Religious Organization Insurance and Three Coverage Essentials to Expect from an Insurance Company


With over 70% of the world's population identifying as members of a religious community1, it's clear that religion plays a vital role in many people's lives. As the heart of their spiritual (and many times physical) communities, religious organizations provide much more than opportunities for worship, guidance, and a building.

From meals on wheels to second-hand shops, religious organizations offer:

  • Opportunities for employment and volunteering
  • Locations for events and meetings (secular and non-secular)
  • Education (for children and adults), schools, and camps
  • Housing, transportation, and more

"Religious organizations may not be aware of the full extent of their risk exposure from their daily and seasonal activities and programs," says Nicholas Colletta, Assistant Vice President and Religious Organization Insurance Underwriting Manager, Philadelphia Insurance Companies (PHLY). "An insurance strategy that understands religious organizations' unique needs can help protect them and mitigate risk. It should have three key elements that provide continuous coverage, protection, and service."


Specialized Niche Coverages, Risk Control, and Experienced Claims Management

These three components are essential to a seamless and successful customer experience.


1. Specialized Niche Coverages

No two religious organizations are the same. Their insurance provider should have the experience necessary to handle their unique needs, whether they are a small church or an extensive complex. Religious organizations should have the following insurance coverages:


  • Property coverage to protect against expensive damages

Buildings (including the church building, pastor's residence, school buildings, rental properties, rec centers, and thrift shops) can have quite a few unplanned exposures, such as:

  • A burst pipe in a sanctuary causing $660,000 of water damage
  • Hail and wind causing $340,331 of building damage
  • A hurricane causing $1,323,776 of roof and water damages
  • Fire causing $3,200,000 of damage

In addition to the buildings themselves, religious organizations often have unique building contents, including organs and fine art such as paintings, stained glass windows, religious artifacts, and Torahs.


  • Abuse and molestation coverage to protect those in their care

Youth are at risk, whether in groups, at Sunday School, on church field trips, or at religious camps, schools, and daycares. One example of an abuse claim includes:

  • $1,299,211 in damages for a 24-year-old youth pastor having sexual relations with a 15-year-old youth group member

Adult on adult abuse is also a concern. One claims example includes:

  • $350,000 in damages when a pastor made unwanted sexual contact with a woman during several counseling sessions
  • Auto coverage to protect those who travel and the vehicles used

Church vans, buses, and the pastor's own car are common risks:

  • A church van attempting a left turn through three lanes of traffic resulted in $400,585 of damages

Religious organizations may also have a hired and non-owned vehicle exposure, such as:

  • A church employee in their personal vehicle hitting a motorcyclist (non-owned auto coverage) for a resulting $1,002,203 in damages
  • General Liability coverage for 24/7 protection

Slips, falls, and other injuries to church members and visitors require protection:

  • A trip and fall on a cracked church sidewalk resulted in $533,668 of damages

Injuries can happen during activities such as volunteer events:

  • A volunteer was injured in a fall from scaffolding with $1,159,958 of resulting damages

Hosting special events or large conferences also put religious organizations at risk for liability claims.


Coverage for Professional Liability is also a must-have. This covers services performed by religious leaders from counseling (including religious, marriage, alcohol, and drug abuse) to circumcision by a mohel performed by religious leaders. And lastly, protection from crime, theft, and even cyber threats (3.4% of daily hacks are against religious organizations2) are recommended as part of a comprehensive coverage strategy.

PHLY has been designing coverage for religious organizations of all denominations and sizes since 2005, including Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, Episcopal, Methodist, 7th Day Adventist, Jewish synagogues, and non-denominational churches. PHLY understands the particular coverage needs of each client and develops solutions unique to them. Additionally, you'll work directly with our underwriters (not with MGAs or MGUs), so it is easy to get the answers you need for your clients.


2. Risk Control

Combining a risk management program with insurance coverage is the next vital element of a comprehensive protection strategy.

"Controlling risk is critical for religious organizations," says Eric Smith, a Senior Analyst in the Risk Management Services department at PHLY. "It may be difficult for them to know where they are exposed to risk because they provide so many services. Our consultants are specially trained across all of our products and risk functions. They understand the risks involved with abuse situations, camps, schools, aquatics, auto, building maintenance, and more and can apply this breadth of knowledge to the organization's benefit."

RMS consultants can assist with reviewing policies and current exposures and provide recommendations on how to strengthen risk management practices. These services are included in the insurance premium. Consultants can also help organizations navigate access to an array of risk management tools from our partners, many at no or low cost, to help with:

  • Auto Risks:
    • Free GPS tracking units installed (valued at $300 each) and use of the proprietary PHLYTRAC telematics tool
    • Defensive driver training
  • Abuse Risks:
    • Online abuse prevention training and policy support through MinistrySafe
  • Safety Risks:
    • Building and site inspections and recommendations for repairs, upkeep, and preservation
    • Identification of hazards including physical, environmental, financial, and emotional
    • Armed intruder strategies and violent assault response programs

PHLY also provides clients with SmarterNow, a Learning Management System for online training and reporting capabilities for driver training, workplace discrimination, security awareness, and more. Watch the short video here, and find the complete list of risk tools and services available here.


3. Claims Management

The third essential component of a solid insurance strategy is claims management.

Religious organizations should expect their insurance company to handle claims quickly and easily. That's only possible when examiners have experience in this niche.

PHLY has 50 locations across the country, and claims are regionalized to examiners and matched with specific property experts. In fact, some larger clients have a dedicated examiner for continuity. And, as abuse claims are of particular concern, PHLY has over a dozen examiners experienced in handling all manner of abuse claims. PHLY receives, on average, upwards of 1,000 sexual and physical abuse claims per year across our various product niches.

During difficult times of accident, injury, or damage, PHLY has the experience to make the claim process as straightforward and stress-free as possible - so the organization can get back to what they do best.


For your religious organization clients looking for insurance coverage, not all insurance companies are alike.

"At PHLY, our clients aren't just purchasing a contract - they are entering into a relationship with us," says Colletta. PHLY provides a full circle of client support: from specialty niche policies to risk management and mitigation to experienced claims services. PHLY delivers it all, with a 96 percent customer satisfaction rating while handling over $90 million in religious business annually.

To find out more about PHLY's religious organization insurance and risk management services for your clients, visit our product page or contact your PHLY representative.

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