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Beyond Faith: Enhancing Good Governance and Leadership in Churches


Governance has been defined to refer to structures and processes that are designed to ensure accountability, transparency, responsiveness, rule of law, stability, equity and inclusiveness, empowerment, and broad-based participation. Good governance does not only apply to the corporate sector but also to religious organizations. 

Governance in religious organizations refers to the systems and structures through which these organizations are managed and administered. Religious organizations, like any other institution, require governance mechanisms to ensure effective decision-making, accountability, and the fulfillment of their mission. The church is a non-profit organization engaged in the service of spiritual life and faith through its teachings and laws, and it requires good governance.  

Basis for Good Governance 

  1. The Constitution of Kenya: Article 10 – National values and principles of governance; Article 32- Freedom of Religion; Chapter Six of the Constitution on Leadership and Integrity.
  2. Societies Act, Chapter 108 of the Laws of Kenya, regulations and guidelines issued by the Registrar of Societies from time to time.
  3. Church constitutions and bylaws, cannons, standing orders, deeds, operating policies and guidelines.
  4. Global good corporate governance practices. 

Critical aspects for consideration 

 1. Leadership and Organisation Structure: Churches often have a hierarchical leadership structure. This structure may include positions such as the pope, canons, bishops, clergy, pastors, deacons, or other religious leaders who oversee different aspects of the organization. The structure can vary depending on the denomination and religious tradition. Such a structure ought to outline how certain activities are directed to achieve the organization’s goals.  

2. Legal and Regulatory Compliance: Churches are subject to legal and regulatory requirements, such as non-profit organization regulations, employment laws and regulations for their members of staff, and public health regulations for instance during the COVID-19 Pandemic there were various guidelines on social distancing, ventilation and sanitation including creation of hand-washing points. Leadership ought to ensure that the church complies with these laws and regulations.   

3. Board or Council: Some churches have a governing board or council responsible for making major decisions and providing oversight. This board may consist of religious leaders, elected representatives from its congregation, or individuals from the community who have specific expertise (e.g. legal, financial) relevant to the church’s needs. There ought to be transparency in the appointment or election to the Board and the Board should be accountable and provide proper oversight.  

4. Bylaws and Constitutions: Churches often have bylaws, constitutions, canons, standing orders, and/or policies that outline their purpose, values, and operating procedures. These documents typically define the governance structure, including the roles and responsibilities of the leaders, the decision-making processes, and mechanisms for resolving disputes. Churches should ensure that such documentation is in place and is reviewed to ensure relevance.  

5. Decision Making: Governance in churches involves decision-making processes. Some decisions may be made by church leadership, while others might involve consultation with the congregation through members voting. Participation is an essential aspect of governance. There ought to be clear decision-making procedures, transparency, and accountability in the process.  

6. Financial Management: Good governance includes financial management, ensuring transparent and responsible handling of the churches’ financial resources. There should be budgeting, financial reporting, and the establishment of internal controls to prevent misuse or misappropriation of funds. Good governance in churches requires accountability and transparency. This includes regular reporting on the organization’s activities and finances to its members or stakeholders. 

7. Ethical Standards: Churches often have their own ethical standards and Codes of Conduct that govern the behavior of their leaders, staff, and members based on their religious texts. Good governance mechanisms should include mechanisms to address ethical violations and ensure that ethical values are upheld.  

Champions of Governance (COG) Award  

The Institute of Certified Secretaries (ICS) inaugurated the COG Award in 2010 as part of its mandate to promote good governance practice. This year will be the 12th Edition of the Award. The award categories include NGO/Humanitarian and Faith Based Sector Award among others.  

Objectives: The Award seeks to recognize organizations and individuals who consistently exhibit the highest standards of practice of good governance, recognize the practice and application of good governance in both the public and private sector entities, recognize innovations in organizations that support good governance and encourage organizations to focus on the enhancement of good governance. 

Parameters Assessed: The Board/Council; Ethical Leadership and Corporate Citizenship, Accountability Risk Management and Internal Control; Transparency and Disclosure; Stakeholders Relationship; Compliance with Laws and Regulations and Sustainability and Performance Management 

Registration of participants for the Award is ongoing and the registration form is to be filled and returned to ICS by October 31, 2023. Organizations will be assessed based on identified governance parameters, receive customized feedback through governance assessment reports and participate during the Gala Night to celebrate Award winners on December 1, 2023. 


It’s important to note that governance structures and practices can vary significantly across different religious organizations, reflecting their unique beliefs, traditions, and cultural contexts. Nonetheless, good governance is paramount. In the corporate sector, there have been various failures due to accounting and corporate fraud. Similarly, there have been specific governance challenges facing religious organizations, for example, the most recent Paul Mackenzie and the Shakahola cult where members became victims of mass starvation, suffocation, strangulation, death by blunt trauma, and some members denouncing medical treatment and education for their children, cases of child trafficking by Gilbert Deya Ministries and the “miracle babies” investigations, gender-based violence and defilement of minors in some religious organizations, the radicalization of youth in some religious organizations and leadership wrangles in various religious organizations.