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Courting Fate: Top Reasons for Church Litigation


Your members, facilities, and the church’s assets are foundational pieces of your ministry. As a pastor, you need to make sure that they are adequately protected. Over the last two years there have been two presiding reasons why churches were brought to court: sexual incidents involving a minor and property disputes with the insurance carrier. Being brought into court in such a manner can be devastating to a ministry of any size. Fortunately, the risk of being involved in cases like these can be minimized through proper planning and implementing safeguards.

Sexual Misconduct Cases

Below are some basic risk management tips to protect your church from being sued for having a sexual incident involving a child:

  • Have a written application for all employees and volunteers.
  • Run a background check that includes a National Criminal Search and National Sex Offender Registry.
  • Check two references on all workers with children. These references should have the ability to assess if the individual is suitable to work with minors.
  • Have a policy that no adult or leader of any kind will be alone with a minor.

Property Disputes

The best way to prevent an issue with your insurance carrier when an incident occurs is to have your property adequately insured. The amount of your coverage should be enough to replace the church and should be applicable to the types of loss your property may encounter.

The basic risk management tips for preventing a property dispute are:

  • Have your insurance agent determine the replacement cost of your building, and then insure your property for the estimated replacement cost.
  • Have special form coverage on your policy. Are you in a flood, earthquake or coastal area subject to hurricanes? Ask your agent about these coverages, exclusions, and deductibles.
  • Ask your agent about Building Ordinance coverage and how this applies in your city. Some cities have ordinances that if a building is damaged more than 50%, it cannot be rebuilt. Or if you have 50% damage, you must bring your building up to the building codes of today. Understanding these codes is vital to having the right coverage for your property.

By following these basic risk management tips, you could greatly reduce the risk of your church being brought into court. If you have questions or would like more information about protecting your church, feel free to contact one of our certified risk managers at 866.662.8210 or email

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