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 16, 2019
Stolen Church Trailer Leads to New Life in Christ
Stolen Church Trailer Leads to New Life in Christ
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: cyber security, digital, protect, risk
June 24, 2019
June 23-29 is Lightning Safety Awareness Week
June 23-29 is Lightning Safety Awareness Week

Summertime across the country means barbecues, carnivals, sporting events, boating, hitting the beach and many other recreational activities. In short, summertime means a lot more people are spending time in the great outdoors. But summer is also the peak season for one of the nation's deadliest weather phenomena--lightning.

Tags: cyber security, digital, protect, risk
May 8, 2019
Protect Your People & Property During Hailstorms
Protect Your People & Property During Hailstorms

According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), hail causes about $1 billion in damage to crops and property each year. Prepare your ministry and people for hail this season.

Tags: protect, hail, damages, property, weather emergency
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: vehicle safety, liability, auto insurance
March 25, 2019
March 25-29 is Severe Weather Preparedness Week in Nebraska
March 25-29 is Severe Weather Preparedness Week in Nebraska

As winter turns to spring, we’re also in for a turn in weather. Lightning, strong winds, flash flooding, hail, or tornadoes could quickly strike your ministry. The National Weather Service has designated March 25-29, 2019, as Severe Weather Preparedness Week in Nebraska.

Tags: protect, weather emergency, safety, storms
September 21, 2018
Measles Reported in 21 States
Measles Reported in 21 States

The Centers for Disease Control says 107 cases of measles have been reported in 21 states since January 1.

Tags: cyber security, digital, protect, risk
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: cyber security, finance, fraud, donations
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: protect, health safety, risk, 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, liability, coverage
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
March 15, 2017
Is Your Ministry as Safe as It Could Be?
Is Your Ministry as Safe as It Could Be?

Have you thought through potential dangers that may confront your ministry? Taking steps to consider and address these risks provides important protection from injuries, lawsuits, fires, and dozens of other hazards that may affect your ministry, especially your employees and those you serve.

Tags: protect, safety, security, security team, protecting staff members, risk management
February 22, 2017
Health Care Reimbursement Option Now Available
Health Care Reimbursement Option Now Available

Small businesses—including churches and related ministries—can once again pay premiums for their employees’ health insurance. Previously known as an Employer Payment Plan (EPP) or Health Reimbursement Account (HRA), these arrangements violated the Affordable Care Act (ACA). However, due to a recently passed law, ministries that are not part of a group health plan now have another option to help employees with health care costs.

Tags: church staff, health insurance
February 15, 2017
IRS Warns of Dangerous W-2 Email Scam
IRS Warns of Dangerous W-2 Email Scam

Ministries beware: An email scheme, designed to coincide with tax season, asks payroll and human resource professionals to disclose employees’ personal information. Think you wouldn’t fall for such a scam? You might, if the email looks as if it came from someone in your ministry.

Tags: IRS regulations, paying employees, cyber security, church staff, security, damages, digital
February 1, 2017
Dual Tax Status: What Does It Mean for Your Pastor?
Dual Tax Status: What Does It Mean for Your Pastor?

Under federal law, most ministers have dual tax status. Dual tax status means a minister is an employee of the church for federal income tax purposes, and self-employed for Social Security and Medicare taxes. Here’s what you need to know.

Tags: church payroll, finance, IRS regulations, paying employees, tax code