The answer depends on your contents insurance limits. Typically, churches that suffer total losses don’t have high enough limits to replace everything they own.
As a result, completing a personal property inventory of your church could be one of the smartest things you'll ever do. Having an up-to-date inventory helps you to:
When church leadership tally the value of their contents after a fire, explosion, or other disaster, they’re often dismayed to learn their property was worth far more than they had thought. Some losses greatly exceed the available insurance coverage.
Technology is a driving force. With so many churches investing in high-tech audio and visual equipment, their contents’ value has swelled dramatically.
Without a proper inventory, it is next to impossible for a church to be confident that it has the proper amount of contents insurance.
While none would dispute the importance of having enough insurance, few people maintain a contents inventory. Instead, most churches must rely on memory to create a list of damaged items after a disaster. This slows the recovery process and causes some items to be overlooked.
There are many ways to create a church inventory. You can do it room by room, organize it by ministry (children’s ministry, music ministry, etc.), break it into categories (furniture, electronics, etc.), or do it by building (sanctuary, educational area, office area, garage). One idea is to divide the work among the volunteers or staff who work in each area, so that one person doesn’t tackle the whole project alone.
If the concept is completely overwhelming, there are companies that will gladly do an inventory for you and backup the results, for a fee. Do an online search for “Property Inventory Services” to start evaluating this option.
You can make your inventory as low-tech or as high-tech as you wish. You can write everything down on paper, take photos, or use a video camera.
You can transfer written notes to the computer, adding photos or video clips to supplement your descriptions. An Excel spreadsheet can help you tally your results, or you could use a software program designed to make creating and keeping an inventory easier.
You can even find inventory applications for your hand-held device, so you can walk through, take photos, and type notes—all on the spot.
No matter which method of inventory you choose, attach or store proofs of purchase with it. These include invoices, canceled checks, bills of sale, credit card receipts, or gift records.
When photographing or videotaping your contents, strive for quality reproduction. Sharp pictures are better than blurry ones, and close-up shots reveal more than those taken at a distance, particularly when you're trying to identify and assess value. Don’t forget to:
Your inventory should contain the following:
Begin by identifying the big-ticket items:
Specialty items—those of art or rarity—are also ones you'll want to document. For instance, make note of unusual Communion sets, candleholders, crosses, or artworks that are not part of the building. Art objects with a value greater than the item's functional value may need special fine-arts coverage.
Don't forget smaller items that add up when you have them in quantity. These include:
Continue your inventory of items on a room-by-room basis. Remember to record contents from other facilities, such as a school or maintenance building.
Include the personal property that members store at the church, like your preacher’s books. Some insurance policies will cover these items on an excess basis, after the members’ insurance has paid its limits.
While a policy automatically provides some limited coverage for the personal property of others, in some cases you may wish to purchase additional protection. For instance, the books and ministry aids in the pastor's library may need special coverage.
Keep two copies of your completed inventory in separate locations. You may store them in a fireproof vault, lock box at the bank, or member's home. Remember to give your agent a copy!
The key to having an accurate inventory is keeping it up to date. One option is to keep the inventory active and update it every time you buy a new piece of equipment. Another is to review your inventory annually, noting any new purchases since the last inventory was completed. In either case, a computerized inventory is the easiest to update and maintain.
It's a good idea to call your agent before starting your inventory. Your agent can give you tips pertaining to your situation, answer questions about your present coverage, and help you evaluate whether you need additional coverage.