Accountability has slightly different meanings in different contexts. When we set individual goals, as many people do at the start of the new year, we may rely on self-imposed obligations to keep us from giving up too soon. For example, we might hire a personal trainer or join a workout group to make sure we show up for our daily exercise. This is one expression of accountability. As a member of a community, we think about accountability after a person or group transgresses a rule or crosses a boundary. The only way norms are respected is if there are consequences when someone violates them. This is another way to think about accountability.
In a congregational setting, we do not often name the need for accountability because we rely so heavily on volunteers to do the work of the church. But how do you hold volunteers accountable? Will accountability shrink the pool of people who want to serve?
Perhaps accountability gets a bad rap. Instead of being a way to point our finger at what someone is doing wrong, or incur guilt about our failings, accountability done right can promote long-term change and shape us more into who God created us to be. This is true for individuals and congregations alike. Yes, there are times when we need to correct bad behavior. More often, though, we can think about accountability as the strength we need when our willpower is not enough. For change to last, we need suitable strategies to hold ourselves responsible for our actions.
One of our challenges as leaders in the church world is to start making accountability a positive and supportive action.
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When Christian leaders learn to hold grace and accountability in creative tension, the foundation is laid for responses that are truly transformative.
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Before you go…
For some of us, the main issue with accountability is personal. We are clear about the habits we want to break this year. We already know the changes we need to make. So what’s the first step we can take? More importantly, who will we tell about this commitment? And what consequence will we impose on ourselves? Finding someone to be accountable to is a critical part of reaching our goal.
Some of us view accountability more from an organizational perspective. We desperately need the team to take ownership of their responsibilities. This week’s resources provide practical, helpful and theologically sound ways to introduce more accountability into your life and ministry. Leaders who understand accountability can develop the inner resilience and authentic community that are so essential if we hope to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling” we have received from God (Ephesians 4:1).
You can reach me and the Alban Weekly team at email@example.com. Until next week, keep leading!
Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity