Sometimes churches will find themselves involved in a court case. In this post, we will share some statistics about why churches do end up in court and suggest what can be done to improve the odds your church is not one of them as we continue to look at church safety and security.

Again, while The McKnight Group does not profess to be safety experts, we do pay attention to the issues that churches encounter. We can share with you the importance of considering safety and security in your church design and we can recommend modifications to your church building that will help support and promote church safety.

The Top Five Reasons Churches End Up in Court

There is consistency in why churches do end up in court. In four out of the five years from 2014–2018, the number one reason for court cases involving a church was sexual abuse of a minor. Other top reasons include property disputes and personal injury (commonly called “slip and fall”) cases.

Sexual assaults are not just the most common reason for court cases against churches and religious organizations. With 73% of lawsuits against churches involving sexual assault, these cases are the overwhelming majority.

Incorporating Church Safety in Your Church Design

Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to decrease the likelihood of sexual assaults in your church building. To avoid church-related assaults, incorporate safety and security features into your church design. We talk a lot about visibility and transparency in church design, and it’s also important to limit access to children’s spaces. We’ve written before about keeping children secure in your church building, and we’ve discussed the importance of keeping your church building and property well-maintained and safe, especially in winter.

Another way to decrease the likelihood of a lawsuit is to have very well-defined church safety and security policies and have a safety and security team to communicate and enforce those policies. This way, volunteers and staff will be aware of what’s expected as well as supervised to make sure the policies are followed.

Recognizing that Church Safety Extends Beyond Your Church Building

One surprising statistic is where church-related assaults occur. 50% take place on church property or in a church building. This means 50% of church-related assaults don’t happen at the church. Instead, they occur on mission trips or youth retreats, or in homes and other places where church-sponsored events take place. This is another reason why a clear policy and a strong security presence are critically important for the safety and well-being of all the people in your church community.

As a New Year begins, we wish you the best and safest one ahead. Stay tuned for the unveiling of our 2020 lineup of free i3 webinars, and for the next in our church safety series, which will focus on church safety planning and commitment.