Many churches send groups of adults or minors on short-term missions trips inside and outside of the United States. Before sponsoring such a trip, church leaders should address a number of important legal and tax issues:
1. Assumption of Risk Forms
There are many risks involved in a short-term missions trip, including illness, accident, lack of competent medical care, and terrorism. Adults can "assume" these risks by signing a properly drafted assumption of risk form in which the risks are clearly described and assumed. Minors are not able to sign contractual agreements, and so they cannot sign such a form (and their parents cannot sign one for them).
2. Parental Consent and Medical Authorization Forms
While parents cannot assume risks on behalf of their children, they can sign a form consenting to the participation of their child on the trip and authorizing a designated person to make emergency medical decisions if the parent or guardian cannot be reached. An attorney should draft these forms to ensure that they are legally enforceable.