Friday, January 18, 2019

Hey Fletch … One of our youth pastors asked his campus pastor if he could have a bonfire at an event on their campus. The campus pastor granted permission. Neither of them realized there is a law that requires them to get a burn permit from the city. Someone showed up and ticketed our youth pastor for the violation. The campus pastor made me aware and asked permission to reimburse the youth pastor for the fine since he had told him it was okay to do this. 

The executive pastor and I have concerns that this will set an unhealthy precedent. I contacted our insurance agent and he thought this would be a bad precedent. One of his examples is: If we ask a volunteer to drive some youth to a ski trip and his car slips out of control and causes an accident, what will we do? Our insurance will appropriately kick in where applicable but the driver failed to keep control of his/her vehicle and is ticketed. Will we reimburse the volunteer for the fine because “the volunteer wouldn’t have had the accident if we hadn’t asked him/her to drive the youth?” What are your thoughts?

DRF—I find this issue an interesting one and my response may surprise you. I would not have the youth pastor pay the fine. The youth pastor got permission for the bonfire from the campus pastor. The responsibility now has shifted to the campus pastor. If anyone is going to pay a fine, it might be the campus pastor.

Since you had two staff pastors who were unaware of the local law, I would have the church pay the fine. This is a relatively inexpensive lesson for both staff people. Pastors need to consult with facilities leaders or an executive pastor before doing something unusual at a church event. The tip off should have been, “we haven’t done one of these before …”