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12 Sep 2017

How to Send Volunteers to Help With Relief Efforts

Raul Rivera

When a tragic event occurs, there is often an immense desire from those who were not directly affected to help the victims. Most recently we have seen an outpouring of people and organizations all across the country come to the aid of those whose lives have been upended by Hurricane Harvey. 

Many churches and ministries in my community are collecting various items, such as water, food, and clothing, to give to other organizations who are going to or are already in Houston. Some churches and ministries are sending teams of their own volunteers to help.

Perhaps you are wondering how your church can send volunteers to help with relief efforts. 

What you need to know before sending volunteers to help with relief efforts

Churches are filled with people possessing various skills, areas of expertise, and resources. As a result, many churches have teams of volunteers who are eager and ready to help. 

The other day I was speaking with a pastor from a church in North Carolina and his church was preparing to send a team of volunteers down to Houston to help provide relief. Before they did, he called and asked me if there was anything they should know about or consider from a liability perspective. 

Since the team from his church was preparing to go into an area that has been turned upside down, he was concerned about the liability for his church should anyone get injured. Additionally, he wanted to know if there was anything they should have in place before the team left for Houston.

With it being a church sanctioned trip, I informed this pastor of the liability that his church could face should someone get injured. I told him that in order to help add safeguards for the church, they should allow only adults to go and not minors. Also, they should have the adults that do go sign preinjury waivers. 

Although preinjury waivers alone are not enough to remove liability from the church, it is best practice to have them in place. In order for a waiver to be enforceable, it must not be ambiguous. The wording regarding liability needs to be specific.

I knew there was more this pastor needed to know regarding liability so I called Nolan Jackson.

Nolan Jackson is an insurance agent who serves pastors and church leaders by providing liability insurance for their churches. (You can find out more about his services here.)

I told him about the situation with the pastor in North Carolina, and Nolan gave me some insight into liability coverage and church sanctioned activities. Here is what he had to say.

In short, most church liability insurance coverages include a $1 million dollar “occurrence coverage” which will help cover a church in the instance they get sued by someone who gets injured on a church sanctioned trip. It is important to note that the occurrence coverage is only guaranteed for domestic church sanctioned trips and activities (Puerto Rico included). When it comes to trips and activities outside of the U.S., it is a huge gray area. 

In addition, Nolan informed me that many churches will obtain a medical limit coverage. Should someone get injured while on a church sanctioned trip, this coverage allows the church to cover the costs of medical expenses. When churches utilize this coverage it often deters the individual (or individual’s family) from filing a lawsuit. 

If your church has liability insurance, I suggest you reach out to your agent to clarify what is included with your coverage (such as the occurrence coverage) and to ask about any additional coverages that benefit your church. Moreover, if your church does not yet have liability insurance, I encourage you to reach out to Nolan Jackson at 770-361-5309 and see how he can help. 

Let us take a brief look at three things your church should have in place if you decide to send teams to disaster stricken areas and, in general, for church sponsored trips. 

3 things your church should have regarding church sponsored trips

When planning to take a church sponsored trip, make sure your church has the following three things in place.

1. Waivers

Make sure your church has waivers for attendees to sign when planning events and retreats. Waivers are designed to voluntarily relinquish a known right and are to be signed prior to participating in activities associated with the church. It is a good idea to have different waivers for adults and parents of minor children. We have a liability release form which can be used for parents of minors that we can provide you for free. Just give us a call at 877-494-4655, if you are interested.

2. Indemnification Policy

Adopt a policy that clearly establishes the church as the indemnifying body. Every church or ministry that goes through our StartRIGHT® Program receives an indemnification policy. If your church or ministry has yet to adopt and implement this policy, I recommend you do so as soon as possible. 

3. Make sure you know the type of trip

Distinguish the difference between a personal trip and a church trip, and make sure your team is aware of the difference. You want to be very clear as this can be a huge factor in whether or not the church will indemnify an individual. Church trips will typically include church vehicles and have a church-related purpose. Personal trips will be those that do not have a church-related purpose, such as the pastor running an errand related to his family or personal life.

Do not be complacent . . . get moving!

As with anything important, you should take immediate steps to ensure this does not get lost in the daily shuffle. Procrastination is one of the things I always had to battle when leading my church in Florida. It is so easy to move things to the side with good intentions to follow up later.

If you have questions pertaining to the structure of your church or ministry, call us at 877-494-4655, or register to meet with us at one of our conferences.

Our goal here at StartCHURCH is to help you protect the vision that God has placed in your heart. That also includes protecting those He calls to help you carry out that vision.

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Recommended articles for you:

“Church Liability Insurance: One Step, Huge Relief”

“How Your Church Can Better Serve Your Community”

“How to Protect Your Church Property and Assets”

Please feel free to comment. We always appreciate good dialogue. However, we do moderate each comment to ensure that it is on topic and not derogatory to other participants. We ask that you keep your comments brief and pertinent to the topic so that others may benefit.

Blessings,
Raul Rivera

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About the Author

Church Planter. Speaker. Author. CEO. Raul Rivera has had ample experience in the church planting world. His current venture, StartCHURCH, has helped 1000's of churches to start right. Raul has compiled an array of manuals and software tools that help churches stay compliant with the IRS. He also hosts over 35 national conferences per year, training pastors on how to launch their churches. Raul is married to his wife Genel, and they and their five children live in Atlanta, GA.