Ask The Expert: If my church offers free counseling, do we still need pastoral counseling coverage?
Updated: Jul 19, 2022
-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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