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Religious Organizations Have Unique Insurance Considerations. Find Out Why They Need a Standout Insurance Partner

Religious organizations have unique property and general and professional liability needs.
By: | November 2, 2022

Beautiful stained-glass windows, an organ to provide music during religious services, preschools, daycares and counseling services — these are just a few of the reasons religious organizations might need insurance coverages beyond the standard property and general liability form.

“Religious organizations may need some specialized coverages,” said Michael Nester, product specialist, human services, with Philadelphia Insurance Companies (PHLY). “We’re trying to offer this relationship that can help religious organizations improve upon their risk management.”

Whether large or small, religious facilities of all kinds will have insurance needs and finding the right insurance partner to help prevent claims in addition to covering the costs of damages is key.

From general liability and property coverages to specialized fine arts and policies for stained glass, musical instruments and other religious relics, here’s a look at the insurance needs of religious organizations.

Beyond a Typical Property or General Liability Policy

Michael Nester, Product Specialist, Human Services, Philadelphia Insurance Companies

Protection against general liability, auto and property claims are two of the main insurance coverages religious organizations seek.

General liability policies protect them in case anyone were to slip and fall or otherwise injure themselves on the premises. Auto insurance policies help protect any vehicles the organization might own.

“Buildings for religious organizations are so much more than just the building,” said Nicholas Colletta, vice president, commercial lines division, PHLY. “Someone’s parents could have been married there, they could have been baptized there, their grandparents may have had a funeral there.”

Beyond the sentimental value, religious buildings may contain musical instruments or pieces of fine art, which could be mangled if the property were to flood or become damaged in another way.

Religious organizations may also conduct other operations outside of services, like running a daycare or preschool facility. In these cases, they need property policies that offer coverage for loss of income in case the church or the school needs to shut down after an incident.

Professional Liability and Sexual Abuse and Molestation Risks

Nicholas Colletta, Vice President, Commercial Lines Division, Philadelphia Insurance Companies

Outside of property and general liability exposures, professional liability is another coverage many religious organizations find beneficial.

There are a number of reasons religious organizations may purchase a professional liability policy. Religious leaders often provide counseling to members of their organization, which could put them at risk of a legal suit if someone were to allege their services caused harm.

One situation where this could occur relates to marriage counseling. As Colletta explained, “we’ve seen in marriage counseling, if the individuals ultimately get divorced, sometimes there’s a suit brought in that the counseling wasn’t sufficient.”

In another case, a religious leader providing counseling to someone struggling with addiction or mental health challenges may find themselves in legal crosshairs if that person were to die from an overdose or by suicide.

“The family or the estate could come back and say some of that counseling the pastor provided was inadequate, or maybe the pastor should have realized that the need of counseling was above their scope of ability and should have recommended that they see a higher, greater level of professional therapy,” Colletta said.

Preschools and daycares are also at-risk of professional liability claims. If a child falls off a piece of playground equipment at the daycare or if they’re otherwise injured, parents could allege neglect and sue the religious organization.

“Within this professional liability coverage form, we provide the coverage for the teachers and some of the daycare workers as well,” Nester said.

As a spinoff of professional liability policies, many religious organizations need sexual abuse and molestation coverage and risk management services.

“Unfortunately, we can’t go too many days without seeing something in the news related to abuse and molestation in the world in general,” Colletta said. “It obviously has impacted the religious world as well.”

To keep children safe, many religious organizations are stepping up their risk management services. They want to stay up-to-date on best practices as well as ensure their preventative education programs and trainings are in-line with any state requirements.

“A really big component of having a proper abuse plan in place is not just dusting off whatever training you’ve been doing for the last 10 or 15 years,” Colletta said. “They want to make sure their training is focused on today’s concerns.”

Risk Management and Insurance Services

PHLY has been a trusted partner for religious organizations seeking insurance. Its risk management products and insurance services can help prevent claims from occurring and provide needed-relief if an incident occurs.

The company is there no matter the size of the religious facility. It’s here to protect everything from small, 50 member organizations to those with hundreds of congregants.

On the property end, its PHLYSENSE program can help protect religious buildings from damage. The program uses water and temperature detection devices to sense whether water is leaking from a pipe or intruding into the building envelope. It also monitors temperature changes, to provide alerts for extremely high or low temperatures that could indicate a risk of pipe freeze or equipment malfunction.

“We put it in an area where water could leak through,” Nester said. “It’s just there to identify and alert you if there’s any type of water leaking through to help prevent a larger claim.”

In the event that the property is damaged and a claim occurs, PHLY has policies tailored to the unique needs of religious organizations.

“Within our ultimate cover form we have a property enhancement that provides coverage for things like flooding, sewer and drain backups, musical instruments and fine arts, that aren’t included in a typical property,” Colletta said.

On the professional liability and sexual abuse and molestation end, PHLY offers a number of risk management services in addition to its insurance products. “We have a program called Ministry-Safe, which is specifically set up for abuse awareness for religious organizations,” Nester said.

Ministry-Safe walks organizations through developing and updating a sexual abuse and molestation prevention plan. It can help religious organizations protect children by educating their employees on the signs of sexual abuse.

“Our risk management services and coverage enhancements are really built to fit the needs of religious organizations,” Nester said. “It’s more than just a policy for us.”

To learn more, visit: https://www.phly.com/products/Religious.aspx.



This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Philadelphia Insurance Companies. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.

Philadelphia Insurance Companies (PHLY) offers product-specific resources, alliances, and service capabilities to achieve a multi-faceted approach to risk management, including safety program development, site audits, and training (including interactive web-based training). We offer a wide range of products and value-added services at financial terms to be agreed upon to help you achieve your risk management goals.

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