunday School and much more.
3. Definite and distinct ecclesiastical government. - As previously mentioned, we have a board of directors as well as a number of minister who serve as consultants in various areas where they hold expertise.
4. Formal code of doctrine and discipline. - Our doctrine is clear and concise: To Do That Which is Right. If any of our ministers choose to ignore that doctrine, they can be removed from membership in the Seminary.
5. Distinct religious history. - The denomination of ULC has been in recognized existence for approximately 50 years.
6. Membership not associated with any other church or denomination. - While we don't require that any of our ministers renounce membership in any other church to which they may belong, most of our ministers are exclusively members of the ULC Seminary, as well as members of the denomination. The Universal Life Church Seminary offers membership certificates, which shows their membership to the Seminary.
7. Organization of ordained ministers. - 99.9% of our congregation are ordained ministers. Occasionally, we have people who want to join in the fellowship of our congregation, but are not yet ready to take the step of becoming ordained ministers.
8. Ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of studies. - We have an extensive Seminary program consisting of courses lasting a minimum of 4 months, with most being at least 5 or more. Those who complete the required number of course credits receive a special degree.
9. Literature of its own. - The ULC Seminary is a wealth of unique literature. Rev. Amy Long, the President of the Board, has authored three books: The Ultimate Wedding & Ceremony Workbook for the 'Planning-Impaired' (exclusively) and both Weddings, Funerals and Rites of Passage (and MORE Weddings, Funerals and Rites of Passage) (in conjunction with a number of other ministers.) The Seminary also has seminary courses that are unique and exclusive to our organization.
10. Established places of worship. - Our ministers have the option of fellowship in our forum to discuss our very large selection of frequently updated sermons. Our ministers have a choice of Christian Religious Sermons, Spiritual Sermons, & Pagan Sermons, which can be mailed weekly. We also offer poetry of our ministers to share with everyone. Our ministers congregate largely online in the forum, they also meet in myspace, Facebook, Twitter and Ning, as well as our ministers who meet locally for fellowship.
11. Regular congregations. - Our ministers congregate online in the forums and in other places online. They meet regularly, as our forum is available 24/7.
12. Regular religious services. - Our sermons are updated at least once a week and sometimes more often. Our ministers are encouraged, both on the site and through newsletters and our seminary mailings to submit sermons for online publication. We publish them on the website, as well as on our ULC blogs.
13. Sunday schools for religious instruction of the young. - We have a posted Sunday School program that is ever-changing and growing, as well as one that can be emailed to each individual. We believe that parents are the best ones to instruct their young in their spiritual beliefs. However, we also feel that providing instructional material of a wide-variety of styles and beliefs may help parents or Sunday School teachers enhance their teaching abilities. We encourage our ministers to share their favorite Sunday School lessons to share with the congregation.
14. Schools for preparation of its ministers. - We have an ever-growing Seminary program that includes courses in different religions and belief systems. We feel it's essential that our Universal Life Church ministers are well-educated and well-rounded.
For additional information on starting your own church, use the following links:
Sample Bylaws - When creating your church, you will be asked to create your bylaws. This page has a sample of the bylaws I used. You are welcome to copy them and change them to suit your person church and situation.
Articles of Incorporation - It's also necessary to have articles of incorporation if you wish to incorporate your church. These are ones I created. Again, you are welcome to use them and change them as appropriate for your own needs.
Declaration of Faith - For each church, this is obviously going to be different. You may use this as a template to create your own declaration of faith. This is a great statement to share with the people of your congregation.
Statement of Beliefs- A statement of beliefs is similar to a declaration of faith. You can use this sample to see if it's something that you need and want to have for your own church and your own website. Talk to your congregation about what they think would be right for you.
Opening Resolutions - This is one of the things required when starting a new church. As with all the other things in this section, you can use this as a guide to help you create what you neeed for your own church. This is what I used when creating the ULC Seminary church.
IRS Qualifications - This article talks about what the main 14 points are that the IRS requires in order to establish your church as a church in the IRS's eyes. You can review them and see how well your church fits those requirements before you file for consideration.