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"What is the Volunteer Protection Act?" by Josh Bryant


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Josh Bryant, Managing Attorney of Church General Counsel answers the question "What is the Volunteer Protection Act?" Churches need to know and discover tips through training videos and sample policy documents on how they can plan for their volunteers' spiritual growth, efficient ministry, and the church's legal protection.

Published in: Government & Nonprofit
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"What is the Volunteer Protection Act?" by Josh Bryant

  2. 2. ABOUT JOSH BRYANT  10 Years Legal Experience  5 Years Litigation  5 Years In-House Counsel for Churches  10 Years in Estate Planning & Planned Giving  5 Years Pastoral Experience  Primary experience in small group ministry with preaching & administrative duties as well.
  3. 3. WHAT IS THE VOLUNTEER PROTECTION ACT?  The Volunteer Protection Act was passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by then President Clinton in 1997.  Congress believed that people were discouraged from volunteering out of fear that they would be sued.  The act states generally that a volunteer will not be held liable for his or her acts or omissions committed during the course of volunteer service performed for a 501(c)(3) organization or the government.
  4. 4. WHEN DOES IT APPLY?  There are four conditions that must be met for the Volunteer Protection Act to apply:  The volunteer must be acting within the scope of his or her volunteer service.  The volunteer must be licensed or certified to do the volunteer work if that work normally requires a license or certification (i.e. a medical license for volunteer doctors).  The volunteer must not engage in willful or criminal conduct.  The volunteer must not be operating a motor vehicle.  If any of the above are not met, the volunteer is not protected by the federal Volunteer Protection Act.  CAUTION: There are state versions of the Volunteer Protection Act still in effect. However, they can only add to and never take away from the protections offered by the federal version of the law.
  5. 5. WHY DO CHURCH LEADERS NEED TO KNOW THIS?  Service is foundational to the ministry of the church. If pastors are to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry (Eph. 4) then the saints must volunteer to do the work of the ministry.  Churches should actually push people under the umbrella of the Volunteer Protection Act (i.e. help them qualify for protection under the act). This will make churches more efficient, and while it seems counterintuitive, churches that do so will be in a more legally defensible position.  There are still ways for churches to shift the risk of volunteering back to the volunteer, and at times this is the right thing to do. Read Risk is Right by John Piper.  In light of the Volunteer Protection Act, churches must make sure they have proper insurance that protects the church in the event someone is harmed by a volunteer protected by the law. Many times, they do not have proper insurance.
  6. 6. HOW CAN MY CHURCH BE BETTER PROTECTED? • Download a Sample Volunteer Protection Act Compliance Policy by clicking here. • Download the full Volunteer Protection Act Training Video here. • Join Church General Counsel for $25 per month and access these and other videos and sample policy documents at no additional charge here. • Retain Josh Bryant and Church General Counsel as your church’s in-house counsel starting at $1,000 for the entire year and get customized legal services here. • Email Josh at or give him a call at (866)597-5621.