16 May 2019

Who Is Liable For Church Trips?

Founder Raul Rivera

In 2016, there was a tragic incident that involved an Ohio teen who died from a rare brain-eating amoeba, which can be found in warm freshwater and soil. Reports showed that the teen’s exposure to this type of amoeba was possibly linked to a rafting trip she went on with her church in North Carolina.

With this unfortunate event, there were no reports of legal action against the church or any members of the church. However, this was a situation that could easily have turned against the church or some of the leaders who were present that day.

So, what should churches do in such instances? What can you implement to ensure your leaders and volunteers are protected should an accident happen?

I pray that your church or ministry never have to experience anything like this. But stories like this are why it is imperative for your church to have the right strategies in place and that you know what to do.

Understanding indemnification

As summer approaches, many churches are beginning to prepare for summer gatherings, retreats, and church trips. Most of which typically occur outdoors. These events and retreats usually leave individuals susceptible to accidents and injuries and make those involved wonder who is liable.

To help protect leaders and volunteers who are acting in the best interest of the church, many churches will adopt a policy to shield its members and volunteers from possible litigation.

This policy is known as an indemnification policy.

From the story above, if the church leader(s) at the event was found negligent and the family decided to pursue legal action, a solid indemnification policy allows the church to step in and help that leader.

To indemnify means, “to protect (someone) by promising to pay for the cost of possible future damage, loss, or injury.” This means the church can step in and pay for fees and damages that may be related to church events or activities.

One key to remember regarding indemnification is that your church must be incorporated to provide this protection to your staff, members, and volunteers.

Although many of the people who serve in your organization are likely unaware of this protection, it can be of great value. If you are looking to recruit more volunteers, this might be something to highlight in the recruitment process.

Likewise, if you are trying to establish your board of directors for the initial launch of your church, this can be a valuable tool to promote and explain. If this is not something you have in place, I hope you will take the necessary steps to adopt and implement an indemnification policy.

3 action steps for chruches

When you are planning to have a church trip or event, it is important that you have the following three things in place.

1. Provide 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 that can be used for parents of minors that we can provide you for free. Just give us a call at 877-494-4655.

2. Establish an indemnification policy

Adopt a policy that clearly establishes the church as the indemnifying body. Every church or ministry that goes through our StartRIGHT Service 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. If you are in need of this policy, you can call our office and we’ll be happy to provide you with one.

3. Determine 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(s). 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 delay

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, I urge you to call us at the office at 877-494-4655Our heart 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.

As a part of our StartRIGHT Service, we provide an indemnification policy in the pack of corporate policies that come with your customized documents. You will find several other policies that are extremely important as well.

If now is not the best time to call, click on the button below to schedule a call with with us! One of our specialists will give you a call when you are ready.

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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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