Creating a Church or Centre

Creating a church or centre

If you are thinking about formalising the structure of your group or starting a new group one of the first things you need to decide is what is your purpose and vision, what is it that you are wanting to achieve. 

Once you have achieved this, you need to set about formalising your structure.

There are many advantages to having a formal organisational structure, including:

  • having a formal document such as a constitution, setting out what the group does and how it will do it
  • access to a wider range of grants, donations, contracts and loans
  • better credibility and accountability
  • the possibility of applying for charitable status, and so benefiting from exemptions from income tax, resident withholding tax and gift duty
  • prevention of people being personally liable for the group’s debts.

Most organisations register as either a charity with the Charities Commission or as an Incorporated Society.

Charities Commission

The Charities Commission has an extremely helpful website. One excellent resource that anyone considering starting a charity should look at is the Community Resource Kit. The Community Resource Kit is an amazing in-depth resource from Community Net Aotearoa. It is a guide to setting up and running community groups in New Zealand. It is for community, voluntary and iwi/Māori organisations, from small or emerging groups to more established organisations, and all the workers, volunteers and advisors working with these groups. 

  • Before registering with the Charities Commission, you will need to define many aspects of your organisation. These aspects are listed on their website.
  • You will also need to create a set of rules or a constitution. There is more help with formatting your rules or constitution below.

Incorporated Societies

The Incorporated Societies is the second most popular organisational structure for New Zealand not-for-profit organisations and their website gives details on the procedures you need to follow.  

An incorporated society:

  • has a set of rules that governs the way the organisation operates
  • has a minimum of 15 individuals or five corporate bodies such as other societies, charitable trusts or companies (each corporate body counts as three individuals), or a mix of both
  • can make profits and employ people, but may not distribute profits to members
  • has its income taxed although it may be eligible for a range of tax exemptions.

When you have been accepted as Charity (which are generally exempt from bank fees & tax) or Incorporated Society you can get your bank account. Most churches require 2 people to sign payments / cheques for their own protection (so someone can’t write themselves a cheque and then “take off”). Today many payments are done on-line via internet banking but only some banks are set up allow organisations requiring 2 signatures / approvals to pay this way. Those that don’t, require you to still use cheques. If processing payments on-line is important to you (e.g. for convenience), then check it out with the bank first.

Once you have a bank account, you can apply to Inland Revenue Department to get an IRD number which you then need to advise back to your bank.  If you have been accepted by the Charities Commission, you can then apply to be exempt from paying tax.

While this process may seem a bit daunting when you are starting, if you follow it through step by step using the many resources available to help you, including us at Spiritualism New Zealand, then you will soon have your organisation up and running.

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