Accountability relationships can be very important. But the reality is most men don’t have close enough friendships with other men to trust them with the deep places of their life. So how do you develop meaningful, lasting accountability relationships amongst men in your men’s ministry?
It Starts With Friendship
Let’s start by defining what we mean by an accountability relationship. Steve Sonderman from No Regrets Ministries defines it this way: “Giving others the freedom to help you order your private and public lives.”
Notice some key elements here – first, it is given. Truly successful accountability relationships are when a man gives something to others – not when others try to take something from a man. In order to do this, we need a certain level of relationship to occur. What has happened too many times in the past is for a well-meaning church leader to start men’s accountability groups. Brett Clemmer from Man in the Mirror says this: “You can’t start an accountability group – you can only become one. Accountability without relationship is legalism.”
Accountability without relationship is legalism.
Accountability often does not work because someone is seeking to take from a man rather than waiting for friendship to develop so the man is ready to give this freedom to other men. Here’s what I mean – if I organize an accountability group before men are ready for it, then I can have a list of questions men have to respond to each week. The agenda is mine – I’m determining where they need accountability. I’m taking the liberty to help them order their private and public life – but they haven’t given that freedom to me.
True accountability is when a man gives the freedom to others. This means the man either willingly gives permission for other men to ask about any area of life, or he pursues help in specific areas of his life where he would like accountability. You can see how the foundation of deep friendship is necessary for a man to open himself up in this way.
The Freedom To Help – Or Note
Let’s go back to our definition of accountability. Accountability is not only about a man giving something to others; it is the specific action of giving others the freedom to help you. They have freedom to help, but they are not demanded to help you.
The reality is the circumstances of our lives are constantly changing. I may be in a place to help you today, but tomorrow my world may fall apart. You may come to me for accountability about an issue I can help you with, but you may also bring an issue where I really don’t feel I can help you. Where there is freedom, it gives permission for me to step in and it gives permission for me to step out for a season.
Your men’s ministry may never organize successful accountability relationships. What you can foster is the environment where men are building friendships and connections with other men. As this begins to happen, you may have men who are connecting more strongly with certain other men. As a leader, you can begin to encourage these men to move to deeper levels of friendship and support for each other by challenging them to build accountability into their friendship.
Two Simple Tools To Building Accountability
There are two simple tools you can give to men who want some accountability in their friendships.
First, ask if they are willing to give permission for men to ask about any area of life. If they are – then give a series of Accountability Questions to them. You can find many of these types of questions online with a simple Google search. Tell them these questions can be used at any time within their group.
For men who want to give permission for only certain areas of their life, you can help them create a spreadsheet with certain goals on it. For example – if I know I should read the Bible more often I may ask you to hold me accountable for that. Put that as an issue on the spreadsheet. Next, I should set a goal for myself – maybe my goal is to spend 10 minutes a day reading the Bible. I put that goal on the sheet and then ask the other men to hold me accountable for that goal. I may even ask the other men to help me clarify what the right goal should be.
The final thing I want to say about accountability relationships is simply this: Make sure men are being held accountable to God’s standards as revealed in the Bible and not their own opinions. Accountability groups too often become a place of man’s opinions rather than God’s will. In every situation, the men should ask themselves the question – “what does God say about this?” and hold each other to that standard.