Insurance Basics

Finding a Good Fit

People matter. That’s why you got into ministry. Whether you’re responsible for a church, school, or other ministry, you want to make sure that your organization runs smoothly, so that it continues serving people without interruption.

Life can throw curveballs, even in ministry. Lightning strikes. Thieves steal. People get hurt. You buy insurance so you don’t have to worry about losing everything you’ve worked for. With insurance covering the big risks, you can focus on what’s really important, fulfilling your mission of helping people.

What are you buying?

An insurance policy is an agreement between your ministry and an insurance company. It’s basically a promise. For example, if your building were to catch fire, your insurance company promises to help you to restore or replace it, so that your ministry doesn’t bear the overwhelming expense alone.

Not all insurance policies are alike. Some may be better suited to a business than to a church. It’s important to consult with an insurance agent who understands the needs of organizations like yours, so that your policy addresses all of the risks your ministry may face.

What to look for in a company

Likewise, not all insurance companies are created equal. Look for a company that keeps its promises. You want an insurance policy backed by a company that’s financially sound, provides excellent service, and specializes in meeting the needs of ministries.

A company’s A.M. Best rating is a good indicator of its financial stability. The A.M. Best Company is an independent company that has been determining the ability of insurance companies to pay claims since 1899. Like a report card, it annually issues grades ranging from A++ (Superior) to F (In Liquidation) to denote a company’s financial state. Choose a highly rated company for your financial security.

While this rating addresses an insurance company’s ability to pay claims, it doesn’t reflect how quickly or compassionately you’ll be treated when you must file one. It’s a good idea to call three or four customers who have filed claims with your company. Ask them whether their claims were handled fairly, in an appropriate amount of time, and with concern for their needs. Find out how well adjusters were able to answer their questions and address any concerns. Other churches may help you determine which insurance company is right for you.

Most people with a heart condition would seek care from a cardiologist over a general practitioner. That’s because a doctor who specializes in heart problems knows the best ways to treat them. Likewise, a church insurance specialist understands your risks better than anyone else. This means you’re more likely to get the highest level of coverage for your insurance dollar.

What to look for in an agent

An agent who understands your ministry can be a priceless asset. If you choose one who specializes in church insurance, you’ll save the time and frustration of explaining your ministry to someone who doesn’t get how it works. If you’re considering a new ministry, such as housing the homeless or playing paintball with the youth, a church specialist can alert you to possible risks and recommend proper coverage. He or she may also share your values.

Determine whether you want an agent who is independent or one that represents a single insurance company. Note that an independent agent can select from a wide range of insurance companies the one that will best meet your ministry’s needs.

Ask your agent what risk management services he or she provides. Is the agent willing to visit your church and offer suggestions on how best to protect your people and your property? Does the agent have access to a trained risk management staff?

Ask an insurance agent to provide several customer references. Determine how satisfied they are with their agent. Are calls returned promptly? Is the agent knowledgeable, able, and willing to answer questions? If there has been a claim, was it handled quickly, fairly, and courteously? Has the agent become familiar with the ministry?

Find out what customers think about their agent. By doing so, you may learn whether you’re dealing with a salesperson or a trained professional.