If You Build It, Risks Will Come

Any renovation, construction, or addition project at your church introduces new liability risks. Before engaging in any project, determine whether your ministry, a contractor, or some other party is taking responsibility for these risks, secure documented evidence of this arrangement, and make certain that all insurance policies involved provide adequate coverage.


If your ministry hires a contractor, make sure he provides his own insurance coverage. Never use uninsured subcontractors. Ask your contractor to provide a certificate of insurance indicating that he has workers’ compensation, general liability, and automobile insurance. This document should include policy numbers, limits, and terms.

Either you or your contractor must provide workers’ compensation. If your subcontractor does not carry workers’ compensation, then you, as the project owner, can be held responsible for work-related injuries to your contractor’s employees.

Ask your contractor to name your organization as an additional insured on his company’s liability certificate of insurance. Require liability limits of at least $1 million. If your contractor is providing builder’s risk coverage, ask him to indicate it on the property certificate of insurance.  Secure a copy of the policy for your records.

Make sure the construction contract contains an indemnification provision, requiring the contractor to compensate your ministry for any injury, loss, or damage he or she causes your organization.

Volunteer labor

If your ministry wants to use volunteer or donated labor to complete your construction project, consider the risks. If one of your volunteers is injured, typical insurance policies provide no workers’ compensation and only a limited medical benefit, usually between $500 and $5,000. Inform your volunteers that if they are injured on the job, they will be responsible for their own medical expenses after primary medical coverage is exhausted.

You should fully explore this before deciding to undertake the work yourself. Often, after the workers’ compensation premium is factored in, many churches find it more cost-effective to enlist professionals rather than volunteers to complete the work.

Before breaking ground on your ministry’s next building project, carefully consider the insurance and liability ramifications.