Christian Leadership Alliance celebrates 40 years of existence this week at its annual convention in Dallas. A key program I've personally invested in and benefitted from is its CCNL credential. The program grows every year, with an increasing number of organizations offering opportunity to complete the program.
The Organizational Development Muse
I’ve been involved in what is now the Credentialed Christian Nonprofit Leader (CCNL) program since the late 1990’s, watching it morph and grow and become a professional credential to be taken seriously. When you see the CCNL designation behind someone’s name you can be assured of the following nine conveyances:
- It shows professional commitment and commitment to be a professional. Such a person is not playing at nonprofit executive leadership. They are cultivating their love and capacity for the vocation.
- It demonstrates the identity of a lifelong learner. The CCNL must be re-established every three years, demonstrated by continued participation in conferences, workshops, institutes, academies, online courses and/or mentoring (See conveyance 3). Continuous learning leads to continuous improvement of the leader and the skill they bring to their service.
- It places the leader in a community of colleagues. Because of this ongoing participation, the CCNL regularly interacts with people from many types of organizations. This rich set of relationships stokes networking and innovation that brings personal and organizational benefit. Formal learning is significantly supplemented by ongoing conversation with nonprofit colleagues.
- It connects mentors with mentees. Within the community are those whose experience and wisdom provide counsel for my circumstance, and those who benefit from hearing my perspective. A developing initiative within the CCNL program is a more formal way of linking new and experienced executive leaders for mutual benefit.
- It communicates the person’s desire to be a Steward Leader. The understanding that an executive leader is God’s servant working on God’s mission via an organization, rather than functioning as an owner of an organization that happens to be connected to God’s work, is a central distinctive of the CCNL curriculum. This affects everything—from the approach to inviting financial support to the measure of organizational success. The CCNL continues with the program because of their commitment to this Steward Leader distinctive.
- It reminds the leader of the real competition. The CCNL believes they compete against the destructive and malevolent forces of this world that create the need for the mission the leader serves. For instance, the competition, in part, is the illicit drug trade, not another addiction rehab center operating six blocks to the west. Understanding the real competition brings a focus to strategic planning and implementation that can properly transform and sustain nonprofit organizations.
- It places one in a pool of cross-disciplinary leaders. Another distinctive of the CCNL is how it prepares people to move beyond their own discipline to a deeper appreciation for other disciplines that arise to the C level. A CFO learns more about the development side of nonprofit service. A CEO learns to appreciate the HR function more deeply. A CIO learns more about marketing. The inter-disciplinary nature of the CCNL prepares future CEO’s and board members who appreciate the complexity of leading organizations.
- It signals that the leader understands a cultivated spirituality is part of the long-serving and reliable leader's foundation. Many nonprofit organizations either want to force a faith commitment into the closet, or maintain that a faith-based window dressing should cover a multitude of organizational and leadership sins. Christian Leadership Alliance, which sponsors the CCNL, keeps building into the curriculum a three-fold layer of a biblical foundation, attention to theory and practical application. The CCNL is built on the belief that faith and knowledge are companions in the Steward Leader’s journey.
- It expresses a commitment to contribute to a movement with a legacy. When CCNL is seen on a resume, it begs the interviewer to ask about it. Organizations who hire a CCNL, or have someone earn it while working for them, are quick to enroll others in the program. Current CCNL’s are recruiting others to join because of their testimony of its impact on their professional life. This groundswell is full of potential for establishing even more well-equipped leaders who operate with integrity as they lead, transform and sustain organizational mission.
It is a complete joy when people stop me at conferences or in airports, send me e-mails or leave behind evaluation comments, telling how much they have learned, how much they value the instruction they received, and how big an impact it is making for them and their organization. The CCNL is gaining traction, momentum and impact.
p.s. Registration for the next round of online modules is just about to close. There is still time to register! Modules in resource development, financial management and executive leadership are available. To learn more about the CCNL, go to www.ChristianLeadershipAlliance.org