Our church sponsors hayrides a couple of times each year for our congregation. One is for the youth group, and another is for adults. Several members of the congregation have expressed concerns about the safety of such events. Should we be concerned? Should we stop offering them? This would be a big disappointment to many in our congregation.
Hayrides are inherently risky activities that have resulted in injuries and deaths to many persons. Many courts have found the sponsors of these events, including churches, liable for any deaths or injuries that may occur, usually on the basis of negligent selection of the driver of the truck or tractor that pulls the wagon, or negligent supervision of the event itself. Churches should not authorize or schedule such events (for minors or adults) without stringent safeguards to protect against injury and death. Here are 18 precautions to consider:
- If minors are among the passengers, be sure that an adequate number of adult supervisors are present. Appropriate background checks should be performed on each one. Remember, hayrides sometimes occur partly or entirely at night, when darkness may conceal the conduct of child molesters on board a hay wagon. A similar risk occurs whenever movies are shown at church events with the lights dimmed or turned off. Check with other local charities, and the public school district, for their input regarding the appropriate number of adult supervisors when minors are present on hayrides.