Q: What is an activity participation agreement?

A: Sometimes called a waiver or release, an activity participation agreement ensures that a participant understands the risks associated with a particular activity and that he or she accepts those risks.

To protect themselves from liability, ministries should have participants sign an agreement before they engage in any activity that has the potential to cause physical injury. This would include anything from sports activities at the church to extremes like whitewater rafting.

How To Choose the Right One

A good activity participation agreement is drafted specifically for the ministry and addresses the unique risks and relationships faced by ministries.

If you type in “participation agreement,” “waiver,” “release,” or any combination of similar terms into Google, you will be presented with millions of search results.

Brotherhood Mutual offers a general activity participation agreement form that you can recreate and alter, as needed, to work for your specific circumstances. Of course, you should consult with a local attorney to ensure it satisfies local legal requirements.

A good activity participation agreement is drafted specifically for the ministry and addresses the unique risks and relationships faced by ministries.

How To Use It and How Long It Will Last

Churches commonly will have people sign one agreement covering all activities for an entire year. It is not a good idea to rely on this blanket agreement approach.

As a general rule, you should have separate signed participation agreements for each activity. For instance, if one participant signs up to go on a whitewater rafting trip and to play paintball a month later, he or she should turn in two separate participation agreements. If multiple high-risk activities are planned to take place during one excursion, it's acceptable to use one agreement to cover the excursion, as long as each high-risk activity is described in the agreement.

For recurring activities that have less likelihood for injury, you may be able to use one participation agreement to cover the recurring activity. For instance, if your group goes bowling once a month, you may want to use one agreement for that recurring activity for a specified period of time instead of having each participant sign a release every time you go bowling. However, you should never rely on an activity participation agreement for more than one year. Have participants sign a new agreement each year for recurring activities.

How It Works for Minors (18 and Under)

Activity participation agreements have only limited effectiveness when signed by minors. A minor’s signature may indicate that he or she understood the nature of the activity; however, a minor will not be bound as strictly by a written agreement as an adult. Therefore, parents should be required to sign any agreement involving a minor, and the agreement should include indemnity language that indicates the parents’ willingness to be financially responsible for the minor’s injuries.

Recommended Resources

If you found this information helpful, you might be interested in this additional resource from Brotherhood Mutual:

Download our Activity Participation Agreement Form. This sample form should be reviewed and approved by your attorney prior to use.

*Important information: Brotherhood Mutual is pleased to provide Legal Assist as a complimentary resource. The services we offer through Legal Assist are intended to provide general legal information to our current and prospective policyholders.

The information we provide is intended to be helpful, but it does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for the advice from a licensed attorney in your area. Accordingly, no attorney/client relationship is created through this process, and no legal advice will be provided. We strongly encourage you to regularly consult with a local attorney as part of your risk management program.