Part 3: Redefining Judgmental
Over the last few weeks we have been navigating what accountability looks like with students that seem all too quick to pull the ‘judgement card’ whenever you call them out on something going on in their life. We’ve talked about a new perspective on what accountability looks like and how to find the balance between challenge and encouragement in the relationships that we have with our students. In this post we will discuss where we go from here in these conversations with students.
I find it interesting that nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus hold his disciples accountable in a one on one setting. If I were preaching I would repeat that and make you write it down. Even when he tells Peter to ‘get behind me Satan’ he does it in a group context. Those might be some of the harshest words Christ could say to one of his followers and he did not do it in a one on one conversation at Starbucks. But why is it that Christ never practiced accountability in one on one settings with his disciples? If Christ never practiced accountability in one on one settings with those he was in a relationship with, then why do we primarily view and practice accountability in a one on one, intimate relationship?
The Role of Personal Space
Feel free to check out our friend, Alex Absalom’s post on the four spaces. Sociologically, there are four spaces that people instinctively function in. One of the spaces is referred to as Personal Space and occurs when people find themselves in settings of 3(4)-12 people. In church world, this often takes the form of small groups. What typically occurs in Personal Space is that the people experiencing it tend to share more private thoughts and feelings. What’s interesting is that, scripturally, this is where we find Jesus both challenging and encouraging his disciples; practicing accountability with them. Just look at a few examples found in the Gospel of Matthew: 8:18-22 (cost of following Jesus), 9:9-12 (Jesus questioned about eating with sinners), 14:15-18 (Jesus feeding the 5,000), 15:12-0 (Jesus calls Peter ‘dull’ for not understanding), 16:13-20 (Peter’s confession – encouragement), 18:1-9 (Disciples asking who is the greatest), 19:13-15 (The children coming to Jesus), 26:6-13 (correcting the disciples while the lady washed Jesus’ head), 26:25 (Jesus calls out Judas at the Last Supper), 26:31-35 (Jesus tells Peter that he will deny Jesus). If Personal Space is the setting that we find Jesus practicing accountability with his disciples in then shouldn’t we model the same with those that we are discipling? Not in a one on one setting?
Why Accountability in Personal Space?
- There’s something to be said about the Gospel authors revealing Jesus’ practice of accountability in a smaller group size (personal space). If Jesus modeled accountability in this manner, then I believe that we should practice it this way.
- Authentic accountability happens in community. In personal space, the person becomes accountable to everyone in the group, not just an individual. They feel the challenge, as well as the encouragement, of everyone that is there. Because of this they are more likely to act on the thing(s) that God is speaking into their life.
- Everyone speaks. Everyone receives. This is connected to the point above. If someone in the group is wrestling with something in their life, maybe there is another individual in the group who has been through the same, or something similar, that can speak into that situation. This way everyone is learning and every is growing, even if the focus of the conversation isn’t them.
It’s worth a shot. Both John and myself have found doing accountability with our students in the personal space setting extremely effective. In fact, we have seen much growth in our students from doing it in this manner. It is also important to keep in mind the other points that we brought up in the previous post: accountability is spiritual partnership – not spiritual policing, there needs to be a balance between the relationship and the degree of accountability, find the balance between challenge and grace, and to come alongside students.
Anyone else have stories or experience with accountability in Personal Space?