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Risk Management for Church Volunteers


Church leaders are faced with the grave responsibility of protecting the members of their congregation. While children are often the primary concern, it is also important to protect the volunteers that serve your ministry.

One of the most devastating liabilities for a ministry to encounter is sexual misconduct. Few things can tear a church apart more than an allegation or confirmed incident of this nature. That is why it is important to implement safeguards to help protect both the children in your ministry and those who volunteer their time. Setting up controls to prevent incidents of sexual misconduct will give your organization the best chance of avoiding a sexual misconduct issue. If an incident occurs, the safeguards you have implemented will help provide the necessary defense. As a best practice, all volunteers should:

  • Complete a written application
  • Be interviewed
  • Go through a background check
  • Have their references checked and documented

Extend safeguards beyond the initial screening process. Create a standing policy that no child is left alone with an adult. It is also recommended that a volunteer be in good standing at the church for a minimum of six months before they are permitted to work with children. Help protect the members for your congregation by having a solid plan in place.

Recently, I was able to see first-hand how much of an impact a plan can have on a church. In accordance with our church policy, I was interviewing a prospective volunteer for my Sunday school class. During the interview it came to my attention that he was a sexual predator. When I asked him about it, he told me that he had filled out background information before and nobody had ever addressed it with him. I explained to him that, according to our policy, he would need to be escorted to attend the church and we could not let him work with any children. He simply replied, “I will go to another church that needs me”. This could be a frightening situation for churches that don’t have procedures in place.

Sexual misconduct is just one possible volunteer-related risk your organization could encounter. Have you considered what your church will do if a volunteer is hurt while helping? Will your church insurance coverage apply? Do you know how your insurance company will handle a liability issue?

Learn more about best practices for volunteers including the selection process, discrimination laws, supervision, and limited immunity in our next Risk Management LIVE session on Wednesday, September 26.

Jerry Sparks, President
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