ECFA's new standard seeks to combat burnout, ‘integrity failures’ among ministry leaders

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As pastors and ministry heads face rising exhaustion and as each day seems to bring another leader facing allegations of misconduct, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability is developing a new "leadership standard" for member ministries in the hopes of combating burnout and "integrity failures" in churches and charities.

ECFA launched the draft Leadership Standard in March after years of prayer, research and deliberations. The prominent Evangelical nonprofit watchdog organization is seeking feedback for the project until the end of this month. The new standard is expected to be released later this year.

ECFA President and CEO Michael Martin told The Christian Post via email that the new standard is being created to "strengthen" rather than "eliminate" the current standards.

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"The new Leadership Standard will seamlessly join our existing standards of integrity in matters of governance, financial accountability, and stewardship," Martin said.

"Specifically, the Leadership Standard will require ECFA-accredited organizations to take proactive steps to care for and support the health and integrity of their senior leaders."

The "standard gives member organizations significant latitude to implement a process that's best suited for their contexts," Martin said. It will require the boards of ECFA-accredited churches and ministries "to engage their leaders at least annually to discuss holistic care and the leader's commitment to upholding mutually agreed-on biblical principles."

"ECFA members would be expected to demonstrate compliance with the standard no later than the 2027 annual accreditation renewal cycle," he added.

"The new Leadership Standard already has strong support from a diverse group of ECFA leaders and ministries, including local churches, international ministries, pregnancy centers, rescue missions, media ministries, and educational institutions."

Martin believes the "need for more intentional leader care is clear." He cited the December 2021 ECFA survey of over 800 board chairs, finding that 94% of surveyed respondents "indicated that integrity failures are having a negative impact on trust."

The survey found that just over half (57%) of nonprofit CEOs said their ministry's board implemented written plans regarding character expectations for the leaders, while only 15% said their organizations had a written plan to support the care of the senior leader.

"We acknowledge that in a fallen world, it's impossible to prevent all failures in leadership," Martin told CP. "As with other ECFA accreditation standards, the goal of the new Leadership Standard is not perfection."

"The standard is designed to support the integrity and wellbeing of leaders, to assist accredited organizations in implementing appropriate safeguards, and to assure donors that prudent steps are being taken in critical areas to reinforce trust."

The new leadership standard has the backing of multiple prominent Evangelical leaders; among them is Craig Groeschel, senior pastor of Life.Church.

"ECFA's new Leadership Standard will spur organizations to bring clarity to a leader's responsibility for staying anchored in Christ," said Groeschel in a statement released in March.

"This is about more than organizational integrity. It's about intentionally building a Christ-centered culture where leaders are held both in love and accountability by the people they serve."

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