Christian Leaders Need a New Standard of Care

Christian Leaders Need a New Standard of Care

Spring 2024

Michael Martin

This sponsored article was written by our friends at ECFA.

Leading a Christian ministry like a college or university is a high calling. Even when the sun is shining and the wind is at our backs, it is a job that requires strength, stamina, and steadfast reliance on the Lord. That is especially true when the clouds roll in.

I took my post as president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) in 2020. You learn fast as a senior leader in that environment. Am I right? Everyone is alarmed. Everyone is feeling uncertain. And everyone is looking at you. Everyone: your organization’s students, alumni, staff, board — not to mention the community around you. How are you going to guide the institution? How are you going to meet needs and mitigate fears?

When a pandemic — or an election — drives passions high or when a community is in crisis, that is when our organization needs us to stand up and step out with the leadership gifts God has granted us. In fact, this is the exciting calling for a leader at any time. A leader is privileged to care for her or his ministry.

But who is caring for the leader?

Leader Integrity Undergirds Ministry Trust

The ECFA seal is the gold standard for donors seeking accountable organizations that share their Christian values, and we take our mission of enhancing trust in churches and Christ-serving ministries very seriously. In that spirit, we recently announced a new leadership integrity standard — the most revolutionary update to our accreditation standards in 45 years.

Specifically, we are working to ensure ECFA-accredited organization boards are purposefully coming alongside their organizations’ senior leaders to establish biblical character expectations and to be proactive in offering them care. All the details, including the full commentary and FAQs, are available at

The reason for this is very simple. ECFA surveys show that 94 percent of our members believe leader integrity failures are having a negative impact on community and giver trust. In fact, such failures pose one of the greatest financial risks to churches and ministries today.

Leading pastors and presidents too often face intense pressures in isolation, which increases the likelihood of burnout, drop out, and tragic breaches of trust. Those failures have costs. Many are impossible to quantify, but tangible financial consequences often include major unbudgeted expenses and slowed giving. Organizations may then need to cut back programs due to declining finances or even close their doors completely.

Leader Care Supports Ministry Effectiveness

ECFA’s new standard of care is a sensible next step to promoting healthy leadership. Leaders are ultimately responsible for their own health and integrity, but church and ministry boards can help in an environment of strong, Christ-centered governance. We can carry each other’s burdens in the spirit of Galatians 6.

I so appreciated Northwest University President Joseph Castleberry’s comments on the need for this new standard: “Governing boards have an important role in proactively contributing to the well-being of their CEO in personal, financial, spiritual, and moral dimensions as well as in professional development areas.”

President Castleberry knows because his board is already taking steps to support him with intentional care through an established Committee on the President.

CCCU President Shirley Hoogstra, too, had strong words of support. I love how she said, “Staying firm in one’s faith is not an individual endeavor but a team sport: people who pray for the leader, who encourage the leader, who stride side by side with the leader.” Leaders need someone “who picks the leader up, who asks the leader hard but loving questions.”

ECFA’s standard undergirds “governance practices that ensure that a leader will be fit in faith and life,” she said.

President Hoogstra’s allusion to fitness is powerful. We have seen what happens when leaders’ health erodes. But imagine where Christian leaders can take their institutions and the communities they serve as they lead from a position of holistic strength.

The time is now for this new standard of care, and I invite you to be part of this integrity movement. Will you join us in supporting healthy leadership and enhancing trust as we reach the world for Christ?

Please learn more by visiting

MICHAEL MARTIN serves as President and CEO of ECFA.