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The do’s and don’ts of renting your church facility

By Eric Spacek, JD, ARM

INSURANCE ESSENTIALS ICONFrom weddings and banquets, to meetings and basketball practice, chances are your church receives rental requests on a regular basis.

Opening your church’s doors to outside organizations is another way to extend your ministry into your community — but it might also open the door for safety and liability issues, such as property damage, theft, or tumbles on slippery surfaces.

With smart planning, trusted use policies and a thorough review process, it’s possible to protect your place of worship and be a good neighbor. Keep these considerations in mind when renting your facility:

Opening your church’s doors to outside organizations is another way to extend your ministry into your community — but it might also open the door for safety and liability issues, such as property damage, theft, or tumbles on slippery surfaces.

With smart planning, trusted use policies and a thorough review process, it’s possible to protect your place of worship and be a good neighbor. Keep these considerations in mind when renting your facility:

wedding ceremony of churchDO set ground rules. Saying “yes” or “no” to use requests is much easier when you have streamlined guidelines in place — guidelines influenced by legal and financial advisors. Create a go-to facility use policy that includes, but is not limited to, the following factors:

• Will you allow members of the public or outside organizations to rent your facility, or limit it to church or ministry uses? Note that opening your facility to the public can have potential tax and/or legal liability implications.

• Which rooms in your church (the sanctuary, fellowship hall, classrooms, kitchen and nursery, for instance) are open to users, and which aren’t?

• What will you charge for rental fees and related expenses? Will church members pay less than nonmembers?

• Who is responsible for setup and cleanup?

• Will you allow sales during events?

• Do church members get priority if two groups want the space at the same time?

• Must someone from the church be present when an outside group uses the facility?

• Must childcare providers be selected and screened by your church?

• How will damage, injury or theft be handled?

DON’T make decisions alone. Form a team of church leaders, plus legal and financial counsel, to approve or deny rental requests depending on the organization, the type of event, and potential legal and tax implications. The approvals team should document their decisions.

DO ask questions. Before giving a group the green light to use your church’s space, do your homework. Find out what specific type of event the group is hosting, approximately how many people will attend, which room(s) the group needs, and how exactly participants will use the space. When possible, check venue references at places where the group has held past events.

DON’T skimp on insurance. Make sure that any group that rents space in your church has insurance coverage limits that are equal to or higher than your church’s insurance policy limits, and confirm that the group names your church as an additional insured on their policies. Secure proof that your church has been named as an additional insured on their insurance.

DO get everything in writing. Have approved groups sign a Facility Use Agreement that outlines essential details: costs, time of use, and your expectations. Additionally, make sure the agreement includes a release from liability — a “hold harmless” clause that indemnifies your church in the event of injuries or damage and requires proof of insurance. Review your Facility Use Agreement annually to ensure it aligns with your church’s use policies and mission.

DON’T ignore facility maintenance. As the “lessor” of space, you have an obligation to provide a safe facility. Limit risk by keeping your facility in tip-top shape inside and out. Remove tripping hazards, secure valuables, and mark and clear slippery surfaces. It’s a good idea to conduct pre- and post-event building walkthroughs and assessments.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry — and sometimes it makes better sense to say “no” to rental requests. By making building use policies a priority and implementing these six strategies, you can gain peace of mind and help minimize risk for everyone involved.


Eric Spacek, JD, ARM is the Director of Risk Management and Loss Control at GuideOne Insurance in West Des Moines, IA. Before joining GuideOne, he served as Minister of Operations for a large Methodist church in Raleigh, NC, and was a liability litigation trial attorney in Washington, D.C.

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