Risks of operating a business exist on a daily basis. A church is not exempt from injuries, losses, or other events that require insurance. Much like business or homeowners insurance, church insurance can help protect a church in the event of accidents that occur onsite or while on a church-sponsored outing.
A church is typically run by an official board of directors who normally volunteer their time to the running of the church. A church may own land, buildings, vehicles, statues, computers, and other equipment. Some churches rent out meeting space to members, other organizations, or groups of varying size and structure. Insuring each of these items is necessary for the ongoing protection and, if necessary, reimbursement to the church.
Property insurance covers loss or damage of the structure due to an event such as a fire. The church board needs to consider if they want to have coverage for replacement or actual cash value. Actual cash value is a policy that determines value by taking the replacement cost minus any deprecation taken. Replacement cost is the coverage that pays the whole amount needed to replace the loss, without deducting depreciation.
The board also needs to consider the age of the structure. If the church is an historical building, insuring it might be cost prohibitive. Riders (or endorsements) are available to help cover the potential loss. If the minister and his family live in a church-owned property, insurance needs to be taken out on that building. However, the minister generally bears the cost of tenant’s coverage, which covers his possessions only. There are additional costs related to any endorsements chosen.
Liability insurance provides coverage for damages caused to a person or his property. Liability insurance should cover volunteers. Volunteers will often have a background check performed on them as a requirement to work with youth or children. As a church board, it is important to know that liability insurance should not be disregarded. Churches are not exempt from being sued for things such as falls, disclosure of confidential information, or perceived sexual assaults.
Many states require that paid church staff are covered on a worker’s compensation policy. Some churches also carry directors or officers coverage on their minister. D&O insurance provides financial protection for the minister in the event he is sued in connection with his regular duties as a minister.
A church should consult with an insurance agent who understands the particular needs of a church. The board should seek to find the agent who understands their needs and is able to provide a fair and honest quote. Additionally, an agent who remains available for ongoing questions and general insurance problem-solving will be a valuable asset. Several companies, including GuideOne and CompuQuote, specialize in church insurance. The board should compare quotes and expertise before deciding on an insurance company.
In preparation for the meeting with an insurance agent, the board should compile a list of assets, including the name of the landlord, bank, square footage of each building and land, type of construction materials used in the building, and a list of all computers, electronic, and sound equipment.
If the church owns a vehicle, they must carry vehicle insurance. However, the church board should consult with a specialized agent who can answer questions concerning how much vehicle insurance is needed and for what purpose the vehicle is lawfully allowed to be operated.
The church board should review the insurance coverage on an annual basis. At this time, they can verify if additions have been made to the building, staff, or programs to determine if their policy is still adequate for their needs.
When the church board acts in the authority given them by God and by the church members, they can work together to help ensure the safety of the church’s buildings, people, and possessions. In Colossians 1:18, we are told that He (Jesus) is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence (NKJV).