Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Counseling Groups

Many of our member churches offer a portion of their property for use by third-parties as an extension of their mission and community engagement.  Allowing organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of America, and counseling groups such as AA and NA to use facilities is often passionately supported by the congregation.  It is important to understand these relationships may expose the church to risks.  The Trustees of the Presbytery of Philadelphia suggests the following to mitigate this risk exposure.  This policy for Third-Party Use of Church Property is the result of consultation with legal counsel and our insurance agent.  It is not intended to be all-inclusive and specific questions or anticipated departures from this policy should be reviewed by the Trustees.

Boy/Girl Scouts of America:

We recommend if you are not already a chartering organization do not enter into such an agreement.  Chartering organizations provide leadership, facilities, and support.  Along with those responsibilities come increased risk, especially when the potential for child sexual abuse exists.  If your church wants to sponsor a troop and allow them to use the space, you should have a signed Facility Use Agreement rather than become a chartering organization.  The presbytery’s approved lease agreement is highly recommended.  The use agreement should explicitly state the responsibilities of all parties and include proof of insurance, with appropriate coverage.

If you are already a chartering organization, and want to remain such, you should obtain a copy of the full insurance policy, including endorsements showing the church as additional insured under the BSA/GSA.  Additionally, you should discuss and clearly document with church/Session leadership and legal counsel the roles and duties of both parties.

All programing related to children (scouting, for example) carries with it the known risk of child abuse, according to MinistrySafe, an independent consulting firm endorsed by our insurance provider, Church Mutual.  As MinistrySafe recommends, each church must make a reasonable effort  to reduce this risk.  Reasonable effort is defined by the legal concept known as Standard of Care.  The protocols for any child-serving ministry include at least five elements:

  1. Sexual Abuse Awareness Training for staff members and volunteers
  2. Skillful Screening Processes
  3. Appropriate Criminal Background Checks
  4. Tailored Policies & Procedures: and
  5. Effective Monitoring and Oversight

Many churches have an effective safety system in place, but the system is designed to protect children served directly by the ministry such as youth ministry, children’s choir, etc.  But outside groups bringing children onto church property create additional considerations.

Recommended Requirements of Outside Groups:

  • Facility Use Agreement
  • Proof that the outside group has had Awareness Training and screening.
  • Ensure the outside group has adequate policies and supervision.

Please contact Jim Wagner , 215-242-1301 at the presbytery for questions and clarifications.