Each United Methodist Church should be incorporated with the state of Illinois as an NFP or Not-For-Profit Corporation. First, it is strongly encouraged by our Conference leadership. Second, if the church is incorporated with the state of Illinois and is sued, their liability ends with the exhaustion of the incorporated church’s assets; if the church is not incorporated, lawyers can then go after the assets of individual church members. At $11 per year, the cost of NFP incorporation with the state of Illinois is very inexpensive.
Step 1: Are you incorporated now? Go to https://www.ilsos.gov/corporatellc/ and click on the choice “Corporate and LLC“and then <Submit>. Then select “Key Word (Word may appear anywhere in name),” input the name of your town and then search for it as a keyword. This will generate a list of local NFP Corporations. The Corporate name must be unique and your church might have an unusual name. Most will be some variation of Town First United Methodist Church, or First United Methodist Church Town or simply Town United Methodist Church.
Step 2. If your church is listed, click on the link to reach the Corporation File Detail Report page. Print this page for your records. Note the “Incorporation Date (Domestic)” – you must renew the incorporation before the first of that month or there will be a late fee.
Step 3. To renew the incorporation, go to the bottom of the page and click on “File Annual Report.” You will be directed to a page where you can file this report electronically and pay $10 with a credit card plus a $1 processing fee.
“A maximum of six officers and seven directors can be entered via the web form. If you need to enter more officers or directors, you must file the annual report on paper.” If you have more than 7 Trustees, you can have the Trustees vote as to whom to list on the electronic form; a minimum of three are required. Or list all of the Trustees and file by paper. (Many smaller churches may have 7 or fewer Trustees so this will not be a problem.)
“The registered agent and/or registered office cannot be changed via an electronically filed annual report.” If there is a need to change the registered agent, this must be done later. The pastor should not be the registered agent. The mailing address used should be the legal mailing address of the local church office. If mail is not delivered to the church, use the address used for bills. A post office box cannot be the registered address. An annual reminder to renew will be sent by the state to this address.
IF YOUR CHURCH IS NOT INCORPORATED WITH THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, you can review the instructions at this link: https://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/departments/business_services/incorporation/nfp_instructions.html
The cost will be $50 plus a credit card processing fee. Payment must be in the form of a credit card. The state accepts the following card types, Visa, MasterCard, Discover or American Express. Clicking on <File> at the bottom of the page will take you through a sequence of input screens to complete the incorporation process. Filing an annual report will only cost $11 in future years.
Again, the state says that “You may list between three and seven directors on the Articles of Incorporation.” Smaller churches may wish to simplify this process by electing six trustees rather than the maximum of 9 Trustees, in order to allow for electronic filing by the State of Illinois.
You can consult with the State of Illinois by phoning the Corporations Division at 217-782-6961 – Hours are Mon.–Fri. 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. There is also “A Guide for Organizing Not-For-Profit Corporations” at https://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/publications/pdf_publications/c165.pdf
Internet links can frequently change; if they are no longer valid, look for the information under “Business Services” at www.cyberdriveillinois.com.
This article reflects the understanding of the author, who is not an attorney and without the intent of providing legal advice; if you have questions, please consult a legal authority. The intent of this article is solely to facilitate the filing of the paperwork by local church pastors.