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Often Overlooked Coverages for Expanding Churches

April 7, 2020 jill Blog
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By Shawn Yingling

As a leader of your church, you know how crucial it is to safeguard your congregation. Your members represent your church’s mission and they carry the message forward. Protecting them is one of your most important responsibilities.

But when it comes to insurance, many churches only think about protecting their building with property insurance. They often don’t realize that their basic general liability or property insurance only goes so far. Some might add policies covering volunteers, vans and special events, but even these policies could be missing key coverages. As your church grows, so does its exposure to risk.

There are three types of protections a growing church might overlook that may become crucial as it expands.

Overlooked Protection #1: Religious Organization Management Liability

Why it’s important:

As a church grows, so does its staff. A larger staff can mean more opportunities for potential claims against management including unfair hiring practices, harassment and wrongful termination.

While the United States Supreme Court has ruled in favor of religious institutions that have hired (or not hired) a candidate based on that candidate’s faith, this does not absolve board members from potential claims of wrongful acts. Church leaders and executives can be targets of allegations of misconduct related to hiring practices. A religious organization management liability policy can help your church pay legal fees and settlement costs in defense of these claims.

Why it gets overlooked:

Religious organization management liability is a specialty coverage that doesn’t come standard on general liability policies – and isn’t offered by every carrier.

Overlooked Protection #2: Cyber Liability

Why it’s important:

According to Cybercrime Magazine, the estimated annual cost of cybercrime damage will reach $6 trillion in 2021.

From municipalities to healthcare, all industries are feeling pressure from the threat of data breaches, and religious organizations are hot targets for cybercriminals because their systems often contain personal and financial information from donors.

It could take just one click to expose your church’s network to an insidious virus, ransomware or phishing email, leaving the door open for hackers to exploit your information for their financial gain.

Why it gets overlooked:

Cyber liability is a newer, specialty coverage not included in standard insurance offerings, and many churches (and even insurance agents) aren’t yet aware of its importance or availability. Because it is so new, many insurance agents may not be well versed in it and therefore refrain from offering it.

Overlooked Protection #3: Security Enforcement Activity Liability (SEAL)

Why it’s important:

Security has recently become more important than ever for congregations of all faiths and sizes. Protecting members while still providing a welcoming environment is a delicate balance many churches struggle to find.

Security guards have an important role in helping to safeguard many churches. If a security guard injures a person while on duty, the injured individual could sue the church and/or the guard for damages. SEAL can help empower security personnel to make quick decisions more confidently, without as much fear over potential lawsuits.

Back up your church’s protection. Make sure you’re covered with security enforcement activity liability.

Why it gets overlooked:

Some carriers might include coverage for unarmed guards in their standard liability form, but remain silent on the firearms exposure. Churches often require robust protection in this area, so it can be important to understand all aspects of this coverage.

Churches are much more than buildings. They are communities with unique risks. It’s important to partner with someone who understands these risks and is able to act as a true advisor. Have a conversation with your agent about whether your current insurance policy meets your needs or if there are coverages you’ve been overlooking.

Shawn Yingling is president of Glatfelter Religious Practice (GRP),, which specializes in insurance and risk management programs for churches and other religious institutions and is a division of Glatfelter Insurance Group (an AIG company), one of the largest program managers in the U.S.