Wednesday, January 29, 2020

LESSON 4: Guarding Your CEO’s Soul

Welcome to More Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom Blog, a 40-week journey through the new book, More Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, by Dan Busby and John Pearson. Each Wednesday, we're featuring a guest writer’s favorite snippet from the week's topic. Wes Willmer is our guest blogger this week for the fourth of four lessons in "Part 1: The Powerful Impact of Highly Engaged Boards.”

LESSON 4 OF 40 - Guarding Your CEO’s Soul
Wise boards invest time—up front—to ensure their CEO’s soul is not neglected.

THE BIG IDEA FROM THE BOOK: Boards and CEOs that prioritize soul care will not prevent all crisis situations from happening, but they can, in many cases, help their leaders steer clear of spiritual disasters. In so doing, they also preserve God’s honor and reputation and position the communities they serve for vibrant spiritual growth. 

MY FAVORITE INSIGHTS from Lesson 4, pages 20-26:
• Soul care is “the thoughtful and careful attention to the inner being of the individual.” (Jenni Hoag)
• “In many cases, soul care does not make the board agenda until a crisis happens.”
• “As the CEO goes, so goes the ministry. And, as the soul goes, so goes the CEO.” (Stephen Macchia) 

Perhaps nothing shatters the work of ministry more than the moral failure of a ministry’s CEO. This chapter (interestingly positioned as the fourth of 40 lessons) urges ministry boards to come alongside their CEO—and help guard his or her soul.

I’ve thought a lot about soul care and a leader’s leanings toward or away from God. (Editor’s note: See Willmer’s new book, Stuff and Soul: Mastering the Critical Connection.) The materialistic and sinful desires of the heart can actually be transformed by the Spirit into desire for the things of God. Only God in Christ can by His Spirit infinitely satisfy the longings of our souls. So we must train our souls to recognize this reality.

What can boards do to protect and encourage their CEOs in God-honoring leadership? This lesson lists 10 very practical considerations (guardrails) that should be discussed and reviewed by the board and/or board chair and the CEO. Example: “Encourage the CEO to be at home more nights during the week than out for ministry responsibilities. Ignore this rule at the peril of the organization.” 

A fourth-century Christian pastor and philosopher, Gregory of Nyssa, described the soul’s desires as a river, and at the end of the river is God. Yet channels in the river can divert us from our journey and eventually our desire-river is completely dried up before it reaches God. Board members—also—must model to CEOs that they, too, are on this journey toward God, our Only Hope! 


WESLEY WILLMER, PhD, CCNL, has served with or for various Christian ministries for five decades and is known as a pioneer among Christian leaders in encouraging Christians to follow God’s plan for money, giving, and asking. Wes has initiated and directed more than $1 million in research grants to study nonprofit practices, and he has been the author, coauthor, editor, or editor-in-chief of over 23 books and many professional journal articles and publications, including: Stuff and Soul: Mastering the Critical Connection (2020), The Prospering Parachurch, Revolution in Generosity, The Choice: The Christ-Centered Pursuit of Kingdom Outcomes, and The Council: A Biblical Perspective on Board Governance. Fund Raising Management magazine selected him to write on the future of funding religion for its twenty-fifth anniversary issue. 

Willmer has held executive leadership positions at Biola University, ECFA, Far East Broadcasting Company, Mission Increase Foundation, Prison Fellowship Ministries, Roberts Wesleyan College, Seattle Pacific University, and Wheaton College (Ill.), and he was a faculty member at each of these educational institutions. His board involvement includes board chair of Christian Stewardship Association, board vice chair of ECFA, founding board member and executive committee member of Christian Leadership Alliance, board member of CASE International Journal of Educational Advancement, and consultant to other boards. 

• Discuss with your CEO the 10 steps for soul care listed in this lesson. What is your CEO’s honest self-assessment of his or her spiritual journey? How can the board help?
• Inspire your board to read at least one book on soul care. (See the suggestions in the lesson.)
• Visit the ECFA Knowledge Center and read and share the short chapter, “Lesson 4: Guarding Your CEO’s Soul.”

Feb. 5, 2020, watch for the commentary by Reid Lehman on Lesson 5, “Dashboards Are Not a Secret Sauce for Sound Governance. Too often the use of dashboards does not clearly communicate the past and give signals for the future.”

BULK ORDERS: Click here. For more resources and to download the book's Table of Contents, visit the book's webpage.

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