When It Rains Inside

Defend Ministry Property Against Water Damage

Imagine walking into your church or school on Monday morning only to find water pouring from the ceiling and running down the walls. From plumbing connections to windows, roof penetrations to worn out shingles, water is looking for a way to invade. In just a few hours, running water can destroy thousands of square feet of your building. Fortunately, some routine maintenance and advanced planning can help save your ministry from having to deal with major water damage.

Christian Freedom Church in rural North Carolina found out just how quickly water can move throughout your building. Their fast thinking likely saved them from totally losing their education wing.

Water Everywhere

Sunday services were carried out as usual at this rural North Carolina church. On Monday morning, the church secretary arrived at her regular time. Fortunately, instead of going straight to her office for the day, she decided to check on a portion of the building that included classrooms and the church’s gymnasium. She immediately noticed the water, everywhere, flooding the gym and working its way into the classrooms.

After receiving a call from the secretary, Doug Prestwood, an elder at the church, immediately sprang into action. He turned off the source of the water, which was an ice maker, and worked quickly to remove as much of the clean water as possible. After calling the ministry’s insurance agent, Bruce Harriman with American Church Group of North Carolina, he called a water remediation company to help with the cleanup and drying process.

Not All Water is the Same

Before tackling a water cleanup, it’s important to know the source of the water. Not all water is safe to remove on your own. Depending on the type of water, there may be special disposal requirements as well. “Water is organized into three categories and there are four classes of damage,” said Karla Dowden, regional manager for ServiceMaster, a preferred vendor for Brotherhood Mutual.

The water categories are:

  1. Category 1 – Examples include water from supply lines to washers, toilets, dishwasher, water heaters, or appliances, and the water in your toilet tank.

  2. Category 2 – Includes water with physical or chemical contaminants that could make you sick if you drink it. Example, recently flushed toilet bowl that had urine in it, aquarium, waterbed, discharge from dishwasher or washing machine which includes old food and soap, and water filtered through soil before entering the structure.

  3. Category 3 – This includes water contaminated by sewage, bacteria, fungi, water not filtered by soil such as river water, water that comes from beyond the drain line/trap.  

    The four damage classes are:

  1. Class 1 damage is the easiest to clean up. It often involves minimal damage and is limited to a portion of a single room.

  2. Class 2 damage involves additional cleanup procedures. The water damage is more extensive and can involve furniture, draperies, and other items that quickly absorb water.

  3. Class 3 damage involves water that damages drywall, wood framing, and insulation. Removing drywall, ceiling tiles, and insulation may be necessary to dry the structure.

  4. Class 4 damage involves an advanced level of cleanup. It requires special removal procedures and equipment. Damaged materials may include hardwood floors, plaster walls or ceilings, asbestos tile in older buildings, and others.

Defend Against Water

Since the church’s water emergency, Prestwood has implemented several steps to help keep an eye on the church’s facilities. “For example, we routinely monitor our water pressure. If we see a rise in pressure, we know to immediately replace our regulator,” said Prestwood.

It pays to keep an eye on your facilities to help avoid costly water damage. Not every emergency is avoidable, but having a routine inspection and maintenance plan is a good first step. Also, it’s important to know the location of your building’s main water shut-off valve. “ServiceMaster will show you its location and tag it for future reference, at no charge,” said Dowden.

Additionally, consider installing smart sensors. These sensors can detect and alert users the moment there is a water emergency, saving precious time and potentially avoiding disaster. It also may be a good idea to review your water damage coverage limits with your insurance agent.


If your ministry is faced with a water emergency, it’s important to make some phone calls as soon as possible:

  1. Your insurance agent or Brotherhood Mutual at 800-333-3371

  2. A local plumber to shut off the water (if necessary)

  3. A water remediation company, such as ServiceMaster. They’ll want to know the following information:

    • Your insurance agent or carrier

    • If you have a deductible and the amount

    • If you have water damage coverage

    • The approximate time of the event

    • If you’ve shut off the source of the water or called a plumber

    • The source of the water

    • The main areas affected and how long the water was running

    • The types of materials that are damaged, such as carpet, tile, vinyl flooring, or drywall

    • The size of the affected area

When it comes to hiring a professional water remediation company, the cost and time to cleanup a water-damaged ministry can vary greatly.

Once the remediation company is onsite, they can provide additional information. “ServiceMaster doesn’t charge to visit and inspect water damage. If in doubt, it may be safest to call for an expert opinion,” said Karla Dowden, regional manager for ServiceMaster.


Posted August 2020. Updated May 2024.

The information provided in this article 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. We encourage you to regularly consult with a local attorney as part of your risk management program. 

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