Monday, January 15, 2018

Legal Matters Concerning The Church

With titles comes great responsibility

Often, we think of titles being bestowed upon leaders in the body: Bishop, superintendent, pastor, missionary, etc. However, titles belong to the workers in ministry that do not receive as much notice: the cook, the greeter, the volunteer -even the janitor; these too are titles. No matter the label, the duty of care owed to the body and the ministry, is of the same weight. Whether the bishop breaches that duty, or the janitor breaches that duty – the detrimental affects to the  church are the same. This means that it is imperative to take your title and obligatory work in the church very serious.

“The risk of litigation should never impede the ministries of the church; but to ignore the very real dangers would be naive and equally wrong.”-Jon McLanahan

According to tort law, a “duty of care” is defined as a legal obligation, which is imposed on an individual requiring an adherence to a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts that could foreseeable harm others. Each of us that belong to an auxiliary owe a duty of care to the body while working. Whenever you fail to uphold that duty, the church is almost helplessly exposed to great risk of litigation. This means that doing your particular job with no zeal or carelessly is not only a disservice to The Lord - but you stand to be the reason why the church suffers legally. Not only is it about how you fulfill your assignment, but when. Merely failing to show up when you are on duty could result in trouble.

Here’s how:

In 2010, Dadd v. Mount Hope Church and International Outreach Ministries was decided and the Court found in favor of the plaintiff. At the end of service, per usual, an alter call was made. Dadd, the plaintiff, went to the altar to receive prayer, and while being “slain in the spirit” fell and injured herself. She then filed suit against the church. The church argued that there was no way they could assign an Usher to each individual that responds to the alter call to watch over them while they pray in case they fall. Although the court agreed that that would be an unreasonable expectation, they found that the church breached their duty of care because they were aware of the possibility of injury to those who answered the altar call and should have had, and normally had ushers in place to assist participants. On this particular Sunday, THERE WERE NO USHERS IN PLACE. Do you see how the absence of one Usher affected the whole church?

Sometimes we think that because we are not in the forefront, or that since the title we hold receives little to no acclaim, that it will not make a difference how or when we fulfill our duties. But this could not be further from the truth. The church is one of the most, if not the most, vulnerable organizations. There is almost infinite risk exposure. Every person working in the ministry has a duty of care. Often the reasons are obvious for auxiliaries such as the nurse’s board, the security team and the transportation team; but even musicians owe a duty of care!

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Glad you asked. The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 9:10, whatever your hands find to do, do it WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT. This does not mean to just do whatever, whenever. But take up your task with dignity and with a spirit of excellence. First and most importantly because your service is unto your God, The Most High - and we would never want to present to Him something that is of no value to us. But second, because we do not want our service to become a hindrance to the House of God. There’s a reason The Lord implores us to work diligently and efficiently. It is because we are made in His image and He is excellent, but also because when we do so according to His instruction, we are protected from the snares of litigation and looming risk that lies in every area of operating a successful ministry. Conduct quarterly meetings to identify all risks involved in operating your auxiliary. You should brainstorm with your team all possible situations where a person could be injured or property damaged - even if it seems unlikely to occur. Once the risks are identified, plan how to avoid or minimize those risks (i.e. with waivers, release forms, signs, etc.). Discuss these issues with your leaders. We want to leave no room for the enemy to attempt to derail or distract us from our overall mission for Christ.

-Tylar Johnson

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