4 Unavoidable Legal Issues For Your Church

As a church leader, there are certain things we don’t like to think about, but in the end, we cannot avoid them.


It is a bad day when a summons is served. Yet in reality, anyone can sue for any reason. They may not prevail, but they will certainly make your life difficult in the meantime.

Slip & fall, child abuse allegations, auto accident, board decision, food poisoning, parking lot mishap, dismissed employee, alleged misuse of a donation – all of these can lead to a lawsuit.

Prevention is always best. Following good practices helps with prevention. But what protects you if you get sued? Simply put, your best line of defense is your liability insurance policy. Carefully select and monitoring your liability insurance coverages. Pay attention to recommendations and offers from your carrier.


A child reports abuse while at your church. This is any church’s worst nightmare. Besides concerns for kids and concerns for the reputation of Christ’s church, there is the concern of legal action that could occur if a parent sues the church for an incident involving a staff member or volunteer.

Enact strict child safety policies and follow them relentlessly. Be willing to close a kid’s classroom if you cannot adhere to your policies regarding properly screened volunteers and appropriate teacher-to-student ratios.

Willingness to comply with those policies will serve to prevent harm to kids and harm to the reputation of your church.


When you have invested significant resources into purchasing blanket licenses, it is easy to assume that your church has permission to use any artistic creation that seems compelling.

Then the letter from the law firm comes demanding you cease and desist (at best) or demanding tens of thousands of dollars due to copyright infringement (at worst).

The first step is to purchase the appropriate licenses. But also be sure someone is asking the permission question about everything you use in your worship services, in your other programming, and on your website.


Nobody gets excited about Articles of Incorporation & Bylaws! But . . . .

The U.S. Government only has authority that is delegated to it by the people as spelled out in the Constitution and other legal documents. Similarly, the only way a church can conduct business is if it has expressed authority to do so in its governing documents.

What powers do your church members have? Your elders? Your lead pastor? Can the church purchase property? Can it receive income and invest it? Can it ordain ministers? Can it buy insurance that shields board members and staff from personal liability from lawsuits?

Ensure consistency between what you actually do and what your governing documents say you can do.

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Clergy Financial Resources serves as a resource for clients to help analyze the complexity of clergy tax law, church payroll & HR issues. Our professionals are committed to helping clients stay informed about tax news, developments and trends in various specialty areas.

This article is intended to provide readers with guidance in tax matters. The article does not constitute, and should not be treated as professional advice regarding the use of any particular tax technique. Every effort has been made to assure the accuracy of the information. Clergy Financial Resources and the author do not assume responsibility for any individual’s reliance upon the information provided in the article. Readers should independently verify all information before applying it to a particular fact situation, and should independently determine the impact of any particular tax planning technique. If you are seeking legal advice, you are encouraged to consult an attorney.

For more information or if you need additional assistance, please use the contact information below.

Clergy Financial Resources
11214 86th Avenue N.
Maple Grove, MN 55369

Tel: (888) 421-0101 
Fax: (888) 876-5101
Email: clientservices@clergyfinancial.com


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