Becoming a non-denominational ordained minister is easier than you think. There are numerous sites that offer free ordination certificates that most states will recognise without requiring any additional registrations. Being an ordained minister opens the doors for you to perform weddings and other religious rites, apply for a tax-exempt status and use a special IRS deduction form for clerical deductions. It will also permit you to serve your calling with all the respect that society gives to someone with the title of Pastor or Reverend. The following is a list of things you will need to complete almost any online registration and state registration, if necessary.
Locate the religious order or church by which you want to become ordained. Many offer simple Internet forms to complete the process. Some will require additional education and membership, but the final process of becoming a non-denominational ordained minister will be the same.
Fill out the application for ordination with your full and true name (the name on your birth certificate or a court order certifying your name change), legal address of residence, date of birth and contact phone number. All the information you supply must be true and accurate or the certificate of ordination issued will not be considered legal.
Submit your application and any registration fees to the organisation you have chosen. The organisation will keep a record of your ordination; that is the actual legal proof of your status. The certificate that will be mailed or e-mailed to you is only your receipt or proof that such a legal document exists.
Call your local courthouse and ask the Court Clerk if your state, country or town has any additional requirements for registration before you are allowed to perform weddings and other religious rites that have legal impact. Some states have strict time lines for when you must submit copies of marriage licenses and affidavits of marriage or the marriage you performed will be null and void in the eyes of the law. No matter what information you find on the Internet about your state's requirements, always call to check for the latest list as the information online may be out of date.
Go to the IRS web site and download Publication 517, Social Security and Other Information for Members of the Clergy and Religious Workers. Read this thoroughly; this will explain the IRS's requirements for filing for clergy. If you have any questions, call or e-mail the IRS for clarification and keep a written record of its response.
Also download the latest version of IRS Form 4361, Application for Exemption from Self-Employment Tax for Use by Ministers, Members of Religious Orders and Christian Science Practitioners. Read this over carefully. Most likely this form will undergo some changes before you file your first taxes as a non-denominational ordained clergy, but you should be familiar with the current versions so you can prepare your accounting accordingly.
Become ordained by a church or religious order of which you are an active member. Its counsel and support as you begin performing clerical duties will be endlessly helpful.
Research any organisation offering free ordination that you are not familiar with carefully, and make sure it has a good record. Do not give out personal information (especially your social security number and date of birth) to anyone online without using a secure connection and verifying its reputation.
Tips and warnings
- Become ordained by a church or religious order of which you are an active member. Its counsel and support as you begin performing clerical duties will be endlessly helpful.
- Research any organisation offering free ordination that you are not familiar with carefully, and make sure it has a good record. Do not give out personal information (especially your social security number and date of birth) to anyone online without using a secure connection and verifying its reputation.