As a pastor, how can I encourage accountability relationships in our church congregation?
Accountability in the church is surprising low. In 2010, the Barna Group did a study and discovered only 5% of Christian churchgoers had any type of accountability in their church. George Barna explained the findings:
Barna Group studies among pastors and other church leaders have consistently shown that such leaders have a distaste for initiating any type of confrontation and conflict with congregants. Another barrier is that many followers of Christ are uncertain about the difference between judgment and discernment. Not wanting to be judgmental, they therefore avoid all conversation about the other person’s behavior—except, sometimes, gossip.
The purpose of accountability in the church should be to motivate every member toward a closer relationship with the Lord. Accountability relationships need to be built on trust and honest communication between individuals and those they have asked to hold them accountable.
Accountability is not a system of judging behavior or setting rules to create legalistic lifestyles, but rather a way for members to discuss, evaluate, and accept counsel and feedback to encourage a closer personal walk with God. By developing supportive, trusting relationships, believers will be able to lean on one another for biblical wisdom and direction.
As a pastor, you can focus on several key areas to encourage accountability relationships within your congregation:
Encourage faithful attendance. A community of Christians who come together on a regular basis will have the opportunity to learn about one another, pray for each other, and rejoice in one another’s praises and blessings. Church family can sometimes provide closer relationships than family ties, especially for those who do not have other believers in their life.
Gatherings outside of church will help form deeper relationships and build trust among one another.
Encourage hospitality. Individuals can easily get lost in the crowd of larger congregations or maintain only surface relationships through social media. Church connections need to be intentional. Gatherings outside of church will help form deeper relationships and build trust among one another. Trust needs time to grow to bring an individual to a place where they are comfortable discussing issues or asking for help from another. This type of relationship takes time and effort!
Encourage friendships between the older and younger generations. Notes, letters, and phone calls are simple ways to open communication between the generational gap. The older generations have much spiritual wisdom and experience to pass on and teach the younger crowd. At times our youth may be under the impression that older folk don’t understand what they are going through. In reality, temptation and life struggles have not changed from one generation to the next.
Young married couples can benefit from the years of experience the older generation has already walked, through marriage trials and joys as well as parenting struggles and victories. The stories and examples of how God has brought them through situations can encourage and motivate the younger generation toward a closer walk with the Lord.
The stronger and deeper the relationships within the body of believers, the more open and willing individuals will be to share their struggles and needs. We all have sin issues, and we all need grace. Having a support system of like-minded friendships in place can go a long way to encourage accountability!
Yours in accountability,
“Ask Ali” is an op-ed column answering common questions about accountability and related topics.