student ministry, youth ministry, accountability

Salvaging Accountability

By Guest Contributor March 10, 2014

By: Kyle Rohane

“Who has something to add to our prayer list?” I asked. Ten small hands shot up. I pointed to a little girl whose arm was stretched so high it was lifting the rest of her body out of her cross-legged position. “Yes, Loren? What would you like us to pray for?”

She stood up, giddy to share. “I just want to pray that God helps me feel better.” She smiled innocently. “I’ve been sick all weekend, and I don’t want to miss school tomorrow.” My eyes flicked to the antibacterial gel dispenser, mentally noting to stop by after class. “That’s a great prayer request, Loren. We’ll definitely pray for God’s healing. Who’s next?”

Loren’s brother stood up slowly. He glanced down at his sister and said, “I want to pray for Loren, too.” That was typical—we usually got three or four of the same prayer requests. “That’s very nice of you, Andrew. But don’t worry. We’ll pray for your sister to get better.”

“No,” Andrew said. “I want to pray for my sister to quit lying about being sick.”

.           .           .

Accountability doesn’t have a great reputation these days. Too many accountability groups amount to little more than wallowing in defeatism: “I messed up this week.” “Me, too. See you next week.” Or a game of whack-a-mole: “I messed up this week.” “You should be ashamed. The rest of us are trying really hard, but you don’t even seem to care.” Or a fixation on one topic—yes, that topic.

So we do what we’ve always done in these situations: throw it out like a loaf of bread with a fuzzy, green blemish. It’s easier to chunk the whole thing than to salvage the wholesome bits. But I think we still can save a few slices.

Much as we hate to admit it, accountability is important (check out James 5:16). We can’t always be trusted to admit our needs. I can’t count the number of prayers I’ve offered that were just pious posturing—demonstrations of my own holiness, more to the other people listening than to God. I need others to keep me honest about my own needs. But maybe we can find a better method of accountability than that of the boy in the story above.

So keep these few things in mind as you put together or facilitate student accountability groups:

1. Take the time to teach. You probably won’t be able to participate in every accountability group you facilitate. If you’re relying on student or volunteer leadership, be sure to train these leaders. Don’t assume they’ll know what to do. Save them and their groups from learning about trouble spots the hard way.

2. Check in often. Meet with your leaders regularly. And come to these meetings with specific questions, like “What topics does your group focus on?” and “Does each member of your group have an equal opportunity to share?”

3. Model accountability. Are you in an accountability relationship yourself? Your students are watching, and if you don’t prioritize accountability and confession, you can’t expect them to.

4. Avoid “bullet-point” accountability. If the bulk of your time is spent listing sins, it’s time to refocus. Get to the meat of the issues. Ask questions like, “Where do you see God in this issue?” Focus on your connections with God and other people—individual sins are the byproducts of these broken relationships.

5. Listen with love. Every accountability relationship should be based on a foundation of love. If accountability is about me, I’ll leave feeling ashamed, abused, or neglected. But if it’s about you, I’m more likely to listen and respond with grace.

6. Confess with reasonable expectations. Your accountability partner is human, too. They probably won’t have a silver bullet to solve your problems. They may not know what to say at all. Remember that confession is ultimately about coming out of the shadows into the light, not about solving your problems instantaneously.


About the Author

Guest Contributor

The LeaderTreks Blog is proud to share the hard-earned wisdom of student ministry leaders from many different backgrounds and professions. From time to time, we will feature guest blog posts from writers other than our regular contributors. We include these posts to provide additional perspectives and insight that we’re sure will help develop you and your ministry…  Read More