Ask The Expert: If my church offers free counseling, do we still need pastoral counseling coverage?

-Scott Lofgren, Business Administrator, Faith United Methodist Church, Richmond, TX




As discussed in our other comprehensive article this month on Pastoral Counseling Liability, the answer to this very important question is yes! Pastoral counseling coverage is necessary whether counseling is performed for a fee or for free. Additionally, all United Methodist churches are required to have pastoral counseling liability coverage as part of the minimum insurance requirements set forth by the General Council on Finance and Administration.


While there may be many options available to church congregants to receive counseling in a formal setting (for example, an enrichment class) which is fee-based, there are still many instances where pastors, church employees, and volunteers under the direction of the pastor may find themselves providing guidance when there are no associated fees. This may be because formal counseling/classes are simply offered free of charge, or it may be because advice is provided in a more casual impromptu setting where again, no costs are assessed.


Consider a congregant running into a pastor in the park. Perhaps the congregant engages in a friendly conversation with the pastor and ends up asking for advice about a situation in their life. The pastor obliges and offers some insight. This exchange could be considered counseling and therefore still carries risk even if it seems relatively insignificant.


Any time a congregant receives counseling from a pastor, church employee, or volunteer under the direction of the pastor, it could unfortunately result in negative allegations outcomes.The need to have pastoral counseling liability coverage and help protect your church is not affected by whether or not congregants are charged for counseling, the type of counseling they receive, or the setting in which it is performed.


Need a quote for church insurance that includes pastoral counseling coverage?Contact UMIP today to request a quote!


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This content has been prepared by United Methodist Insurance Company (UMI) for informational purposes only. No article or document may accurately contemplate all possible scenarios or church resources. As such, this information is meant to foster discussion by the individual church and its members to develop a plan tailored to its own circumstances. UMI is providing this information with no warranties or guarantees of any kind and it should not be viewed as legal, financial, or other professional advice. All liability is expressly disclaimed. Any claim examples described herein are general in nature, may or may not be based on actual claims, and are for informational purposes only. Any coverage available for a claim is determined from the facts and circumstances of the claim as well as the terms and conditions of any applicable policy, including any exclusions or deductibles. In the event of a conflict with the content herein, the terms and conditions of any issued policy will control. Individual coverage may vary and may not be available in all states.


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