Religious institution insurance: How churches can prepare for challenges

Published on Sat, 07/26/2014 - 18:42

These are challenging times for church leaders. Between the sexual abuse scandals in recent years, shooting incidents like the one at a mega church in Colorado Springs in 2007, and an increase in lawsuits aimed at religious institutions, your organization’s traditional mission of mercy is increasingly threatened by the same contemporary risks faced by any other business or organization.

Modern challenges need modern solutions.

Your primary mission is the same as it’s always been – to minister to your followers and be a guiding light in the community. But you also have a responsibility to protect your followers and your organization. With the traditional and more contemporary threats you face every day, a proactive risk management program is crucial to continuing your vital mission. That means being preemptive – identifying risks before they become liabilities and taking steps to mitigate them. Waiting to react to an incident could be financially and personally devastating to your organization.

Who’s taking the lead on risk management in your church?

While risk management activities are usually conducted by staff under the authority of the pastor, your board has ultimate responsibility for oversight. For them to be most effective, they may want to consider establishing a risk management committee to oversee your overall risk management strategy. Your board members or risk management committee should work closely with the pastor and staff to make sure that:

  • All risks are identified and assessed for likelihood of occurrence and severity
  • Risks are prioritized
  • Appropriate measures are taken to mitigate risks to the extent possible

Naturally, your board members aren’t likely to be risk management experts. That’s why it’s a good idea to seek out experts who can give advice on safety, risk management, insurance, legal, and other issues. With a little guidance, your board can at least be informed enough to ensure that all risk areas are adequately addressed. Don’t forget to provide adequate safety training for staff and volunteers, and enforce strict policies and procedures. This ounce of prevention could spare you a costly claim down the road.

The important thing is to engage everyone in your organization and any outside experts in a collaborative effort to reduce your risks and to take a holistic approach to risk management – one that addresses risks in all aspects of your church activities. No matter how big or small your church or religious organization, you’re not immune from risks, whether it’s damage or destruction to property through natural disaster, injuries or deaths in the course of church activities, sexual abuse or employment lawsuits, or gun violence. Any one of these scenarios could drain your organization’s finances, reputation, and ability to continue your mission. So it’s vital to consider all of your organization’s activities and the potential risks of each one.

Assess exposures and coverage every year.

For today’s contemporary risks, you need tailored, comprehensive insurance protection. Don’t assume that property coverage established a few years ago is still sufficient to protect assets and buildings that may have changed over time. In addition, your liability exposures constantly evolve. Every time a service, outreach or function changes, so do the risks you face.

When you’re ready to discuss your insurance needs, put your faith in the religious insurance experts at Heffernan Insurance. With our years of experience working with churches and religious organizations, we understand your unique risk management challenges. Let us be a partner in helping you continue your vital mission.