Governance for Christ-centered Ministries

Christ-centered Board Governance

Let’s begin with these timely questions. What are the transformational distinctives of Christ-centered board governance?  What is different in Christian-centered board governance compared to the secular governance models?

A Christ-centered board is distinct from other nonprofit boards in five ways:

  1. Common Christian faith. The board members should all be mature Christians following Jesus Christ. These are people involved in prayerful intercession and act in faith and in integrity in all they do in their personal and professional lives.

  2. Statement of Christian faith. A Christ-centered organization has a statement of faith that all board members support as a basis for all decisions made by the board. These faith commitments provide the values and theological framework for all decisions made by the board.

  3. Christian worldview. As a result of the board members common Christian faith and the organization’s written Statement of Faith, the board seeks to operate from a Christian worldview. This means that board members acknowledge God as the Creator and Sustainer of life and that God’s eternal kingdom is the ultimate purpose of our existence. The focus of a Christ-centered organization, therefore, is to seek to accomplish the Great Commission as outlined in the Bible.

  4. A maturing fellowship. As members of the Body of Christ, each member of the board of a Christ-centered organization is committed to caring for each other, learning and growing together, creating a climate for personal, professional and spiritual growth for every employee of the ministry, and demonstrating love to all whom they serve.

  5. Accountable to God as stewards. Board members are accountable to God, Who provides the moral authority for all that is done. With the understanding that God owns all, board members serve as stewards of God’s creation and are accountable to God. The board member’s actions, plans, and policies are ultimately responsible for reflecting God’s Will for the organization. Board members should remember that Jesus Christ is our Possessor and our Dispossessor. He ordains, sustains, and blesses. The organization belongs entirely to God. Prayerful deliberation then becomes the norm and not the exception.

With the mind and spirit of Christ as its integrating center, the Christ-centered organization is a dynamic movement toward wholeness: (a) All of its members are personally committed to Jesus Christ and to the outworking of the Great Commission in the purpose of the organization; (b) All of its members find meaning in their lives and satisfaction in their work by being a partner in the ministry with all other members; and (c) All of its members are motivated by the redemptive hope of seeing God’s Will done in the contemporary world and anticipating His coming in glory.

Primary responsibility for setting the policies of the Christ-centered organization rests with the members of its governing board. For good reason, they are often called “trustees” because they are charged to hold in trust all of the resources given to them by God. “Stewards” conveys the same meaning but with biblical roots. In the original language, “stewards” meant “householders” who managed all of the affairs of the household. The term makes a clear distinction between “ownership” and “stewardship.” While everything belongs to the owner of the household, the steward owns nothing. Yet the owner (God) trusts the steward with management of all that He has and holds the steward accountable for all that He owns. For the Christ-centered organization, therefore, the biblical definition of a steward determines the role of the board in every facet of its governing role. Owner of nothing, manager of all, and accountable for all sums up what it means to be on the board of a Christ-centered organization.

Christ-centered Board-CEO Relationship

Among all of the relationships in the Christ-centered organization, the key connector is between the board and the CEO, more specifically, between the board chair and the CEO. The soul of the organization depends upon this primary relationship. In the original language, “soul” and “throat” are synonymous words. The throat is not only the physical connector between the head and the body, it is the two-way passage for instructions from the brain and feelings from the nerves at the same time that air from the lungs and blood from the heart are going to the head. Following this analogy, the soul of the Christ-centered organization can be read by the thoughts and feelings of the mind of Christ and the breath and blood of the Spirit of Christ.

The board-CEO relationship is the soul of the Christ-centered organization. It connects leaders to followers, communicates vision and mission to the body, and sets the tone for the organization. At the same time, it perceives the strength and vitality of the organization that flows from the body back to the head. To read the quality of the Christ-centered organization, check the quality of the board-CEO relationship. Be even more specific. Check the relationship between the board chair and the CEO. This is where it all begins. If the board and its chair are committed to the growth and development of their executive leader, the message ripples through the whole organization. From the integral point of the board and board chair-CEO relationship, the spiritual health of the organization is created.

Christ-centered CEO Leadership

Study after study tells us that the key to leadership development is a board that supports and challenges its CEO. Follow-up studies add the fact that the board must be strategically engaged and intimately present in the life cycle of selecting, transitioning, and developing its leader. For Christ-centered organizations, this relationship is more than effective governance; it is testimony to the role of the board as stewards of the rare gift of CEO leadership in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ.

Christ-centered CEO leadership is evidence of the mind and spirit of Christ wholly integrated into our character and competence. In an introductory course in theology, the professor illustrated his lecture on holiness by pulling a thread from his blue serge suit. Holding it to light, he said, “Holiness is like this. Every thread of our being will have the tone and texture of the whole cloth.” His analogy awakened in me the understanding of holiness as wholeness and created in me an insatiable thirst for the presence of His Spirit in every part of my character and in every expression of my competence. That thirst has never been quenched and the desire to bring every thought and action into obedience with the mind of Christ is my consuming desire. The irony is that the closer we get to God, the more unworthy we feel and the more we confess our need to be holy. When we talk about CEO leadership, we are not talking about perfection, we are talking about progress. As the mind and spirit of Christ are integrated into the character of the CEO, the move toward maturity will be evident in a good reputation, practical wisdom, and spiritual-mindedness, the same qualities for which the seven deacons were elected in Acts 6.

Wholeness comes into focus in CEO leadership because this is the fulcrum upon which the future of the Christ-centered organization is balanced. Yet CEO leadership development does not stand alone. The environment of the parent organization, the principle of biblical stewardship, and the investment of the board in its CEO must all work together as holistic, Christ-centered threads in a seamless garment. The beauty of this relationship is that the Christ-centered organization does not have to wear its faith on its sleeve. It will be a well-defined structure governed by clear policies and fair practices, meeting the highest level of professional standards, and being fully accountable in the public eye. But if you pull a thread from any part of the cloth, it will have the texture of truth and the tone of grace. On the wall of the boardroom or executive office of every Christ-centered organization, the words of Micah Network’s Declaration on Integral Mission might well be a constant reminder: “As in the life of Jesus, being, doing and saying are at the heart of our integral task.”

Thus, the mind and spirit of Christ permeates the whole and creates the distinctive character of the Christ-centered organization, its board, and its executive leader.

From Stewards of a Sacred Trust: CEO Selection, Transition and Development for Boards of Christ-centered Organizations by Dr. David L. McKenna, ECFAPress, 2010.  Used by permission.

This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.