A church is more than the building where people gather and worship. A church is also an employer and provider of charitable outreach efforts. Unfortunately, church leadership may focus so much on mentoring congregants or helping those in need that they neglect to steady the foundation of this good work through proper insurance coverage.
Churches are susceptible to claims in multiple areas, from accidental property damage to employment-related issues to volunteer liability, and more. Don’t put your church body and all the good work it does at risk of financial hardship because you don’t have the right insurance coverage or lack adequate coverage.
Churches Are Often Underinsured
Many churches are uninsured or underinsured in areas where they have risk. Don’t assume your general liability policy will provide coverage for employment claims or sexual misconduct claims, for example. Be wise stewards of your church’s finances and obtain specific policies to cover the unique risks your church faces. Peel & Holland’s team has helped many of our area’s church leaders to address risks wisely. We’ve highlighted a few areas to keep in mind as you evaluate your current insurance policies, but this list is by no means exhaustive.
Employment Matters. While facing a discrimination or retaliation claim is not unique to churches, it may be something church leaders think won’t happen to them. The First Amendment will not protect the church from many employment-related claims. The number of employment claims has been rising in recent years and churches must be prepared in case an employee files a claim of harassment or retaliation for being fired for blowing the whistle on fraud or other misconduct.
A recent study found the average defense and settlement costs for smaller companies facing an employee lawsuit is $160,000. Can your church financially handle this type of expense?
Sexual Misconduct. Unfortunately, claims of sexual abuse and misconduct are not uncommon in churches today. Sexual abuse of a minor is the one of the top five reasons churches end up in court. A sexual misconduct liability policy will provide coverage not only for a real incident, but also defend against allegations of misconduct.
Counseling Claims. Pastors and church leaders are often in a counselor role with members of the church, which can unfortunately sometimes lead to claims that the advice provided caused harm to the recipient. If a congregant accuses your pastor of physical and emotional harm, would your current insurance policy cover your liability? Possibly, it won’t be covered by insurance unless you have a specific professional liability/counsel acts liability policy.
Volunteer Liability. Think of the many roles volunteers play in your organization. Churches often could not function and have the impact they do in the community without their countless volunteers. Just like with employees, you need to make sure your church is protected in case a volunteer causes harm or injury to someone else while performing a task on behalf of the church.
Coverage for Church Vehicles and Drivers. Many churches purchase their own vehicles to transport school-aged children to a camp or volunteers to feed the homeless. Many churches own large passenger vans. These vehicles, especially older models, carry high risk of rollover and accidents if not properly operated, which could unfortunately lead to injury and/or death. Sometimes the drivers are church employees; other times they are volunteers. No matter who is driving, it is essential that person has experience operating a passenger van and is familiar with the safety regulations for operating this type of vehicle. Do you have the proper coverage for your church-owned vehicles and occupants? Don’t wait until an accident to find out.
Protect Your Church Against Risk
Your church is an important part of the community, and you want to protect it from exposure to risk and financial hardship wherever possible. Churches often think of protecting buildings and property, but overlook shielding themselves from liability of leaders, paid staff, or volunteers.
Understandably, you want to focus on serving others, not worrying about insurance coverage. Peel & Holland has strong expertise in helping churches be protected. We’re here to help you find the right coverage for your church’s needs.