Q: What Should Our Ministry Be Aware of Before Recording Conversations?

Ministry leaders should be very aware of the legal restrictions and exceptions that apply to recording conversations. Failure to comply with these laws could result in fines and other penalties.

Organizations and individuals are generally prohibited from recording “private” conversations —those that participants expect will not to be heard by others. Conversations that occur over a telephone are usually considered private.

Ministries may record meetings, telephone calls, or other private conversations if certain exceptions apply:

  • Express or implied consent.
  • The business extension exemption (for phone conversations).

States have adopted one of two rules concerning these exceptions—“one-party” consent or “all-party” consent. While the one-party consent rule requires at least one person to agree to recording the conversation, the all-party consent rule requires consent from every person in the conversation. An effective way to obtain express consent of ministry employees and volunteers is to create a policy that explains how and when the ministry will record conversations. This policy should be included in the ministry’s employee/volunteer handbook. Employees and volunteers should also be required to sign a copy of the policy.

Organizations and individuals are generally prohibited from recording “private” conversations —those that participants expect will not to be heard by others.

When it comes to recording telephone calls, ministries should ask for the caller’s consent prior to recording. Some ministries may obtain consent by playing a pre-recorded message that informs callers that their call may be recorded. Most courts agree that if a caller speaks after hearing such an announcement, he or she has given implied consent to being recorded.

The business extension exemption allows employers to record phone conversations if there is a legitimate business interest in monitoring the calls. Under this exemption, recordings must be made in the ordinary course of business and with equipment furnished by a communications service provider. Although the business extension exemption doesn’t require consent, a ministry should still provide staff with notice of its recording practices.

Since each state’s rules and exceptions vary, it’s important to work with a local attorney to ensure that your ministry’s recording policies and procedures comply with applicable laws. For more details about recording conversations, see the article, “Listening In: What Ministries Should Know Before Recording Conversations.”

*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.