The Failure of Accountability Groups among Student Dudes
AAs 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. 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.
- 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.
- 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: