Accountability in a Judgmental World

Chances are that if you work with students and you are serious about making disciples then it will not be long until you hear the phrase “Stop Judging Me!”  If you haven’t had a student yell this at you, text it to you, post it on Facebook or tweet it, just know, it’s coming.

The culture we find ourselves in does not want to be challenged about what it values or how it lives and it certainly does not want to be confronted about issues of morality. God’s Kingdom works the opposite. Discipleship without accountability is fruitless. Disciples hear what Jesus is saying to them and then act in obedience. The lynch pin between hearing from Jesus and doing what he says is accountability.  Without it we find ourselves stuck. Accountability is vital for disciples to move forward. So what do we do when we are in a culture that is opposed to being accountable? As missional leaders who have a passion for empowering students to be like Jesus this presents quite a challenge.

Over the last few months I’ve had a number of normal but difficult conversations with students about all kinds of stuff, from sexual sin and addictions to suicide and bullying. I am generally pretty positive about talking to students about rough stuff, viewing them as opportunities.  What surprised me this time was the number of students who said in one way or another “stop judging me”.  It is becoming increasingly difficult to hold students to an account or even point out behavior that is destructive.

The next few weeks Mike and I will be digging into this subject and will be sharing some practical ideas of how to engage students in healthy accountable relationships.  If we are to help students become more like Jesus then we must learn to navigate in a world that thinks accountability is judgmental.  If you have some experiences or insights of your own on this subject please share them with us. We are all in this together.


6 thoughts on “Accountability in a Judgmental World

  1. So glad to see you tackling this tough issue. In my experience, the critical success factors for constructive confrontation are:

    a) Working from shared goals
    b) Communicating love and other-centeredness
    c) Investing yourself to help the other person work through this issue
    d) Affirming it is ultimately their choice about how to respond to this issue (though there will be consequences if they choose foolishly)
    e) Being transparents about our own failures

    Too often, we judge people a) by our own standards, b) out of our anger at that person’s sin, c) expecting them to fix themselves, d) demanding they change, e) ignoring the logs in our own eye. This rarely goes well. :-/

    Conversely, when someone a) is in agreement with about the overall goal, b) knows I love them, c) sees me willing to “ante up” to help them change, d) is given a choice, and e) understands that I am just “one beggar telling another where to find bread”, I usually find people willing to accept even the harshest rebukes.

    Let me know how it turns out!

    • Thanks for your input Ernie. I think the trick to confrontation is balancing encouragement and challenge. In student ministry the waters get muddy when students confuse healthy confrontation with being judged. I think the more we have open discussions as leaders on how to develop healthy accountability the better off we will be. The tendency for people is to avoid conflict or tension, but I do not think this is an option for Jesus followers, because as we have said, it is impossible to grow disciples apart from accountability. Instead of avoiding tension we need to embrace developing accountability that includes both encouragement and challenge.

      • Amen! I wonder, if there is any way you can *model* what accountability and confrontation looks like? It is a lot easier for a student to accept being “called out” if he or she knows that the adults are holding themselves to the same standard, and can see how they ought to respond.

        I once visited a ministry that every month would do a “love feast” communion, preceded by testimonies of what people were thankful for. That week two people had been in conflict, and a third person helped them work through it. All three of them shared how blessed they were by:
        – the offended, for appropriately raising an issue that needed attention
        – the leader, for figuring out a loving way to confront the offender
        – the offender, for responding positively to the rebuke
        – the offended, for forgiving the offender
        It made a huge impact on me, as I trust it did on that community.

        I keep wondering how to work that dynamic into communities I lead, but I haven’t found good examples. If you figure it out, let me know!

        — Ernie P.

        P.S. Ironically, the best illustration I’ve seen to date is this:


  2. Pingback: Moving Forward… | Your Life Is Your Mission

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