I think this photo is hilarious on a number of different levels. It’s definitely one of those “insert caption here:” photos. However, I can’t help but wonder what this Santa is feeling at this moment. Probably the same feelings that many people who get arrested feel. Guilt. Shame. Embarrassment. Hopelessness. If these are feelings that coincide with getting in trouble, then why are they the same feelings that we often have in our accountability relationships? There’s something wrong here, isn’t there? On a personal level, I tend to stay away from using the word ‘accountability’ because I think it’s become distorted in Christian circles. The way accountability occurs needs to change. It needs to be redefined.
The people of Wayfarer’s ministry (student and young adult ministry in partnership with 3DM) say that, “accountability is about Spiritual Partnership and not Spiritual Police.” One of the biggest differences between the two is in the relationship. You can police without having a relationship. A partnership is only a partnership if there is a relationship.
There are 2 implications of viewing accountability in light of partnership:
Accountability without Relationship = Rebellion. Think about it. If I randomly confront a student that I don’t know about smoking weed, they will most likely use some choice words with me and walk away. I shouldn’t be surprised by that reaction because there’s no relationship. Whereas, if I have a relationship with that student then I have more of a right to speak into their weed smoking habits. If we are to challenge and confront students with difficult conversations then the relationship has to exist! One phrase that we often use is “earn the right to be heard.” You have to spend time with students in order to get to a place where you can speak into their life circumstances.
Relationship without Accountability = Apathy. It’s fairly easy, over time, to develop a relationship with a group of students. If you tell a group of guys that you are going to have a night of pizza and video games at your house then you can count on them being there and your relationship with them advancing. However, turning the corner from your relationship being about hanging out and playing video games to having intentional conversations dealing with life and God can be one of the most difficult transitions for leaders to make. This transition is crucial. If playing video games and eating pizza are all you do with your group of students then the relationship only rests on the surface; there’s no depth to it. You will see your students become apathetic and asking the question, ‘What’s the point?’. They will realize there’s no substance and they’re not being discipled. There needs to be times of intentional conversation and direction with your students when you are asking them, “What’s God saying to you?” and “What are you going to do about it?” – discipleship questions. Don’t be afraid to dive into the difficult conversations that need to take place in your students’ lives.
With accountability there is confrontation. In fact, there has to be. However, accountability is NOT beating the person up or constantly coming down on someone. Balancing those moments of confrontation and encouragement is key to effectively have a healthy accountability with students. If we are to effectively make disciples who make disciples then we have to intentionally pursue and build the relationship, while not being scared of the difficult conversations that the Spirit is leading us in. When you have a relationship with a student then accountability becomes a partnership where you are challenging and encouraging them to become more like Christ.