Many local groups undertake joint activities such as mission work, walks of witness and joint services. These are wonderful opportunities to connect and serve together, but it is important to note that you must have insurance in place for these activities.

Whilst activities undertaken by churches – both on and away from the premises – are normally covered by the church’s own insurance, activities undertaken or sponsored by Churches Together groups may need to have appropriate insurance cover for public and products liability risks. This is because all Churches Together groups are autonomous and their individual insurance policies are usually in the name of the church or group of churches when under the same legal entity. If one church or entity is hosting or organising the event with support from other church denominations then this could be covered under their own insurance. However, where this is a jointly organised and run activity between various churches and denominations then this would normally require separate insurance arrangements.

It is worth being prepared so that events can be planned with confidence.

Matters to consider, which may also require separate insurance, or notification to your insurer are:

  • Activities away from the church building such as processions, open air services, carnivals, barbecues, when in the name of the Churches Together Group
  • Insurance against damage to borrowed equipment, eg an amplifier for an open-air service. This may be already covered so it is worth reading your policy wording to understand the cover and any monetary limits.
  • Where any organisation does not have existing insurance cover, as in the event of a claim, the organising body may be assumed to have legal liability.
  • Where the activities are either outside of the ‘normal’ activities of a church, ie those that an insurer of a church might expect you to undertake, or are of a hazardous nature, such as shooting, climbing or water sports.

If you determine that the nature and scope of your activities and the spread of denominations require you to consider taking out a separate insurance policy, in seeking the best cover, the following points should be considered:

  • A full and accurate statement of activities should be given to the insurer (eg a ‘fête’ or ‘youth festival’ might include activities which the insurer would regard as hazardous and would be excluded). Such activities will attract higher premiums or may be excluded.
  • Insurers are likely to require an estimate of numbers attending, usually where numbers exceed 1,000 at any one time, and also an identification of the denominations involved.
  • Ensure that all requested cover is specifically recorded in writing and sent to you. Your insurer has a duty to ensure that the insurance contract is clear and evidenced, detailing what the arrangements are in the event of a claim.
  • Cover for the whole year (eg up to six events) might give better premiums than separate policies for each one. By specifying your plans, your insurer will be able to take a more holistic view and price accordingly. You also have the peace of mind that you are covered without worrying over each separate event.
  • Insurance companies vary their pricing and covers from time to time, and it can be worthwhile to shop around. A good broker should do this for you, but dealing direct can be cheaper. The company which was best last time might not be best now.

Although a Churches Together group is the churches acting together, and not just an organisation to which some or all churches in an area belong, a would-be litigant can ‘fire a scatter gun’ at any target which looks worth suing. If it comes to court, our theological arguments won’t stand up to their legal argument that ‘Churches Together in X’ is in fact a legal entity and therefore liable.

Activities undertaken by Churches Together groups should have appropriate insurance cover for public and products liability risks. Though insuring may be seen as tedious, it can also be seen as part of the organisers’ duty and privilege of care for others for whose safety and well-being they are responsible. Should an unfortunate accident happen causing long-term incapacity, the organisers would actually be relieved to know that it has been possible for proper provision to be made for the person afflicted. Also, legal costs and compensation awards can be out of the reach of most churches, and insurers are experts in handling claims of this nature.

All this should not ruin the spirit and joy of joint activities. Insurance is something which can tend to be overlooked, but the results of any accident can potentially be disastrous if adequate cover has not been arranged. Being prepared with the appropriate cover means that events can be planned with confidence. Your broker or direct insurer will be able to give you examples of additional covers that you might consider taking out if deemed appropriate to your activities.

In all circumstances do check first with your existing insurer to understand their position and see whether cover is either already in place for your activities, or whether your existing policy can be extended accordingly, or whether a separate policy in the name of the Churches Together group is required.

One example of an insurance provider is Ecclesiastical. You may find their church events advice page useful, as well as their simple guide ‘Your Responsibility for Church Organised Events’.