#3 Follow the Highest Ethical Standards (WOLIM 9 Responsibilities)

Purpose: To help WOL field leadership understand the basics of WOL philosophy and strategy.

#3 Follow the Highest Ethical Standards


Purpose: A Biblical leader recognizes that his ethics should be exemplary not just to their ministry team, but to outsiders.

Lesson Expectation:

  • The leader will understand WOL’s commitment to ministry that is above reproach and the resulting personal, financial, and legal implications.   


Personal Ethics (Sexual Accountability)

If there were one area of Christian ministry that Satan has been the most successful at derailing ministers, it would be in this area of sexuality.  You’ve no doubt heard the stats of the men who have fallen because of an impropriety in this area.  For all of God’s children this is an area that should cause on-going personal assessment and caution – but particularly for the man or woman in ministry there should be extra layers of protection.  When Paul was giving young Timothy advice on how to act around young women, he exhorted him to treat them like “sisters” with all “purity” (1 Timothy 5:2).  In other words, when we become involved with a woman who is not our wife mentally, emotionally or physically not only is it adultery, it’s spiritual incest.  For God’s minister it would be one of the highest forms of indecency in the body of Christ.

John MacArthur, in his commentary ‘1 Timothy’, outlines 6 areas of practical advice on how to maintain purity in relationships with younger women:

First, avoid the look.  Proverbs 6:25 says “Do not…let her catch you with her eyelids.”
Second, avoid the flattery.  Proverbs 5:3 warns “For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and smoother than oil is her speech.:
Third, avoid the thoughts.  Proverbs 6:25 says, “Don not desire her beauty in your heart.”
Fourth, avoid the rendezvous.  Proverbs 7:7-12 speaks of this.  Don’t deliberately put yourself in situations where you will be tempted.
Fifth, avoid the house.  Proverbs 7:25-27 speaks of her home being a potential “chamber of death.”
Sixth, avoid the touch.  Proverbs 7:13 records the results of the youth’s foolishness – a kiss that lead to immorality.  'Casual' touching with the opposite sex should also be avoided - it can only take a simple touch or well-intentioned 'hug' to take a relationship further than it should go.

Your thoughts on sexual accountability...

  • We should avoid contact with the opposite sex.
  • Occasional contact (a hug after you haven't seen someone for a long time) is fine in most circumstances.
  • Frequent, casual touching is ok if my wife is ok with it.
  • Texting women about personal issues is ok with my wife is ok with it.

Personal Ethics (Personnel Accountability)

This can be a major blind spot for leaders – hiring good people with good intentions but in the wrong place with the wrong reporting relationships.  It may seem like a good idea to hire your wife in a key role, but think about the potential ripple effect on your ministry.  It’s not just with your wife – it could be any person of significance to you that is placed into ‘X’ position.   Here’s some things to consider:

  • One layer of separation.  It is never advisable to hire an immediate family member as a direct report.  It’s advisable to have one person between you and your family.  This may not always be practical, but it’s usually the wisest.  Having a family member in the office when you’re the boss can create friction, suspicion, and disunity.
  • The role of my wife.  Our wives are a special gift from God and they can be an incredible asset to our ministries.  While that is the case, it’s important to remember that the role of Field Director belongs to the man, not to the man and his wife. Every director or leader’s wife has been uniquely created with different spiritual and natural gifts.  Her role is to be a godly example to the women on staff as she uses those gifts in service to the ministry and others.

In your own words, what is the role of your wife in ministry?

Personal Ethics (Relational Accountability)

This isn’t just about your standards with the opposite sex – this is about all relationships around you.  As ministry leaders we need to make sure that our interactions with family, friends and co-laborers are exemplary.  This can be seen on the field where a field director develops a close friendship with another missionary, and that relationship begins to cloud his judgment.  Or that relationship gets more ‘favoritism’ or ‘perks’ than other relationships. Have friendships with your team but resist the possibility of turning these relationships into opportunities to create wedges with other team members.

How do you personally make sure you have friends on the field but don't show favoritism?

Personal Ethics (Truthfulness)

We’re sure this could go without saying, but another area of personal ethics that should be mentioned has to do with exaggeration.  Exaggeration is “to magnify beyond the limits of truth; overstate; represent disproportionately.”  In other words: exaggeration is lying.  What we report to the home office and to donors need to be accurate (statistical reporting, for example).  Leadership is not afraid of the cold, hard, facts.  Also – there can be a temptation when sharing with ministry supporters or in ministry updates to exaggerate on the facts of what happened.  Again, this is lying.  Just let your “yes be yes” and your “no be no” and leave the results of that honesty to God.



Have you ever been tempted to 'fudge' the numbers when communicating your ministry?  How do you typically handle that temptation?

Financial Ethics

Given the quantity, frequency, and nature of financial scandals that have plagued the non-profit sector over the past two decades, boards should pay special attention to the field directors’ expenditures for travel, entertainment, and other reimbursements. On fields where the board has no involvement in reviewing or approving field director expenditures, the field should ask for new policies and procedures from our home office.

To some field directors, this type of board involvement may seem intrusive.  However, early intrusive board involvement is preferable to after-the-fact disagreements about the appropriateness or reasonableness of expenditures or public embarrassment to the organization.

Thus, fields and field staff should have policies written and approved for your Board and/or the home office for areas such as:

  1. Expense Reports. What are the policies relating to reimbursement?  Who is required to submit an expense report?  What things should be considered expenses and what should be the responsibility of the missionary?
  2. Travel.  How do I split expenses relating to personal trips that involve some ministry activity?  What class of service is acceptable when booking plane or train fares?  When I get travel points do they belong to the ministry or to the missionary?
  3. Ministry Belongings.  Is it acceptable for me/missionary to be using ministry equipment for personal use?  How would we track this?  How do we ensure that leadership is following the same rules as the rest of the team?

Legal Ethics

The field director’s values and behavior set the tone for the rest of the organization, and boards have a specific responsibility for ensuring the ethics and accountability of field directors, since they function with no other supervisor and relatively few checks and balances.  This is particularly true when it comes to issues of the law.  As the leader of your field’s ministry, it is your responsibility to ensure compliance with local, provincial/state, federal laws.  This does not mean you need to be the person doing the compliance work – what it means is that you ensure it’s being done by a qualified, reliable source that has a proven track record for integrity.

It can be easy for a staff person to recommend that you delay paying property taxes or to take ‘short cuts’.  And during a financial crunch that may seem like a wise thing to do.  However, we will stand before the Lord one day for our stewardship of His ministry.  We have a responsibility to pay our vendors on time and to pay what we owe to government officials, whether we agree with the laws they impose or not.  As believers, we must set the example in all these areas so that no accusations can be made against us.

Here are some things to consider as it specifically relates to the ministry of Word of Life:

  • Ensure that the proper and legal classification of missionaries is being followed and properly reported/documented (example: is this team member an employee? A Volunteer? An independent contractor?).
  • Ensure the proper licensing of vehicles and other ministry property
  • Refuse to side-step necessary building permits and codes, where applicable. 
  • Ensure that you are paying all applicable payroll, property, sales taxes, etc.

Additionally, there is a difference between “tax evasion” and “tax avoidance.”  We want to pay the least possible to the government, so we need to study, look at all options, but still need to “render to Caesar what is Caesar's”. 

Questions to ask yourself as you work through this process:

  1. What are the existing ‘checks and balances’ in place that ensure financial accountability for our organization?
  2. Do I have any written policies in place that guide hiring practices related to family?  If not, when am I planning on contacting the home office to acquire some guidance?
  3. Has our field made mistakes in the past relating to financial or legal compliance?  If so, how do we correct those mistakes and ensure accountability going forward?
  4. Have I asked someone on the Board to hold me accountable to areas of my job that have the ‘highest’ ethical needs?  Expense reports?  Use of my time?  Hiring?  Etc.?

3. How do you feel about employees using ministry resources (projectors, sound equipment, etc.) for personal use? Do you have adequate policies in place to address this issue?