Take a Personal Property Inventory

Prepare for the worst: Make sure you have enough insurance

If fire were to destroy your sanctuary tomorrow, would you have enough insurance to replace everything?

The answer depends on your contents insurance limits. Typically, churches that suffer total losses don’t have high enough limits to replace everything they own.

As a result, completing a personal property inventory of your church could be one of the smartest things you'll ever do. Having an up-to-date inventory helps you to:

  • Buy enough insurance to replace your building’s contents.
  • Settle insurance claims more quickly.

Many Churches Undervalued

When pastors tally the value of their contents after a fire, explosion, or other disaster, they’re often dismayed to learn their property was worth far more than they had thought. Some losses greatly exceed the available insurance coverage.

Technology is a driving force. With so many churches investing in high-tech audio and visual equipment, their contents’ value has swelled dramatically.

Without a proper inventory, it is next to impossible for a church to be confident that it has the proper amount of contents insurance.

Few Do It

While none would dispute the importance of having enough insurance, few people maintain a contents inventory. Instead, most churches must rely on memory to create a list of damaged items after a disaster. This slows the recovery process and causes some items to be overlooked.

How to Get Started

There are many ways to create a church inventory. You can do it room by room, organize it by ministry (children’s ministry, music ministry, etc.), break it into categories (furniture, electronics, etc.), or do it by building (sanctuary, educational area, office area, garage). One idea is to divide the work among the volunteers or staff who work in each area, so that one person doesn’t tackle the whole project alone.

If the concept is completely overwhelming, there are companies that will gladly do an inventory for you and backup the results, for a fee. Do an online search for “Property Inventory Services” to start evaluating this option.

Tools to Use

You can make your inventory as low-tech or as high-tech as you wish. You can write everything down on paper, take photos, or use a video camera.

You can transfer written notes to the computer, adding photos or video clips to supplement your descriptions. An Excel spreadsheet can help you tally your results, or you could use a software program designed to make creating and keeping an inventory easier.

You can even find inventory applications for your hand-held device, so you can walk through, take photos, and type notes—all on the spot.

No matter which method of inventory you choose, attach or store proofs of purchase with it. These include invoices, canceled checks, bills of sale, credit card receipts, or gift records.

Photography Tips

When photographing or videotaping your contents, strive for quality reproduction. Sharp pictures are better than blurry ones, and close-up shots reveal more than those taken at a distance, particularly when you're trying to identify and assess value. Don’t forget to:

  • Include items tucked away in closets or cabinets
  • Capture model numbers/serial numbers
  • Videotape or photograph each item. An overall shot of the room does little good.

What to Record

Your Brotherhood Mutual® agent can provide you with a personal property inventory form, or you can construct your own. Your inventory should contain the following:

  • Description of property or item (type, model number, serial number)
  • Quantity
  • Purchase information (where, when, how much)
  • Cost to replace new today

Identify Big-Ticket Items

Begin by identifying the big-ticket items:

  • Sound equipment (microphones, speakers, sound board)
  • Office equipment (computers, copiers, fax, telephone system)
  • Musical equipment (organ, piano, keyboard)
  • Kitchen equipment (microwave, stoves, industrial-sized mixer)
  • Audio-visual equipment (projectors, television, DVD players)

Describe Specialty Items

Specialty items—those of art or rarity—are also ones you'll want to document. For instance, make note of unusual Communion sets, candleholders, crosses, or artworks that are not part of the building. Art objects with a value greater than the item's functional value may need special fine-arts coverage.

Small Items Add Up

Don't forget smaller items that add up when you have them in quantity. These include:

  • Hymnals
  • Folding chairs and tables
  • Sunday school materials
  • Library materials (tapes, videos, books)
  • Kitchen items

Continue your inventory of items on a room-by-room basis. Remember to record contents from other facilities, such as a school or maintenance building.

Don't Forget Others’ Property

Include the personal property that members store at the church, like musical instruments or your pastor’s books. Some insurance policies will cover these items on an excess basis, after the members’ insurance has paid its limits.

While a Brotherhood Mutual policy automatically provides some limited coverage for the personal property of others, in some cases you may wish to purchase additional protection. For instance, the books and ministry aids in the pastor's library may need special coverage.

Where to Store the Inventory

Keep two copies of your completed inventory in separate locations. You may store them in a fireproof vault, lock box at the bank, or member's home. Remember to give your agent a copy!

Update Inventory Annually

The key to having an accurate inventory is keeping it up to date. One option is to keep the inventory active and update it every time you buy a new piece of equipment. Another is to review your inventory annually, noting any new purchases since the last inventory was completed. In either case, a computerized inventory is the easiest to update and maintain.

Contact Your Agent for Details

It's a good idea to call your agent before starting your inventory. Your agent can give you tips pertaining to your situation, answer questions about your present coverage, and help you evaluate whether you need additional coverage.