Moral Failures by Christian Leaders Are a Huge Problem. Can New Standards Help?

ECFA is adding leadership integrity to its accountability criteria.

The accreditation agency for over 2,700 evangelical nonprofits wants to raise its standards to address “one of the greatest financial risks” posed to churches and ministries today: moral failures by leadership.

For decades, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) has established guidelines around financial transparency, stewardship, and governance. This year, the organization announced plans to add a new requirement to address the integrity and character of a ministry’s leaders.

It’d be the biggest change to ECFA’s standards in 45 years.

First introduced in March 2024, the proposed standard states, “Every organization shall proactively care for its leader and support the integrity of its leader in conformity with ECFA’s Policy for Excellence in Supporting Leadership Integrity.”

ECFA members and experts in the Christian nonprofit agree with the idea of the new standard but aren’t sure exactly how to implement it.

In an interview with Christianity Today, ECFA president and CEO Michael Martin likened the standard to a guardrail. While no written policy or accountability measure could eliminate sinful behavior by leadership—each leader ultimately bears responsibility for their own integrity—organizations can be doing more to help keep them in check.

“There’s consensus around the idea … that the board has an opportunity and responsibility to come alongside a leader to help leaders be in a position where they can best thrive,” Martin said.

In 2021, ECFA surveyed more than 800 of its member ministry leaders and board chairs, and 94 percent said leadership failures are impacting donor trust. Respondents also said they needed more …

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