Digital technology and risks to your church

13 January 2021

Understanding the risks with digital technology and how to manage them.

Out of focus laptop screen

In common with many charitable bodies, Anglican churches are embracing digital technology and there is little doubt that this trend has accelerated as a consequence of the pandemic.

To explore this, we recently conducted research on how churches have gone digital to counter lockdown and have found some wonderful examples of this in action.

Take a look at the findings

Digital technology is enabling churches to reach out to their communities and further their mission in new ways. However, whilst there are many obvious benefits there are also associated risks that need to be managed in such areas as data protection, copyright, licencing, safeguarding and cybercrime.

The Church of England has recognised the real benefits of digital technology and as part of its Renewal and Reform strategy, it has created a centralised digital team to develop its approach to the web, social media and wider technological innovation. This has resulted in a significant amount of guidance and training being produced for its churches

There is also some very helpful information on the Parish Resources website around such things as GDPR, digital giving and remote PCC meetings.

The Charity Commission offers a wealth of information for charities on its website and many diocese have guidance available for their churches. 

We have also produced a cyber risk management guide for charities which we hope you will find of help.

How does digital technology impact insurance?

Many of our church customers often ask us about the insurance implications of using digital technology. We have therefore identified some common examples of how digital technology is being used in churches along with the related insurance and risk management considerations.

Common examples of digital technology in churches:

  • Live-streaming and recording church services
  • Meetings via Zoom or other virtual platforms
  • Church websites
  • Digital giving
  • General use of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter
  • Electronic newsletters

Insurance cover for churches

Whilst insurance is available for a number of the risks associated with digital technology it must be remembered that churches should also have policies and procedures in place to manage these risks.

We are only able to provide a brief overview within this guidance so please refer to your summary of cover or policy document for more detail about the policy terms and limits.

Standard cover

Your church insurance policy includes cover for:

  • Data protection – damages and legal costs following a breach of data protection legislation.
  • Libel and slander – damages and legal costs following unintentional libel or slander or infringement of copyright.
  • Equipment – loss or damage in the church, in transit, at church events and at the home of a church official.
  • Trustee and church council indemnity – damages and legal costs arising out of wrongful acts by trustees whilst acting in that capacity.
  • Public liability – damages and legal costs arising out of accidental bodily injury or illness to third parties (including legal liability arising from abuse).

Optional cyber insurance cover

We are able to offer an optional cyber insurance policy that provides additional specialist cover. See our summary: Cyber insurance summary

It should be noted that whilst insurance cover is available as outlined, it is our expectation that churches will research and follow the good practice guidance that has been developed by the Church of England (centrally and via your diocese) and other appropriate organisations such as the Charity Commission.

Managing risks associated with digital technology

Considerations include:

  • Copyright - ensure that you have the correct permissions to use material.
  • Data Distribution – take care any personal data is distributed as intended following best practice guidance.
  • Licences – check that you have the correct licences.
  • GDPR and image permission – gain permission to use the images of people where necessary.
  • Social media policy – ensure that you have developed an overall social media policy.
  • Remote PCC meetings – ensure that you are following Charity Commission guidance and the Church Representation Rules.
  • Protection of equipment against loss, damage or theft (please refer to our guidance on the security of electronic equipment).
  • Safety of clergy or other church officials who may be working alone (please refer to our guidance on personal safety).
  • Safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults
  • Protection against computer viruses and cyber-crime (please refer to our guide on protecting you against online risks).

We appreciate that this is a complex area and therefore please contact us on 0345 777 3322 if you wish to discuss any aspects of your policy cover.