Christian small groups often use church facilities for meetings or gather at the home of the small group leader or host. Regardless of where the meetings take place, ministry leaders and small group leaders/hosts might be the target of a lawsuit if someone were injured during a ministry-sponsored activity.
When conducting small group meetings, it’s important to ask the following questions:
Due to the risks involved, it’s also important for ministry leaders to develop a process to distinguish small groups working under the authority of church leaders from those that are independent of church oversight. Church-authorized small groups would be those that are initiated by individuals who are church employees or other ministry leaders. Independent groups would be those that are simply formed by church members without any formal church acknowledgement, monitoring, or endorsement.
Church-authorized groups. It’s a good idea to have policies/procedures in place that require ministry leaders to regularly monitor them. The policies also should call for monitoring staff members to encourage best practices (as referenced below) within authorized groups.
Independent groups. Ministry leaders might decide to offer training, support, and oversight to the hosts/leaders. If such an offer is accepted, such a group might then be recognized as a church-authorized, ministry-sanctioned group. If, on the other hand, the group refuses such assistance, its leaders should be politely advised that they are not formally sponsored by the church and are "on their own" from a liability perspective.
Who is at fault when an accident happens at church-authorized small group meeting held at a church member’s home? Is it the church that sponsored the small group, the homeowner who hosted the small group, or the small group leader?
Small group leaders and hosts typically have to rely on their personal homeowner’s insurance coverage when faced with small group-related claims, but that can be a daunting proposition.
Brotherhood Mutual provides primary liability coverage to small group leaders and hosts for claims that arise while the leaders or hosts are acting within the scope of their authority on behalf of the church. Primary liability coverage means that Brotherhood Mutual’s small group insurance coverage responds first; therefore, church-authorized small group leaders and hosts may not need to rely on their personal homeowner’s coverage.
Regardless of whether a small group is authorized by its church or not, it would be wise for church leaders, small group leaders and hosts to consider these areas before planning their next small group gathering.
Thank you for your interest in Brotherhood Mutual. We appreciate the opportunity to provide your church or other ministry with an insurance quote and will reply to your request as soon as possible.
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