by Barrie Thompson
Posted on 1st April 2016

I find I have a need to make myself accountable to others; in all sorts of situations and different settings; in my personal, work and spiritual life; for what I do and say; for my benefit and well-being and growth.

First and foremost, I am called to be personally accountable to God (Romans 14:12) - all of my interactions with other people find meaning in the relationship I have with Him.
Flowing from this is a call to be accountable to other people (1 Corinthians 12) - the love I have for God (and His amazing love for me) shapes the relationships I have with family, colleagues, friends, acquaintances, the 'one body' I am privileged to be a part of, and so on.

Making myself accountable to another person (or group of people) provides many benefits. I will think more about these benefits shortly, but for now words like support, comfort and motivation spring to mind. Let's face it, we all need these things regularly, and the best source for them is other people, people who are willing to stand with us, believe in us, and invest in us.

Accountability involves a willingness to be open and honest with others

Two essential elements of accountability stand out in the Bible: trust and relating to others.

  • Trust: this is developed through (i) intentional listening to others (James 1:19), (ii) being non-judgmental and discerning (Matthew 7:1-2), and, (iii) caring for each other whilst holding the bigger (God's Kingdom) picture in mind (1 John 4:21). Accountability involves a willingness to be open and honest with others, which makes trust essential in an environment in which we will be sharing at a personal level.
  • Relating to others: Christian values of empathy, care, sharing joys and burdens, acceptance, being a part of the 'one body', encouragement (Hebrews 10:24; 1 Thessalonians 5:11), correction (Galatians 6:1-2), and so much more. We are created for relationship, and the author of Ecclesiastes grasped this concept well ... two are better than one (4:9); a cord of three strands is not quickly broken (4:12)

As I said to begin with, I need to make myself accountable to others. Not simply because I'm told to and so feel obliged, but because I understand and have experienced the many benefits from walking the paths of my life in the presence of others. Accountability has led to deeper friendships, wisdom in decision-making, support when most needed, joy in celebrations, shoulders in times of crises, safety and stability in following God's calling on my life, a growth in my prayer life, to name just a few.

I work for Stewardship, and we place a great deal of importance on the area of accountability when we talk to those in full-time Christian ministry and mission. In fact, we won't assist a Christian worker with the administration of their financial support-raising, without confirmation of accountability in and for the work they are doing. We always want to know to whom they are accountable and the nature of that accountability, because we recognise how important it is not to be 'out there' alone.

I truly believe each of us needs the encouragement, wise counsel, expertise, experience and knowledge of others. Then, when it comes to accountability for the work we're doing, we need protection, a moral and spiritual compass, guidance and direction, and a willingness to take responsibility for one's actions.

For a Christian worker, setting up an accountability group is simply good practice:

  • It is important that those who receive personal, financial support are accountable for its use
  • When registered with Stewardship for the receipt of grant support, accountability is to:
  • Those who provide the gift requests to support the fund we set up for you
  • Others who will provide you with 'spiritual accountability'
  • Stewardship - your ongoing eligibility to receive grant funding from us (especially under Gift Aid)
  • It encourages transparency, integrity, timeliness, trust
  • You benefit from the effective input from other experienced leaders who may act as spiritual mentors
  • It is important to talk about money: Is there enough? Are there specific needs? Am I budgeting well? How am I communicating with support partners? What does the future look like (long-term planning; retirement, etc.)

For more information about the 'who', 'what', 'where', 'when' and 'why' of accountability groups for those with full-time Christian roles, please take a read of the following paper, produced by Stewardship, entitled "Who's holding your ladder?"

Barrie Thompson has been with Stewardship for 7 years, having previously worked in banking and also in church ministry. With Stewardship, his main areas of focus are individual recipients and general compliance.