Archives For culture

Surrounded by Revolutionary War battlefields, I joined a dozen faith-based nonprofit leaders from across the country for a unique learning experience. Using the methodology of “peer member processing,” our two days together would focus on helping each other go to war on the most significant challenges we faced.

In preparation for the experience, we were asked to come with our response to one simple question: What is the most significant obstacle you are currently facing?

In small groups, we would confront these obstacles, with the goal of helping each leader discover a positive resolution, or at least identify a few of the next steps to take.

Driving to the event, I wondered how many would choose to talk about the seemingly impossible task of “balancing” work and family. Or how many would focus on the challenges of fundraising. Maybe strategy would come up. Or operating in a rapidly shifting culture.

But the issue that felt most urgent was my relationship with my board. We were in a season in which we were facing key decisions and operational dilemmas.

Compounding these challenges was my sense that I was receiving conflicting counsel from several board members. How was I supposed to follow the directions of my “bosses,” when one board member’s advice sometimes contradicted another’s?

Given my deep respect for each board member, and knowing each had the organization’s interests in mind, I was confused. There was no question that our intentions were all in the right place, but our practices were leading to conflict and confusion.

Arriving at the retreat center, the group of nonprofit leaders began sharing their obstacles, and a pattern quickly began to emerge: One after another, leaders shared that their greatest difficulty related to some aspect of their relationship with their board. Turns out, my challenges were not unique.

It quickly became clear that we were each describing variations on the same theme: the board–CEO relationship is exceptionally challenging. It’s a proverbial minefield, with the potential to sabotage an organization: creating dissention, thwarting progress, undermining impact, and knocking it off mission. And it’s not just organizational leaders who acutely feel the challenge associated with this relationship. Board members often grapple with similar issues. Seldom is their relationship with the CEO easy to manage.

Healthy organizations require a healthy board-CEO relationship. Channeled in the right way, their engagement can result in fresh perspectives and new growth rather than perilous pitfalls. For an organization’s health and vitality, there is no more important, or more complex, relationship to navigate.

Over the past year, David Weekley and I have been working on a simple book to help leaders develop a vibrant board-CEO relationship. Today, we are launching this book with the hope that it might equip leaders to have an even greater impact. We focus on seven practices found in the healthiest board-CEO relationships:

  1. Mission, Not Ego
  2. Clarity, Not Confusion
  3. Consistent Communication, Not Mystery
  4. Accountability, Not Platitudes
  5. Healthy Conflict, Not Kumbaya
  6. Prepared, Not Panicked
  7. Involved, Not Detached

Ultimately, for the board-CEO relationship to truly flourish, these practices need be be built on a foundation of service. As the apostle Paul wrote, “Honor one another above yourselves.”[i]


B amp CEO CoverF

Today, we launch The Board and the CEO. To learn more about how to successfully navigate the board-CEO relationship, please visit:

Seven Practices to Protect Your Organization’s Most Important Relationship

By Peter Greer and David Weekley

Available Now!


[i] Rom 12:10 NIV

I’m not a surfer. But I’ve secretly always wanted to be. While visiting Point Loma University, San Diego, CA, I was invited by students to try surfing. Early in the morning we donned on wetsuits, grabbed boards, and headed out to the surf.

What I didn’t expect: Riding the waves isn’t the only challenge. Before you stand on your board, you have to recognize the right wave. Being untrained, I spent my time scanning the horizon while my friends were carried away.

It’s also critical to recognize waves in culture. Paul encourages followers of Jesus in Rome to be watchful, “understanding the present time” (Romans 13:11).  We are called to identify trends—to scan the social, economic, and political horizon—to thoughtfully engage those around us.

Otherwise we’ll miss the wave—and with it, our chance to shape and influence culture.

Below are some of the recent waves in how the Church has enthusiastically engaged our global needs.

WAVE 1: Eyes wide open (1995 – 2006)

A few years ago, I would ask a classroom of college students, “How many of you have served in the developing world?”

Only a few students would raise their hands. Today, almost all of them do. In 2006, over $1.6 billion was spent on short-term mission trips. In both the Christian and secular sphere, there has been an awakening to global needs.

The Church is returning to its roots in Acts: to love the poor and needy in their communities and around the world. We understand it’s part of our mandate to address physical and spiritual poverty as we combat human trafficking, provide water, and bring comfort to the hurting and lonely.

WAVE 2: When helping hurts (2006 – 2012)

The second wave has been the recognition that sometimes our passionate responses to the needs of the world have produced poor results. Two landmark books—Dead Aid (2006) and The White Man’s Burden (2009) —written by top economists Dambisa Moyo and William Easterly show good intentions aren’t enough. According to Moyo, over $1 trillion in aid has been spent on the continent of Africa, but many countries are actually worse off.

The knowledge that good intentions aren’t enough has permeated the Church as well. Two excellent books have recently helped change how we as a Church address social, political, and economic issues: Toxic Charity (Bob Lupton) and When Helping Hurts (Brian Fikkert, Steve Corbett).

This wave has opened us up to thoughtful engagement. Now more than ever, the Church is recognizing that misappropriated aid creates long-term dependency and as a result, is truly seeking solutions that work.

WAVE 3: Rise of social entrepreneurship and job creation (2012?)

If we just stop at wave #2 and recognize the challenge in helping, the overwhelming problems can seem discouraging. It can lead to inactivity.

We need to find solutions that truly work.  And we know with clarity that the best way to overcome poverty is through job creation and entrepreneurship, not charity. In The Coming Jobs War, the CEO of Gallup, Jim Clifton, uses over 75 years of Gallup research to make the case that what the world needs now is simple: more quality jobs. The Church is beginning to awaken to the potential of missional entrepreneurship and the key role of business in poverty alleviation.

Faith-based think tank Acton Institute recently launched PovertyCure, an initiative supporting employment-based solutions. The Church is recognizing the way job creation affirms the dignity of those in poverty.

It’s thrilling to see how the Church is beginning to think creatively about using social entrepreneurship and transitioning from hand-outs to a much better way of addressing poverty.

What are the dangers?

In our excitement, we mustn’t lose sight that if poverty is about broken relationships, then all the money in the world can’t fix our problems. It’s only Christ who can restore relationships.

It’s an exciting time. The Church is celebrating the God-given talents and creativity of people in poverty, exploring business-based initiatives, and sharing the unmatched hope of Jesus Christ.

Let’s continue to realize the potential of this wave.


For more on this, see Five Ways the Poor Define Poverty.

See PovertyCure’s video here.