Type to search


ECFA Announces New Leadership Standard

Emphasizes importance of board members in overall health and holistic care of ministry leaders

Avatar photo

This week, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) announced a new accreditation standard for its member organizations—one of its biggest updates in 45 years.

Video screenshot via ECFA

“The new Leadership Standard is inspired by ECFA members and comes after several years of prayer, research and constructive deliberations,” said Michael Martin, ECFA president and CEO. “Now is the time for a simple and clear standard, deliberately neither prescriptive nor legalistic, to support leaders and ultimately strengthen the entire organization.”

The new 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.”

The goal is for ECFA-accredited church and ministry boards to work with their organizations’ senior leaders to establish biblical character expectations and offer holistic care.

In a webinar to unveil the change, Martin said the new standard came about for a number of reasons.

“A few years ago we started hearing more concerns from Christian ministries and donors about some of the challenges that are undeniable in this leadership space,” he said. “And not [just] the integrity failures we see reported in the news, but also the issues of burnout and leaders who are dropping out from ministry—all of those challenges around leadership, and how they’re having an impact on trust. The question really became: Is there anything the ECFA can do to help?”

So the organization began listening and learning from its members. They did this through a series of surveys, research, conversations with leaders, and focus groups.

The ECFA, which promotes financial accountability and organizational compliance, currently has more than 2,700 accredited members. In order to become an accredited member, ministries must commit to upholding ECFA’s standards, which include board governance, financial oversight, and transparency.

Access to MinistryWatch content is free.  However, we hope you will support our work with your prayers and financial gifts.  To make a donation, click here.

Martin said “one of most compelling findings” during their research phase was the results of a survey from board chairs and senior leaders.

According to the survey, they found 94% of its members agreed that integrity failures of ministry leaders were having a negative impact on community and donor trust.

In addition, a new Barna study found that 81% of donors say their trust in an organization would be strengthened if churches and ministries “took steps to proactively care for their leader’s health and holistic integrity.”

So the ECFA took these concerns seriously, and the leadership standard was born.

According to a draft of the proposed standard, it will require ECFA-accredited organizations to take steps to support the health and integrity of its senior leaders.

But the ECFA is allowing room for organizations to decide how they do this.

Although, it must include “annual discussions surrounding holistic care for the leader and the leader’s commitment to upholding biblical integrity principles, which have been agreed upon between the organization and the leader in writing (e.g., a ministry code of conduct or similar document).”

The ECFA notes the standard focuses heavily on the relationship between senior leaders and boards because “the leader bears unique burdens, responsibilities, and influence as the chief servant of the ministry. These heightened burdens and responsibilities should be met with an increased level of care and support by the board…”

Tami Heim, president & CEO of Christian Leadership Alliance, presented during the webinar. She believes the new ECFA standard  “is going to open the door for candid and transparent conversations so that the board knows how to care for their CEOs better, and for CEOs to be able to say, ‘this is where I need help, this is where I need support.’”

Dr. Derek Grier, Bishop and CEO of Grace Church, agrees.

“After decades of leading in Christian ministry, I have discovered that the integrity of an organization is often closely connected to the integrity of its senior leader. I have also found that the most painful mistakes are made when a leader feels alone, weary, and emotionally overwhelmed in his/her journey of doing good. I wholeheartedly support ECFA’s bold vision to encourage boards to support soul care for their organization’s senior leader. As the leaders go, so goes the organization.”

The ECFA is inviting feedback on the draft standard through May 31, 2024. Its board anticipates finalizing the Leadership Standard in the fall of 2024 based on that feedback. Afterwards, a two-year member education and early adoption period will commence. ECFA members would be expected to demonstrate compliance with the standard during the 2027 accreditation renewal cycle.

TO OUR READERS: Do you have a story idea, or do you want to give us feedback about this or any other story? Please email us: [email protected]

Avatar photo
Brittany Smith

Brittany Smith is a freelance writer living in Colorado Springs. She is the co-author of Unplanned Grace: A Compassionate Conversation on Life and Choice.