Church Property and Casualty Safety

The Most Common Church Claims

If your church is like many others, it probably has a limited budget, the staff is busy with ministry activities and it is difficult to take on additional responsibilities. This can be an issue when it comes to risk management, improving safety for congregants and enhancing your facility’s security. Over the last several years, the most common causes of loss in a church are as follows:

  • Storms;
  • Falls;
  • Water damage;
  • Theft, burglary and vandalism;
  • Accidental fires;
  • Lightning and electrical surge damage;
  • Recreational activity injuries;
  • Arson;
  • Sexual misconduct incidents; and
  • Maintenance injuries.

The good news is with little or no extra money, the leaders of your church can make dramatic improvements in the way they protect people and the property. The only requirements are a commitment to safety and security by church leaders and volunteers.

The first step in beginning your church safety and security efforts is to recruit volunteers in order to form a safety or risk management team. Typically, this team is made up of congregation members who have experience in safety, facility or property management, insurance, law enforcement, law, accounting, child care and healthcare. The goal of this team is to identify risks at church and formulate a risk management program.

Once the team is in place, it is important for them to establish a process to make sure that the property and surrounding grounds are regularly inspected for various hazards. The safety or risk management team should look for the following general items and issues: Hazards that can cause slips, trips or falls, such as uneven walking surfaces including parking lots, sidewalks and hallways, or worn carpeting.

  • Fire hazards, such as outdated wiring, over-loaded electrical circuits, small appliances, space heaters, improperly stored combustibles or open flames.
  • Roof damage or debris blocking the gutters, downspouts and eaves.
  • Trees or branches close to the building or electrical wires.
  • Nursery and daycare protective devices, such as outlet coverings.
  • Cleaning supplies and chemicals that are well-marked and locked.
  • Playground equipment that is well-maintained and with sufficient ground cover.

By addressing these issues ahead of time, it could greatly reduce the chances of experiencing several of the common causes of loss listed above.

Slips and Falls

The most common cause of injuries on church premises are slips and falls. While we already mentioned the importance of repairing uneven walking surfaces or worn carpeting, areas that are prone to freezing winter conditions also should take snow and ice into consideration. It’s essential to promptly remove the hazard from all sidewalks, stairs and parking lot areas where there is a heavy flow of visitor traffic. Ice-Melt or similar products can be used to minimize the danger of slipping.

Water Damage

Water damage from frozen pipes that break, leaking roofs, drain blockages, sump pump failure and sewer lines that back up and overflow is the third most common type of insurance claim among churches. To minimize the risk of water damage, keep the church’s roof in good condition, have gutters cleaned out, and make sure there is adequate insulation and ventilation in attic spaces. Insulate water pipes that will be exposed to freezing temperatures, test sump pumps and regularly inspect the premises.

Theft and Burglary

Approximately one in eight churches is victim to theft or burglary each year. To help prevent crime at your church, follow the “5 Ls.”

  • Lock-Up – make sure doors and windows are locked when the building is unoccupied.
  • Lighting – illuminate exterior buildings, doors and parking lots from sunset to sunrise.
  • Landscaping – keep shrubs and trees trimmed around windows and doors and do not keep any unsecured tools or ladders from being easily accessible to outsiders.
  • Lookout – establish a “Church Watch” program and develop relationships with neighbors, asking them to keep an eye on the property and report any suspicious activity.
  • Law enforcement – develop positive relationships with local police and invite them to patrol the property at odd hours.

Naturally, certain types of losses, such as hurricane or tornado damage, are impossible to avoid. However, research shows that more than half of all losses at churches could have been prevented or minimized if the church would have taken the proper steps and precautions ahead of time to reduce their risks. For a complete listing of ways to protect your ministry from common church claims, visit the the SafeChurch website and click the Resources tab.

Originally posted on GuideOne

This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific legal or risk management advice, nor are any suggested checklists or action plans intended to include or address all possible risk management exposures or solutions. You are encouraged to retain your own expert consultants and legal advisors in order to develop a risk management plan specific to your own activities.

ChurchInsure is a division of Anchor Insurance Agencies specializing in the unique insurance and risk management needs of religious institutions. Visit our website to learn how we can serve you at


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