Q&A: Waivers and Release Forms for Churches

How important is it to obtain medical and liability release forms before sponsoring mission trips?

Q: What is the process for obtaining medical and liability release forms for churches sponsoring foreign mission trips? What are the risks of NOT having such documents from your participants?

There are many unique risks faced by ministries sponsoring foreign mission trips. Some of those risks are relatively minor, while others can be life-threatening.

Release forms are a lot like seat belts. They are an important safety precaution, but they don’t always prevent someone from being injured. Here’s why you need them.

Medical release forms are often needed to obtain emergency medical treatment, especially for minors. If medical releases are not obtained before a foreign mission trip, medical care could be delayed or denied.

How to find them: You can download free sample medical releases from a number of websites. You may also get them from doctors or hospitals. However, make sure a local attorney has reviewed and approved your medical release form before using it.

Liability release forms alert participants to risks they could encounter in a foreign (or domestic) service project. While a release can’t address every conceivable risk, it should cover the most anticipated ones (transportation, injuries and illnesses, foreign threats, project risks, etc.).

Whether a liability release will hold up in court tends to vary, based on the facts of the case and the state law that governs. If the release is well thought out, specific to the situation, and is properly signed, courts are more willing to enforce it.

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