The below question was asked by a by a children ministry worker from an Assemblies of God church. The answer is given by Richard Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA, and legal counsel to The General Council of the Assemblies of God. I found his point applicable to many churches that sublet their building to other churches.
Liability and Church Security
Question: Please help me understand security in my church. As Children’s Ministry Coordinator, I am concerned about unsupervised children in the church. We have a sister church that meets here, and their children are left unsupervised during many events throughout the week. My concern is that the church has many entrances and many areas where a child could be taken quickly. I have tried to get people to understand the importance of adult supervision for these children who roam the church. Do you have any guidelines that could be used concerning this matter?
Answer: The bottom line is that the risk created by your sister congregation’s complete lack of supervision is not limited to that congregation. It extends to your church as well, since you are the property owner. In other words, if a child is abducted, molested, or in any other manner hurt or killed, I can assure you that your church will be named as a defendant if a lawsuit is filed. You need to be satisfied with the level of risk management being exercised by the congregation and also with the amount of insurance coverage that it has obtained. Let me emphasize that adequate insurance is NOT a substitute for risk management. The fact that the congregation has adequate coverage (and I suspect it does not) does not mean that it can continue to completely abdicate its legal duty of providing reasonable supervision. If the congregation cannot provide you with adequate assurance that it is practicing appropriate risk management, then I would not hesitate to terminate its access to your premises at the earliest opportunity consistent with any legal documents you have signed.