Protect Your Board Against Lawsuits

Lawsuits against churches and ministries are on the rise, making their board members especially vulnerable. Sometimes, courts have found directors and officers personally liable when their actions have resulted in financial damages.

Consider these examples:

  • Providing inadequate bookkeeping or financial oversight.
  • Allowing personal motives to drive church-related decisions.
  • Failing to preserve tax-exempt status.

Even well-meaning actions could put the personal assets of board members at risk. However, by taking steps to limit liability, church and ministry boards can find stronger legal positions in which they can properly function.

Incorporate your ministry

If a church is incorporated, board members can gain the same legal protections that apply to board members in businesses. This protection comes with two requirements:

  • The Prudent Person Rule protects board members from personal liability for board actions or decisions unless a “reasonably prudent person” would have avoided such actions or decisions under the circumstances.
  • The Duty of Loyalty Rule says that a board member’s actions and decisions must be free of personal motives.

When incorporating, first contact an attorney who is familiar with not-for-profit laws in your state.

Include bylaw protection

If your bylaws do not include indemnification provisions, enlist the help of a local attorney to draft some. These provisions could prevent board members from having to pay out-of-pocket costs if they are sued in connection with their ministry work. Evaluate your bylaws regularly by appointing a task force to review the bylaws for necessary changes or additions.

Consider charitable immunity laws

Most states have charitable immunity laws that can protect volunteer workers—and potentially board members—from being sued in connection with their volunteer service. That immunity, however, is limited because the laws generally:

  • Protect volunteers only, not church organizations or employees.
  • Prevent certain people from suing.
  • Protect some—not all—activities.
  • Removal from a lawsuit requires that volunteers hire an attorney.

Charitable immunity laws are complicated and vary by state. Ask a local attorney to review applicable state and federal charitable immunity laws with you.

Insure your board members

Standard general liability insurance policies do not cover claims against directors or officers for financial damages resulting from their failure to perform their duties. Separate directors and officers coverage helps protect board members’ personal assets in the event of certain financial damages and lawsuits. It also covers financial damages that other parties undergo when leaders fail to perform their duties properly.

October 28, 2020
Guidance for Ministries About Boy Scouts' Bankruptcy
Guidance for Ministries About Boy Scouts' Bankruptcy

A mid-November deadline in the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) bankruptcy proceedings may have you wondering what the organization’s bankruptcy filing means for your ministry if you ever hosted or chartered Boy Scout Troops.

Tags: coverage, protect, liability, damages, youth
October 1, 2020
Applying for PPP Loan Forgiveness
Applying for PPP Loan Forgiveness

Organizations that obtained Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding through the CARES Act can have their loans forgiven, turning them into grants. To qualify, each borrower must file a forgiveness application with its PPP lender, proving that it followed the rules. If your church, school, college, or camp meets all the criteria, 100% of its loan can be forgiven.

March 31, 2020
CARES Act: Churches Need to Apply Now
UPDATE CARES Act: Churches Need to Apply Now

Learn about the CARES Act and two loans for which ministries may be eligible, since Congress authorized additional funding April 23. 

March 6, 2020
Coronavirus and Your Ministry: Tips for Prevention
Coronavirus and Your Ministry: Tips for Prevention

As concern over the dangers associated with the spread of a new coronavirus, COVID-19, spreads, our agency and Brotherhood Mutual want to keep you informed and provide best practices for managing the spread of this and similar illnesses at your ministry.

January 29, 2020
Hosting a Game Day Bash? Brush Up on Copyright Basics
Hosting a Game Day Bash? Brush Up on Copyright Basics

The first Sunday in February is a big day for sports fans. In fact, many Americans view Super Bowl Sunday as a national holiday. Friends and families will gather this year to watch the big game, enjoy delicious snacks, and of course, critique the commercials that go along with game day.

Are You Covered If You're Injured Overseas?
Are You Covered If You're Injured Overseas?

Recently, we learned about two major overseas incidents involving pastors on mission trips. The first incident involved a pastor being hit by a motorcycle while running. The second was a bus accident involving two pastors. The runner and one of the two bus passengers sustained extensive injuries.

Tags: missions, insurance
IRS Announces More Church Audits Regarding ACA Compliance
IRS Announces More Church Audits Regarding ACA Compliance

Last month, the IRS announced that its initiating hundreds of church exams to test compliance with the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While many provisions only apply to churches with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees (FTEs), even smaller churches could potentially violate provisions applicable to health benefit plans with as few as 2 plan participants.

Tags: ACA, IRS
July 3, 2019
Celebrate Safely This Independence Day
Celebrate Safely This Independence Day

July 4th is synonymous with food, fun, and fireworks. If your church is planning an event this Independence Day, remember to keep a focus on safety, so that everyone can have fun.

Tags: firework safety
June 28, 2019
Insurance is one of those things we forget about until we need it
Insurance is one of those things we forget about until we need it

National Insurance Awareness Day falls on June 28 this year to remind people everywhere that insurance is vital to their companies and ministries.

Tags: church payroll, finance, IRS regulations, paying employees, tax code
May 5, 2019
May 5-11 is Hurricane Preparedness Week
May 5-11 is Hurricane Preparedness Week

The National Weather Service (NWS) has designated May 5-11, 2019, as National Hurricane Preparedness Week. Is your ministry prepared?

Tags: protect, damages, weather emergency
April 30, 2019
Measles Cases Reach Record-Breaking Numbers
Measles Cases Reach Record-Breaking Numbers

More than 700 confirmed cases of measles have been reported in the United States so far this year, making this outbreak the worst in decades.

Tags: risk management, liability, health safety, protect, measles
April 9, 2019
Vehicle Registration Guidelines for Ministries
Vehicle Registration Guidelines for Ministries

Do you use commercial vehicles that transport more than 15 passengers or carry cargo from one state to another as part of your ministry? If so, you are required to register with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and obtain a USDOT number.

Tags: auto insurance, vehicle safety, liability
June 1, 2018
June Is National Safety Month - Week 1: Emergency Preparedness
June Is National Safety Month - Week 1: Emergency Preparedness

The National Safety Council has designated June as National Safety Month, so we want to make sure your ministry is doing everything it can to protect its people, property, and programs. Each week in June, we’ll tackle a different topic. Up this week: Emergency Preparedness.

Tags: disaster prep, fire prevention, lightning, medical emergency, medical team, storms, weather emergency
April 18, 2018
Collect Online Donations? This New Scam Targets You
Collect Online Donations? This New Scam Targets You

There’s a new scam in town, and ministries and other organizations collecting donations are the primary target. If your ministry collects tithes or donations, you could be targeted by scammers practicing donation overpayment fraud.

Tags: finance, fraud, donations, cyber security
February 21, 2018
Remembering Billy Graham
Remembering Billy Graham

Beloved evangelist Billy Graham was called to his heavenly home on Wednesday, February 21, 2018, at the age of 99.

Tags: Billy Graham
February 9, 2018
Flu Is Widespread: Protect Your Congregation
Flu Is Widespread: Protect Your Congregation

For the first time in its 13 years of influenza monitoring, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that every state in the continental U.S. is seeing widespread flu activity. Get tips on how to keep your congregation healthy this flu season.

Tags: health safety, risk, protect, health, flu
June 19, 2017
Off-Site Youth Activities
Off-Site Youth Activities

Snow skiing. Camping. Whitewater rafting. A youth group trip can give students an exciting diversion from their weekly routines, as well as an opportunity to strengthen healthy friendships. Off-site activities may challenge your students to step outside of their comfort zones a bit, but this can bring about a positive result.

Tags: youth, insurance, safety
June 7, 2017
Insurance Protection Should Accompany Every Mission Trip
Insurance Protection Should Accompany Every Mission Trip

If you are in the process of planning a mission trip for your church group, make sure to think carefully about insurance, safety, and security as you hammer out the details. Extra preparation could minimize headaches when your group arrives on the mission field.

Tags: mission insurance, foreign travel, coverage, liability
May 24, 2017
Think Before You Loan Your Ministry's Vehicles
Think Before You Loan Your Ministry's Vehicles

Has your church or school ever been asked to loan one of your vans or buses to another? Before you decide to loan your ministry vehicles to another organization, seriously consider the potential risks associated with such a decision.

Tags: auto insurance, loaning vehicles
March 29, 2017
Has Your Church Completed a Personal Property Inventory?
Has Your Church Completed a Personal Property Inventory?

Completing a personal property inventory of your church or ministry could be one of the wisest activities you can pursue. If disaster strikes and you file an insurance claim, you may need an inventory highlighting damaged items.

Tags: claims, coverage, insurance, property