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Opening Your Doors: How to Share Space & Avoid Liability Risks

Use your facility to reach the community without "holding the bag."

Opening your church’s door to outside organizations is another way to extend your ministry into your community — recognizing that your facility goes unused most of the week. It can be an awesome tool, but it might also open the door for liability risks leaving your church and leaders “holding the bag” of damages or injury. Here are some important and practical tips on how to use your facility to reach your community and protect your ministry at the same time.

  • Make sure you have the proper coverage for all activities. Differentiate between activities, ministries, and events taking place on your premises that are within the umbrella of your own operations and those that are operated, sponsored, and/or supervised by outside individuals, groups, and businesses, or are for personal use. Sometimes the line between sponsored activities and outside or personal activities is fuzzy, but here’s some good questions to ask to help make that distinction. Is the event, activity, or occupancy:

  1. Within your organization’s charitable and religious purposes?

  2. Advancing your organization’s ministries and work-not personal use?

  3. Supervised and operated by your organization’s own staff and volunteer leaders?

  4. Formally sponsored and approved by your organization’s leadership?

Activities meeting all these criteria are clearly within the scope of your organization’s operations. However, if it is a new activity, it’s always advisable to check with your insurance agent to confirm you have proper coverage.

Transfer legal and insurance responsibility for any outside or personal activities and events that do not fall under your organization’s operations. Here are some useful tips to allow access for the safe use of your building and property for non-sponsored, or personal activities and events:

  • Facility Use Agreement. Develop formal property use guidelines for the use of your facilities by outside parties or for personal use. This is often referred to as a, “Facility Use Agreement”. Make sure that these key requirements are detailed in your Facility Use Agreement:

  1. A waiver of legal liability against your organization by the group or individual using your facilities (hold harmless clause), along with their undertaking to indemnify your organization for any legal liability arising out of bodily injury or property damage caused by their negligence.

  2. Require the organization to provide your organization with a certificate of liability confirming coverage for their operations on your premises and naming your organization as an, “Additional Insured”. For most activities and events, we recommend a minimum coverage of $1,000,000. Higher limits may be appropriate depending on the type of event.

  • Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Develop a formal agreement outlining the terms and details of an understanding, including each parties’ requirements and responsibilities. This will help reduce those “unknown issues” that might arise and may also reduce unnecessary conflict. The typical format of an MOA includes:

    1. Authority

    2. Purpose of the agreement

    3. Name of parties involved

    4. Brief description of the scope of work

    5. Financial obligations of each party, if applicable

    6. Dates agreement is in effect

    7. Key contacts for each party involved

    8. Detailed Description of Roles and Responsibilities

    9. Duration of the Agreement

    10. Modification of Termination

    11. Signatures of Parties’ Principals

With wisdom, trusted use policies, and a thorough review process, it is possible to protect your ministry and be a good neighbor.

If you have any questions or requests, feel free to reach out to us by using our contact form.

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