Outside Groups and Special Events

The Church Insurance Agency Corporation (CIAC) has helpful recommendations in regard to the use of your church property by outside groups.

Outside groups often fall into two different categories:
a) legal entities that want to lease your space
b) small groups of people who want to use your space free of charge for periodic activities

Allowing those small groups of people (like a knitting or a book club) to use your space is ministry of the church, but anything that sounds like a business should go through a formal process before being permitted to use the space.

Leasing Space to Outside Entities

Make sure the proper insurance is in place and, with the help of legal counsel, make written agreements with outside parties about the terms of use.

  • A group holding an activity at your church should provide evidence of insurance by producing a certificate of liability
  • Groups leasing space from the church should have the church named as additional insured on their insurance policy
  • Leases should also include a hold harmless provision between the two parties (templates available on the diocesan website)
  • There should be an agreement as to who will be responsible for maintenance and housekeeping regarding the space being used
  • Be sure the group using your property understands any restrictions or hazards that they need to be aware of
  • Complete a safety checklist before turning over the care and control of the property
  • Check with your bishop’s office to determine if Standing Committee approval is needed for leases over one year in length
  • Users should typically be non-profit organizations such as AA, Boy Scouts, etc.

Hosting Outside Events

Many activities other than services might occur on church property. Hosting events in your church facility can be an important part of your church’s community outreach and a critical factor in raising necessary funds. You could host a fundraising event that involves rides or bounce houses for children. You might take a group of children on a field trip to a nearby lake. You may host a wedding reception on your property at which liquor is served.

Church leaders need to do their homework when adding new types of community and church events, particularly those that take place at venues other than church property or that feature different kinds of catering and entertainment arrangements. It’s worth a call to your insurance agent so your church leaders can put insurance and operational procedures in place for whatever you have coming up. Your agent can help you develop checklists and guidelines to have on file for staff and volunteers.

When holding church-sponsored events offsite caterers, homeowners, facility managers, and other key event participants should meet with church leaders and the church’s insurance agent well in advance of the event to discuss potential liability issues and how inspections, safety issues, and coverage should be coordinated.

When holding a festival for the community on church property:

Just as you would do when hosting events for your church community, you should build specific protections into your risk management plans when hosting amusement rides, food festivals, or other events open to the wider community.

  • Make sure you have insurance coverage for Host Liquor Liability, as well as per-event liability coverage for concerts, amusement rides, and the use of inflatables such as jumpers and waterslides.
  • Outside contractors offering such services should provide current and verifiable proof of insurance.
  • Train volunteers and church employees responsible for monitoring the safety of rides and activities for children and adults.
  • Responsible adults should be watching for rough play, too many kids on a ride or inflatable, or kids who are too tired to stay with the others.
  • They should also watch to make sure that the rides are functioning safely and the inflatable has enough air. Be sure the church has enough insurance to cover all of the renters, exhibitors, service providers, and volunteer workers at the event.
Guidelines for weddings, concerts, and parties:
  • Require wedding parties and other renters to provide their own proof of insurance for whatever liability issues you may identify. Renters will need to secure coverage of a specific minimum limit to compensate the church in case of cancellation of the event, liability coverage for alcohol-related accidents, or other damage or problems for which the church might be held liable. You should also require that the church be listed as an additional insured party.
  • Provide strict scheduling guidelines for the use of all of the church facilities
  • Provide neighborhood noise restrictions in writing, and explain and enforce them
  • Hire all security personnel for events. Do not leave this to the renter
Train staff and volunteers to maintain a safe environment:

Just as you should assign responsible adults to supervise minors and their activities, one staff person should be assigned as the safety and risk officer for any event sponsored by the church. This person should be properly trained, then supervise training for subordinates for special events.


Bounce Houses (and other inflatables)
  • Require the rental company providing the inflatable to provide proof of insurance.
  • Before setting up the inflatable, check its condition to make sure there are no rips or holes.
  • When setting up the inflatable, choose a flat area and place a tarp on the ground to protect the bottom from rips or holes.
  • The inflatable should be staked and weighted down.
  • The inflatable should be fully inflated and not sagging; this will increase the likelihood that children will not land on each other.
  • Only children of similar sizes and ages should use the inflatable at the same time.
  • Limit the number of children using the inflatable at any one time.
  • Remove children who are tired and therefore more likely to be injured.
  • Provide adult supervision (two or more adults are preferable) at all times; place an emphasis on avoiding rough play.
Liquor Liability
  • Avoid serving alcohol to anyone under the age of 21 by checking identification.
  • Do not serve someone who appears to be inebriated.
  • Institute a drink limit.
  • Make sure non-alcoholic beverages are available.
  • Limit events to within a certain timeframe.
  • When an outside party (such as a wedding) uses your premises, the church may require a certificate of insurance from the vendor.
  • Check licensing requirements and determine if your organization is required to secure a liquor license (generally true in RI)
  • Consider the use of a professional bartender and require that they provide a certificate of insurance showing coverage for liquor liability.
  • Review the diocesan alcohol policy
Water Activities
  • Never leave a child unsupervised around water.
  • Never allow participants to swim alone.
  • Only allow participants to swim in areas supervised by a lifeguard.
  • Participants should understand your requirement to read and obey all signs.
  • An adult experienced in CPR should be present at all activities involving children and water.
  • Children should be tested on skill level.
  • Inexperienced swimmers should explore no deeper than waist-deep, and non-swimmers should be required to wear personal flotation devices.
  • Stop activities at the first signs of bad weather.
  • A safety inspection should be completed before the use of watercraft.
  • Never combine events that include alcohol and water activities.
  • Do not allow head-first diving at pools, lakes, and rivers.
  • Do not allow the use of personal watercraft, such as jet skis.
  • When boating, leave an itinerary with someone at the church; include the route, expected time of travel, and mobile phone numbers.


General Information

The policy offered by CIAC reads as follows:
“Insured” includes: “your” member or volunteer, but only for liability incurred while engaged in activities authorized
by and performed on behalf of “you.”

They pay all sums which an insured becomes legally obligated to pay as damages due to bodily injury…caused by an occurrence which takes place in the coverage territory, and the bodily injury or property damage must occur during the policy period. You can download and print an article, Outside Groups Using Church Space that describes CIAC’s recommendations and polices. You also can find this information on pages 73-79 of the Safety & Insurance Handbook

Should you have additional questions or concerns, please contact CIAC at (800) 293-3525.