Are You and Your Church Next?
Pastor Jason called the office needing to speak with one of our experts immediately. He was so frantic that they put his call through to my office. When I got him calmed down enough so I could understand what he was saying, he began to relay to me his dilemma.
Pastor had been pasturing his Church for 20 years and never dreamed something of this nature could happen to them. His youth leader had an affair with a 16 year old member of the Church youth group. Rightfully, they dismissed the youth leader and reported him to law enforcement authorities. The young lady’s father had served as the Chairman of the Deacon Board for 10 years. He assured the Pastor that he would not seek any kind of retribution against the Church. And it seemed as if the gentleman meant what he said.
Unfortunately, the 16 year old daughter needed professional counseling to help her cope with the trauma brought about by her youth leader’s inappropriate actions. Counseling was a weekly necessity for the young lady and the counseling had continued for more than one year. The father had already paid more than $10,000.00 out of his pocket since his medical insurance did not cover the counseling fees. The father approached the Pastor for reimbursement of his expense, but when Pastor Jason called the Church insurance company he discovered there was no insurance to cover their situation.
Pastor Receives A Shocking Wake-Up Call
A week after informing the young lady’s father that the Church insurance policy did not cover inappropriate situations such as the youth leader’s actions, Pastor Jason was served with a court notice of a lawsuit against him and the Church. The lawsuit was seeking $1,000,000.00 in actual and punitive damages.
For Pastor Jason there was not much that could be done. Had he and his Church been one of our clients we would have ensured that they had an ample liability policy in existence to cover the damages the father was seeking.
Unfortunately the Church was sold to pay the father’s legal claim and end the lawsuit.
Church Lawsuits Are A Common Occurrence
A report in Christianity Today reported the following statistics:*1
Child abuse is no longer the most common reason that churches go to court. For more than a decade, sexual abuse of a minor was the No. 1 legal matter involving US congregations. It made up more than 1 in 9 of all church lawsuits. . . But last year, the top reason for church litigation became a different problem: property disputes. More churches went to court in 2016 due to their building itself rather than any abuse that occurred inside of it.
The same article listed the top five reasons Churches are involved in lawsuits as follows:
1. Property Disputes
2. Sexual Abuse of a Minor
3. Personal Injury
4. Insurance Coverage Disputes
The property disputes are apparently stemming from disputes between conservative and liberal factions within a congregation. The personal injury disputes are for a litany of reasons. Some of the personal injury lawsuits stem from mishaps during the altar portion of a service while the minister is praying for people.
Your Best Precautions May Not Be Good Enough
Most Pastors do not think they or their Church will ever be involved in a lawsuit. That is naïve. Churches are being sued at an average of 1000 per month and many of those lawsuits are generated by Church members.
As prayerful as the Pastor and Board may be, they do not have the legal wherewithal to foresee every possible scenario. That is why Churches need the outside support of a reputable Church Management Firm.
We Are the Experts
Chitwood & Chitwood has been the number one Church Management and Structure Firm in the USA for 80 years. If it involves a Church, Pastor, or Church Leader, we have seen it and know actions needed to properly protect the Church, Pastor, and Leaders.
At our Church Management Conferences across the nation we teach Church Leaders how to ensure their Church will be protected in the event they discover they are the target of a lawsuit or if they are targeted by the IRS.
Every Pastor, Pastor’s Spouse, and Church Leader should attend the next Church Management Conference. To register visit our website at www.cmtc.org or call 800-344-0076. It will be the best investment your Church makes this year.