Nationwide Church Survey Identifies Governance Trends

August 1, 2016

WINCHESTER, Va., Aug. 1, 2016—U.S. church leaders now have the opportunity to gain insight into trends in church governance. The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) polled more than 500 churches with questions about board member selection processes and criteria, the division of power between pastors and board members, church spending patterns, and measurement of institutional effectiveness.

“This survey provides an opportunity to observe the governing challenges churches face,” said ECFA President Dan Busby. “Understanding this growing segment of our membership is a priority as we endeavor to help them improve operations and increase effectiveness by providing access to educational resources, information and best practices.”

ECFA will use the findings of the Church Governance Survey, the first ever conducted, as it hosts a webinar for church leaders to gain understanding of the trends tomorrow, Aug. 2 at 1 p.m. ET.

Key Findings:

  • Financial experience (18.1 percent) and legal experience (5.5 percent) are among the least desired qualifications for board membership while the most desirable characteristic for board members is faithfulness (89.8 percent), followed by consistent giving (51.9 percent).
  • In 93.7 percent of churches surveyed, the lead pastor is on the board in some capacity. The lead pastor is a voting member of the board at 42.7 percent of churches, and at 29.8 percent of these churches the lead pastor chairs the board.
  • 50.7 percent of churches see their board as being primarily in charge, while 46.8 percent viewed the church staff as being primarily in charge.
  • For 37 percent (9.9 percent + 27.1 percent) of churches responding to the survey, the board is deeply involved or occasionally weighs in with opinions on the church’s day-to-day operations. Conversely, for 63 percent (34.7 percent + 28.3 percent) of churches, the board keeps its focus on high-level issues or rarely weighs in on day-to-day operations.
  • More than 60 percent of churches report they “don’t have a conflict of interest policy” or “probably have one, but have not reviewed it in a long time.” Conversely, only 16.4 percent of churches have a policy and ensure that the policy is followed by requiring staff and board members to complete an annual questionnaire.

The full survey and a downloadable summary infographic are available online.

ECFA, founded in 1979, provides certification to leading Christian nonprofit organizations and churches that faithfully demonstrate compliance with the ECFA standards pertaining to financial accountability, fundraising and board governance. For more information about ECFA, including information about certification and a listing of ECFA-certified members, visit or call 800.323.9473.

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