A non-profit association is an incorporated association run with the primary purpose other than to make profit. The not-for-profit associations fall into three categories. Educational institutions and charitable associations for public benefit, trusts for the mutual benefit of the members and religious establishments like churches, religious beneficial programs and religious education. Churches are theological institutions with Jesus Christ as the head. Churches exist for the worship of God. Other activities include proselytizing, i.e. spreading the word of God to others and other charitable works. Churches have many denominations like Catholics, Protestants, etc.

By the definition of corporation as a legal entity, churches can also be incorporated. The advantages to incorporate a church are tax exemption status under IRS code section 501(c) (3); thus, the donations and property transferal are exempted. Also, the limited liability clause protects the officers, in this case, the priests and other members of the church committee. Other fringe benefits include lower postal rates on bulk mail and the options for employees to join federal subsidized job training and work study programs.

The church can be incorporated by filing the articles of incorporation with the Secretary of State. Most states require at least three directors. Some allow less than three when there are less than three members, and other states require only one director. To claim tax exemption, IRS form 1023 must be filed within 15 months from the date of filing the articles of incorporation.

Since churches are concerned with theological issues, the fact that the incorporated church is a creation of the state immediately clashes with the theological proposition that God is the head of the church. Hence, many people are against the incorporation of church. Since the independence of the United States, incorporation of churches has always been contentious. In fact in 1811, President Madison vetoed a bill to incorporate churches. Since then, the state of Virginia doesn’t allow churches to be incorporated.