By John Murphy, Director of GuideStone Property and Casualty®
2020 produced many challenges for pastors and churches as we moved online or outdoors and reset our ministry expectations. Many churches went back to the basics of what it means to be the Church — with a capital “C” — finding this to be a refreshing time of allowing God to provide for them. Some have realized they no longer need large facilities. And others have remembered and reflected that high-touch services are only one avenue of many that the Lord uses to fulfill the Great Commission.
The Lord has gently reminded us He is not limited to inside the walls of the church; the Lord is limitless when it comes to His glory and life-changing work through the Church.
One thing is certain — the Church will survive and fulfill her calling to be salt and light during challenging times. As we move forward in a prayerfully post-Covid world, we’ve identified a few models for “how-to-do-church” in this new normal and specific risk management recommendations for each:
1. For growing churches looking for more affordable expansion solutions like repurposing a commercial building, we recommend finding a partner in insurance and risk management that understands your specific needs as a church. As you look for a risk management partner, consider:
- Will they provide a thorough inspection of the facility?
- Will they conduct a clear survey of the property?
- Can they insure the property to replacement cost?
- Can they help us set appropriate policies in line with local building codes and zoning restrictions?
- Are they aware of and experienced in addressing liability issues that pertain exclusively to churches and ministries (e.g., religious freedom, child safety, etc.)?
2. For churches seeking to put their facilities to use during the week through schools, daycare or coffee shops, consider:
- Adding a new legal entity for any non-church sector created
- Creating a facility use policy and contract for each entity, requiring tenants to operate in accordance with church values
- Requesting proof of insurance
- Requiring tenants to follow worker’s compensation laws
As churches are generally non-profits, engaging for-profits in business can be tricky. Make sure you discuss your ideas and potential partnerships with a qualified Christian accountant and lawyer before entering any agreements.
3. For adapting “in-home churches” serving small groups, consider:
- Equipping leaders to prioritize safety and prevention of issues that could arise — with a plan in place if something does occur (e.g., injury or abuse)
- Creating clear policies for childcare needs
- Find out what policy (the homeowner’s or the church’s) is primary
- Accounting for cyber and media liability as you broadcast ministry resources
While not exhaustive, the above list is intended to be a starting point as we enter this new age of church ministry.
As you work through what church ministry looks like in a post-Covid world, we recommend engaging with an insurance agent that understands the needs of churches with access to sound legal and tax advice. Your agent should be able to recommend and design risk management plans as well as identify other coverage gaps such as child safety or church vehicles. GuideStone’s strategic alliance with Brotherhood Mutual® provides all this and more.
GuideStone® believes that a healthy body of Christ is free to transform the world and seeks to serve as a guide through that wellness journey. As we take steps toward a post-Covid world, consider how these risk management best practices will help care for the church and the Church — no matter how your ministry model looks going forward.
GuideStone is a leading provider of employee benefits for SBC churches, ministries, organizations and institutions. Visit GuideStone.org to learn more about how they can help you with retirement, insurance, investments and more.
John Murphy is a licensed insurance professional with a passion and calling to lead GuideStone’s Property and Casualty Program with integrity and excellence. John has served at GuideStone since 2012 and has been leading our Sales and Relationship Management teams since 2017. In 2013, he was named Rookie of the Year by Brotherhood Mutual and Agent of the Year Runner Up in 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Auburn University and an MBA from Dallas Baptist University. John has a passion to see local churches thrive, make disciples and impact the globe for Christ.