Skip to content »

Legal Risks for Churches

March 7 - March 28, 2019

Registration Fee: $40
Instructor: Mr. Andrew Vorbrich, Chancellor for the Michigan Conference of The United Methodist Church

Like any other nonprofit, churches are a business. Like any other business, churches have guests, employees, neighbors, contracts, and many other relationships that expose the church to legal liability and other risks. This four-week webinar series will bring some of those risks to your attention so you, as the leader of a church, know what to be on the lookout for. We cannot eliminate all risks, but you can be ready to face them. And there are some policies you can create to help minimize the risk and the financial consequences in the event that the risk becomes an event.

The webinars will take place each week on Thursday from 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m. Central Time. Everyone who registers for this series will receive an email, within 24 hours of each live webinar, that includes a link to access a recording of that week's webinar. This means as long as you are registered, you can miss the live webinar(s) and be able to view the recording(s) when you are able to do so. If you are unable to attend the live webinars and would still like to receive the 0.5 CEU (see the CEU tab below for the description), you will need view the recorded webinars between March 7 - April 5, 2019. The benefit of attending the live webinar is that you will be able to ask question(s) of the instructor. Since we recognize not all registrants will be able to attend the live webinars, we will provide information to all registrants closer to the start of the first webinar to enable you to submit questions you may have prior to each webinar.

Week 1: Premises Liability and Building Use

In the first week, we will discuss how a church building gets used. What about injuries that occur on the property? Who owns the church building? As far as church security goes, can you restrict who comes in and what they do? Can you restrict what they bring onto the premises (guns)? What uses might impact property taxes? What about church vans and mission trips?

Week 2: Employment Issues

Week two brings us to employment concerns. Most seminarians do not learn how to hire or fire an employee, yet churches have lots of employees. How do you interview someone before hiring them? How do you document your file before disciplining or terminating someone? Beware of sexual harassment complaints, allegations, threats, and rumors.

Week 3: Copyrights and Gifts

Few people understand copyright laws, yet there are some harsh penalties if you step across the line, even if inadvertent. Even the United Methodist cross and flame logo is protected, and often violated. We will also talk about the receipt of donations and gifts. Can you turn down a gift? How do you make sure your donor gets all the tax advantages they are entitled to?

Week 4: Other Risks and Protection Possibilities

Finally, we will talk about other, smaller risks that you should be aware of. How does the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) apply to churches? Did you know that sales taxes might apply to the bake sale after services? Having enough insurance will go a long way to helping you sleep well at night. Implementing good employment policies, building use guidelines, and volunteer procedures will also help to alleviate some of the risks you will face.

Mr. Andrew VorbrichMr. Andrew Vorbrich

Andrew Vorbrich is a partner at the Kalamazoo law firm of Lennon, Miller, O’Connor & Bartosiewicz, P.L.C. He helps his clients protect, preserve, and pass along the assets they accumulate through corporate and business work, non-profit representation, comprehensive estate planning, estate administration, and church representation. He is chancellor for the Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church. One of his strengths is researching and writing on complex legal issues.

Mr. Vorbrich graduated with high distinction from the University of Iowa College of Law. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree with Departmental Honors in History from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa and The Order of the Coif honor societies.

Andrew is involved in our community serving with many non-profit organizations. He currently works with First United Methodist Church of Kalamazoo; the Kalamazoo Community Foundation; the Kiwanis Club of Kalamazoo; the Kalamazoo County Bar Association; and serves as a Trustee at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. He volunteers as a weekly tutor in the Kalamazoo Public Schools and is active in his community in many other ways.  Andrew is also past president of the Kalamazoo County Trial Lawyers Association, Open Doors Kalamazoo, Gryphon Place, Constance Brown Hearing Centers, and past chair of the Community Investment Cabinet at the United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region.

In his spare time, Andrew enjoys singing tenor in his church choir, bowling, golf, running, and family vacations. Andy and his wife Sally have two grown sons. His favorite color is orange.

Partipants who like to receive 0.5 CEU may do so by attending all four webinars (or view the recordings between March 7-April 5, 2019) and writing a 2-4 page response paper. The directions for the paper will be shared closer to the start of the offering. The registration fee for the 0.5 CEU option is $50.