Ministry in the Garden

Take steps to protect your ministry’s community garden

A community garden can be a fun and effective way for ministry members to work with each other and engage the community at large. Careful planning can help ensure a gardening ministry operates safely.

Land Use Agreements

Deciding where to plant the garden is a key step in the planning process. If the land is owned by someone other than the church, a land use agreement may be necessary.

Land use agreements typically include an indemnity/hold harmless clause. By agreeing to this clause, the ministry promises not to bring a lawsuit against the landowner and also promises to pay for any damages resulting from its use of the land. Review any land use agreement with a local attorney before signing. Also, it’s a good idea to confirm with your insurance agent that appropriate insurance coverages are in place.

Release Forms

A signed release form (or Activity Participation Agreement) can help protect the ministry when sponsoring a community garden program. Before they begin working, ask participants to release the ministry from legal responsibility, should any injuries or damages occur while in the garden.

Safety Considerations


Help participants stay safe by keeping the garden as neat and organized as possible. Keep walkways clear of debris to help avoid trip and fall accidents, and store equipment when not in use. Store tools securely to prevent minors from accessing dangerous equipment and to deter would-be thieves.

Chemical Issues (Pesticides, Fertilizers, etc.)

Take particular care with the use of chemicals in the garden. Common issues include:

  • Mixing, application, and storage. Some pesticides and fertilizers can cause allergic reactions in some individuals. Consider growing produce without using chemicals, and if chemicals are used, make sure gardeners read and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for safely mixing, applying, and storing the materials. Store potentially dangerous materials in a secure area that is not accessible to children.
  • Residue. Pesticides can leave a residue on plants. The Food and Drug Administration provides a helpful resource, Raw Produce: Selecting and Serving it Safely that provides information about storing and washing produce. Consider advising consumers of where the food was grown and whether it was grown with or without the use of chemicals.
  • Runoff and drifting. Pesticides and other chemicals can cause environmental damage, and garden coordinators and other ministry leaders could be held legally responsible for these damages. Chemical runoff can contaminate the water supply, and chemicals drifting during application can damage nearby gardens, trees, homes and pets. To help avoid this issue, ensure that any chemicals used are approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  • Licenses. Some states require individuals to obtain a license before using certain chemical products—a local attorney will be able to give advice as to the specific requirements in your state. Confirm that all individuals have the appropriate licenses prior to using pesticides or other chemicals.

Employment/Volunteer Issues

If children or youth are present during gardening activities, be sure that they are properly supervised. Also, carefully consider which jobs minors will be allowed to do—it’s best to follow the same rules that apply to the employment of minors, even if minors are strictly working on a volunteer basis. If you plan to pay individuals to work in a community garden, be sure to review employment related laws that might apply. The Working Together guidebook provides additional guidance for employment-related questions.

Encourage gardeners to protect themselves against heat-related illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers responses to frequently asked questions about extreme heat.

Verify Your Insurance Coverage

As with any ministry activity, having the appropriate insurance coverage is essential. Make sure your ministry has liability insurance that protects in the event:

  • Someone is injured while working in the garden.
  • Someone becomes ill or injured as a result of consuming food produced in your garden.

Also, verify that your ministry has coverage for tools and equipment owned by the ministry, and for tools owned by others left on the ministry’s property. Check your insurance policy for coverage when using chemicals, too—Brotherhood Mutual offers a pesticide/herbicide application liability coverage that provides protection for the gardening ministry. Your insurance agent can help identify what your ministry needs.

Additional Resources