Skip to main content

The Failure of Accountability Groups among Student Dudes


A
As a student pastor I sometimes cringe when a guy tells me he's in an accountability group.  Often this is in relation to issues such as prayerlessness, immorality, porn or drunkenness.  I cringe when they tell me not because I believe that accountability is bad for Christian guys, but on the whole I have found it unhelpful because it is usually done in a way that is not transformational.  Let me describe three ways of doing "accountability" in order of effectiveness.  I have found it unhelpful because it is usually done in a way that is not transformational.  Let me describe three ways of doing "accountability" in order of effectiveness. 


  1. 1.  Cop Accountability: "So, did you get drunk/ look at porn/ feel up your girlfriend this week?" These are typically the questions guys ask each other when they are operating in the realm of "cop accountability".  I do not think this is bad, but it is woefully insufficient.  It can help with minor things and garden variety lust, but as soon as one starts dealing with addictive behaviour or what Scripture calls "besetting sins" than it fails to cut the mustard.  People with addictive behaviours are great liars and often end up lying after a few weeks in the group.  Often, when they do tell truth they face nothing but guilt and shame to motivate them.
  2. Coach Accountability: "Don't worry, you blew it this week, but you are doing so well in other areas.  You can do it!"  This type of accountability rests on positive encouragement rather than shame.  I have found it somewhat helpful at times and should not be discarded, but we should recognise that it does not get to the root of the problems. 
  3. Cardiac Accountability: "Let's talk about what God given appetites you are trying to satisfy when you give into peer pressure and get drunk with the rest of the guys from your hall."  This deals with the real needs of the heart which one is trying to satisfy when he gives into sin.  There is a sense in which the young man who is surfing on porn websites is looking for God.  He's worshipping at the wrong altar and he needs brothers and fathers to help him put words to his own brokenness so he can find his way home.  The goal of such a group is not mere "sin management".  It is transformation of the person.  It deals with the much deeper issues which often drive addictive and habitually sinful behaviour.  Proverbs 4.23 says, "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it". 
It is to the latter that I would call student guys (without totally neglecting certain elements of the former two).

Thoughts welcome below: 


Comments

  1. Also annoying when accountability groups become limited to one or two issues (sex and drinking) and do not allow group members to gracefully interfere with one another's lives on often unspoken things like money, showing off, laziness, workaholicism, disproportionate anger etc etc

    And - some groups seem to spend a lot of time talking about sin and none discussing Jesus

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks anonymous. I think another big issue among students that often goes unspoken is loneliness.

    ReplyDelete
  3. KNOWING what is right and DESIRING what is right is two very different things. Most of us have been in church long enough to know what we aught to do - still find ourself not wanting to do it. If we motivate people based on their knowledge of wrong, we meerely end up disciplining people (or help them to selfdiscipline); whereas true and lasting transformation has to be based on an independant decision taken from the heart.

    Much of failure on accountablity, I find, has less to do with the actual method and more to do with the very heart that does (or maybe honestly does not) desire to be kept accountable.

    To create desire for change, I believe we first must give everyone the absolute full freedom (honestly and verbally) to do exactly as they please - while we with sincere LOVE inspire them when with the HOPE of freedom Christ gives from whatever addiction we might struggle with. Any decition to be held accountdable based purely on knowledge or pressue or fear of consequences or this-is-how-we-do-it-here is utterly doomed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. agreed Mikael - if people don't want to change, and invite the Holy Spirit to change them, it's like going to the gym with a group of guys who don't want to exercise. You might as well bring doughnuts.

      Delete
  4. Thanks Mikael for weighing in with your view!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Dear Pro-Gay Christian Friend

[Response to the letter Dear Non-Affirming Christian]
Dear Pro-Gay Christian Friend,
Thank you for taking the time to write me. Sadly, it seems you misunderstand why I met with you for coffee. Please let me explain my motives by defining the words in my salutation above. Would this be too terrible a way to go about it?
Let’s start with ‘friend’ shall we? You rightly question this term as an accurate description of our relationship. For now, let's simply say I mean it as an expression of good will - but will return to it again at the end of the letter. Then there's this term, 'pro-gay'. By this, I don't mean your personal sexual urges. There have historically been – and are today – countless godly leaders in the church who have deep sexual and romantic attractions to people of the same gender. In spite of their desires, they remain celibate and teach orthodox views of gender and sexuality. In your letter, you repeatedly refer to me as a ‘non-affirming Christian’, but I …

Where I Turn Down a Gay 'Wedding' Invitation

Dear Katie,
I hope this letter finds you well. You’ve been on my mind lately as it’s been a few weeks since we’ve met up. We’re overdue to grab a coffee – I hope we can soon. I also want to thank you for thinking of me as you sent out invitations for what I know will be a big day for you and Joanna. I’ve known you since before you met her (two years ago now, is it?) and I appreciate all you’ve shared with me about how meaningful that relationship is to you. It was especially kind of you given my Christian faith. You've never directly asked me my views on gender or sex in much detail. But I think our conversations must have touched on it enough times to at least make you a bit unsure of my reaction when you sent the invitation. I have to say 'no' to your kind invitation. You know that I care for you and that I value our friendship. You know I don't reject you because you are gay. So, would it be too much to ask of you if I explain why my faith would make attendance at your…

Driscoll Returns, ‘Christian Today’ Melts.

Sometimes in the course of events, a peculiar thing happens that then triggers a response more peculiar still. This is what we now see with the return of Pastor Mark Driscoll to the church scene.
For those unfamiliar with the drama, Mark Driscoll was a church planter and Bible teacher who made a big impact in the least churched city in the USA: Seattle. Thousands professed faith in Christ through his ministry. But he left the church that he had started under dark circumstances. No, it wasn’t adultery as is so often the case with some of these big-name preachers. Rather, it was heavy-handed leadership―resulting in many spiritually crushed church members―that drove him to resign.
Now, three years later, he is leading a new church and many are downloading his sermons once again. This is not without some valid controversy―for reasons we’ll mention soon. But what is most noticeable is not his peculiar return. It is the reaction among those who lean left of classical Christian teaching: the …