The Federal government requires all 501(c) organizations be established by at least three directors. The reason behind the law is to prevent a not-for-profit organization from being controlled by a single individual.
Governance is synonymous with accountability. It reflects biblical community, where we build up one another by holding one another to a higher standard. Accountability protects us from ourselves and keeps us from being led astray.
He who separates himself seeks his own desire, He quarrels against all sound wisdom. A fool does not delight in understanding, But only in revealing his own mind. –Proverbs 18:1& 2
However, while the government encourages the directors (or the organization’s board) to govern, it is not required. Ironically, most not-for-profit organizations, especially ministries, end up being controlled by one person.
Most ministry board members serve because they genuinely love the mission, vision, and application of the ministry, not to mention the Kingdom impact. Additionally, members are often identified and recruited by the ministry’s leader so many join a board to help support, but not govern, the organization. They can see their primary duty as supporting the leader, rather than governing the organization.
Most ministry boards go through the motions of governance, but in practice they look to the ministry’s leader (often the founder) to both lead and “govern” the organization. These boards depend on the organization’s leader to set the agenda for board meetings and board chair’s often look to the leader to help inform and direct the discussion at meetings.
Despite their member’s best intentions, when boards abdicate governance to the ministry leader they leave both the leader and the organization vulnerable. Left unaccountable, leaders make mistakes and are more apt to fall prey to temptation. Unaccountable leaders exacerbate the perception that ministries are often mismanaged, because they often are.
Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another. -Proverbs 27:17
Board members should consider that the best way to support the ministry leader, and the organization for which they serve, is to take governance seriously. It will make you sharper and more effective!