The Christian Ministry Advancement (CMA) Standards Council has now officially turned one, after launching in November 2017. We didn’t throw a big party, but we did quietly offer up a prayer of thanks for the opportunity to serve God’s people in our mission.
I would like to share two case studies of some very different organisations which have applied for accreditation, as examples of how we approach the accreditation process and how it can help on a practical level. For confidentiality reasons, we don’t reveal names!
A is a relatively small organisation, with one part-time staff member and a number of volunteers. It has a real heart for honouring God by acting with transparency and accountability even though it is not a household name or turning over millions of dollars, so it applied for accreditation from the CMA Standards Council.
A’s Board is now much more aware of what it takes to govern well
When A started filling in its questionnaire and getting together the information we were wanting to see, we both soon realised that while it was carrying out its mission faithfully and well, there is much more to governance of a healthy organisation than that. We were able to help A understand some of the things that a well-functioning Board should be doing that it hadn’t even thought about. We also worked with them to put in place some basic building blocks, such as how to prepare an Annual Report, what a conflict of interest is and how to deal with one, what risk management involves and how to prepare a risk matrix, setting up a complaints policy and process and some thoughts around the fundraising process.
A’s Board is now much more aware of what it takes to govern well, and is pleased to be able to show its stakeholders that it is governing well. Going through the accreditation process has been a real step up to a new level, putting A on a par with some of the best governed organisations in the Christian sector. A’s Chair said “We look forward in anticipation to the blessings that will flow though being a part of the CMA Standards Council, and thank the Lord for raising up the CMA Standards Council Team.”
B is at the other end of the scale. It is a significantly larger organisation and well known to the public. When it applied to the CMA Standards Council for accreditation we expected that it would already be doing much of what we require, and we were not disappointed. What we did find however was that there were some blind spots which had developed over several years which had not been on B’s radar and a few areas where B’s Board thought that they were doing well, but where they had in fact fallen off the pace. We were able to work sensitively with B and its Board to discuss these areas and explain why the blind spots were also important and give them a different perspective on some issues. We were also able to help with suggestions about how they could improve some of their policies.
B has graciously agreed to make available details of some of its procedures which are sector-leading best practice
B’s Board is very conscious of its responsibility to ensure B’s mission is carried out effectively, efficiently and for the long-term benefit of those it serves. As well as seeking to improve itself, B has graciously agreed to make available details of some of its procedures which are sector-leading best practice to other applicants and partners of the CMA Standards Council, so as to lift the standards of the Christian sector generally. B’s Chair said “Once we spoke with you and it became clear that the Lord was in what the CMA Standards Council is doing, it was a no brainer for us to get involved.”
We have received applications from a wide variety of Christian organisations, including in the areas of aid and development, churches, colleges, radio and communications, training, camping venues, youth work, missionary, evangelism – the scope and variety is huge. What connects our applicants however is a shared commitment to governing well and being accountable and transparent to their stakeholders. Some are concerned principally with upgrading to the next level to support a season of growth, some are wanting to benchmark their governance performance, some want to avoid complacency, some want to have independent evidence for their stakeholders that they are behaving responsibly, some want to ensure they are meeting their legal obligations, and some want to set an example for and assist other Christian organisations to do better. For most, it is a combination of these reasons. Whatever the reasons however, we are pleased to be able to help.
The mission of the CMA Standards Council is to build faith and trust in Christian organisations. To achieve this we have also becoming involved in some wider work, as well as accrediting responsibly governed organisations. This year we have inaugurated an annual series of Ministry Governance seminars to train and update anyone involved in the governance of a Christian organisation, whether that be in a church, a charity, a school or otherwise. These are being run in each mainland state and go for a day. They involve some general plenary sessions, and then two streams of topics, one being “Governance 101” for those new to governance or who want a refresher, and the other dealing with more advanced topics for those experienced in governance. They are very affordable, and our dream is that every new member of the governing body of every Christian organisation in Australia will, in their first year, attend and go through our “Governance 101” topics to learn the basics of how to be a good contributor on that governing body.
So how does it feel to be a one-year-old? It feels good that we are helping Christian organisations to be better governed, more transparent and more accountable. It feels good that we are assisting the people involved in governance to do it better. But it feels best to be humbly serving our stakeholders by helping them become more effective in carrying out their various missions to build the kingdom.
If you would like more information about the CMA Standards Council please visit our website at www.cmasc.net.au or give us a call.