Do you ever feel like you need a little help in your relationship with God? An accountability partner or group may be just the boost you need.
In this post we’ll talk about accountability: what it looks like, how to get started, and what to watch out for. Let’s begin with a definition.
What is accountability?
Accountability is a helping-each-other-out sort of relationship where we help each other achieve goals by asking the question, “Did you do what you said you would do?” Or in the case of breaking a habit–did you not do what you said you wouldn’t do?
With Christian accountability, the goals are often related to our relationship with God and others: doing something (or not doing something) so we can love God and others better.
Why is an accountability partner important?
It’s important because sometimes we need a gentle push to follow through on our goals. If we know someone is going to ask us, “Did you do that?” we’ll be far more likely to do it. For things we’re trying not to do, accountability helps us with discipline. If we know someone will be asking us what we did, we’re less likely to give in to temptation.
Are there different types of accountability?
There are many different ways to do accountability. Here are a few of them:
- An ongoing accountability group. You may have a small group of close friends (1-4) who meet regularly for fellowship, prayer, and accountability. Ideally, this group would be a local group so that you could really enter into each other’s lives, share your problems, offer support, build each other up, and encourage each other.
- A specific purpose, limited-time accountability partner or group. Sometimes we need accountability for a limited time to work on one goal. Maybe you have a weight loss group where you hold each other accountable to what you ate that week. Or maybe you’re working on a renewing of the mind project and you want to ask someone to hold you accountable to renew your mind for a specific length of time for a specific goal. Or maybe you’re married and attracted to someone other than your spouse. You might ask someone to hold you accountable to not even thinking about that person so you won’t fall into temptation. This accountability can take place by email, phone, text, or in person. With this type of accountability, you don’t necessarily have to know the person well, you just have to be committed to contacting them each day.
- A deep friendship where you talk about spiritual things. In a sense, a close friendship often becomes an accountability of sorts. If you have a close friend who is willing to talk to you when he or she sees something amiss in your life, she’s holding you accountable just by bringing those things up.
- A church fellowship. Ideally, your church should be a place where you feel comfortable in sharing your struggles and asking for help. It should also be a place where your fellow church members aren’t afraid to challenge you in a loving, grace-filled way. It’s almost impossible to have this happen though unless your church is very small or unless you get involved in a small group in your church. Accountability works best in close relationships.
How do I find an accountability partner?
The simple answer is, “Start asking!” Make a list of people you can ask and then start asking. In order to do this you may have to go out of your comfort zone and you’ll also have to risk them saying no.
If they do say no, don’t take it personally. Not everyone wants to open themselves up to that level of vulnerability, nor does everyone want to work on transformation. Also, the person you ask may already have an accountability partner.
Is there anything I should look for in an accountability partner?
Here are a few things I would look for:
- Someone who is interested in growth.
- Someone who will be honest with you.
- Someone who will remember to ask you.
- Someone who will give you grace when you fail.
How do we get started?
- Begin by setting a time for how long you plan to hold each other accountable: 4 to 6 weeks is a nice beginning length.
- Then establish how often you’ll report to each other. In most cases I’ve found that daily accountability works best. However I’ve been doing weekly to-do-list accountability with a friend for probably half a year now where we just email each other our weekly to-do lists (in Evernote) and then at the end of the week we email each other our list with all the check marks in place to show how much of the list we accomplished that week. So it will depend somewhat on what you’re holding each other accountable for.
- Establish what you’ll report each day. For example, if you’re working on breaking a habit, you may report whether or not you followed your boundaries that day and whether or not you renewed your mind once you broke your boundaries.
- Establish the method you’ll use to report – email, text, phone, or in person.
- Start holding each other accountable.
- If you’re working on breaking a habit, starting a habit, or achieving a goal with your accountability partner, consider using the Renewing of the Mind Project to renew your minds and add structure to your project. This book will also help you break free from negative emotions like worry, anger, insecurity, and stress.
Anything else I should do or be aware of?
Here are just a few thoughts I had from my own experiences with accountability.
- If your partner doesn’t report one day, be sure to call or email and ask how they did.
- If you notice your partner giving a fuzzy answer such as “I had a pretty good day yesterday” but not reporting if she followed her boundaries, ask her if she did.
- Always give grace. Make it safe for him to ask you. If he broke them, try to say something encouraging.
- Remember that only God has the power to transform you, so don’t expect miracles from your accountability partner. He or she is a human being with weaknesses. He might forget to ask you one day. She might not give grace one day. That’s okay because you don’t need a perfect accountability partner for transformation to take place. If you find your accountability partner consistently failing in one area, it might be helpful to talk about it together and look for a new accountability partner if necessary.
- Don’t expect your spouse to be your accountability partner just because you’re married to him or her! Often there is one person in a relationship who wants to pursue growth and one who doesn’t.
- Since we’re transformed by the renewing of the mind, it’s just as important to hold each other accountable to the renewing of the mind as it is to doing what we said we would do. I talk about this in The Renewing of the Mind Project. Since our goal is to get to the point where we actually want to do the new behavior (or want to stop wanting to do it if we’re breaking a habit), it’s important to change the way we think about that habit. We can do this by consistently going to God for help with it and renewing our minds.
- If you find yourself wanting to fudge the truth when you report to your accountability partner, you may want to consider just holding each other accountable to the renewing of the mind. Ask, “Did you renew your mind if you broke your boundaries?” Another option would be to ask your accountability partner to ask you if you’re lying each time you do accountability.
Accountability is a valuable discipline that can greatly impact your relationship with God and your behavior. If you’ve never tried it, I hope you’ll give it a try. If you have any tips you’d like to share, I’d love to hear them!
Discussion question: Have you ever had an accountability partner? If so, how has it impacted your walk with God? Also, do you have any tips for us on accountability?
BlessingCounter - Deb Wolf says
So much good advice here Barb! Rev is my accountability partner. I’m very blessed. We end each work day talking about our faith, events, and God’s amazing grace. The only thing I would add to your points is to be aware of the person’s ability to keep your conversations private. If they talk negatively about other people to you, they will talk about you to others. I have been badly burned and it has made me extremely cautious about sharing my struggles with anyone but Rev. Blessings and hugs!
Barb Raveling says
Ah, that’s wonderful that you two are accountability partners. You are blessed! And yes, that’s a great point that I should have included – to make sure you keep it confidential. Thanks for bringing that up! Blessings and hugs to you as well!
Becca Koopmans says
Some great specifics mentioned here, Barb…and I LOVE the picture…such a genuine embrace shown. I like that the renewing your mind ‘project’ allows for varying areas of growth…so often my friends don’t share the same struggles and so I’m hesitant to ask for accountability help…but, if we are both renewing our mind…that is the common link. Thank you…it opens up my heart’s possiblities.
Barb Raveling says
I love that picture too, Becca, but I’m prejudiced since it’s my two daughters. :) It was taken on a winter hike near here. I like your point about the renewing of the mind being the common link – it really helps to have an accountability partner who is working on her own project although it doesn’t have to be the same project.
Karen Foster says
I’m thinking I need an accountability partner in my writing. I’m so impressed you keep publishing books. I obviously need to learn how to stay on task and reach a goal.
Barb Raveling says
That’s a great idea, Karen. It’s interesting about writing – when I wrote my first book, I could barely write 15 minutes because it was so incredibly intimidating. I’ve always had to renew my mind to get myself to write, but it’s finally becoming easier for me. I wrote the starting a habit/pursuing a goal questions in my newest book to make myself write, and then decided to put them in the book so I could use them without having to look them up on my computer, since that often led to more procrastination!
Melanie Wilson says
I’ve had them and they can be SO helpful. For 22 years, my husband has been my exercise accountability partner. It really helps to have someone who has achieved what you need in your own life and that’s my hubby!
Barb Raveling says
That’s great, Melanie. My husband also likes to exercise and is in great shape. I’m only recently getting back into regular exercise, although I’ve always liked hiking, going on walks, skiing, etc.
Hey, this didn’t show up in my email subscription?
I’ve had accountability partners on and off and the one I have now that I do an in depth Bible study with was the one that corralled me into it… The Lord does work in mysterious ways!
Barb Raveling says
I’ve also had accountability partners on and off – they’ve really helped me grow. Not sure why this didn’t show up in your email subscription! One of these days I need to switch everything to Mail Chimp.
Jana Snyder says
MailChimp rocks! :)
(I don’t work for them. I just love it. I’m a web designer, and I sometimes help my clients get their email newsletter set up.)
Barb Raveling says
I agree, Jana, I use Mail Chimp for my newsletters and they’re really easy to use!
I came across this post wondering if women ever organize for accountability issues. I want more accountability for something as simple as being in Gods word. I see SO MANY believers falling into sin over the past few years especially, or maybe its just coming to light but I dont want that to be me! I know one great way to insulate myself somewhat against it is being in Gods word, prayer and just clinging to him, but I’m prone to distraction! I’m not married/have no children, so time isnt as much of an issue.
I was looking for apps where people can connect, but they all seem to be for men, or family accountability. I’m currently also unchurched (and it’ll likely stay that way) so thats not an avenue for me. Anyone know of any apps that are for women?
Also, I dont find a lot of people that really love talking about Jesus. Many times in the past I begin to talk about the deeper things that the Lord is working in my life, and people had seemed either shocked or disinterested. The Lord deals with many ongoing heart issues with me, but I feel like when I talk about them women seem to think its too much? Maybe I am being too open or vocal, but we are all sisters in Christ. Maybe its where I’m at in my walk … I’m older (late 50s) , and I so desperately want to finish strong with Jesus!
Barb Raveling says
Hi Melanie! I haven’t heard of any apps for women – in fact I didn’t know there were apps for men until you mentioned it. That would be a wonderful thing! You could try to find an accountability partner on my Renewing of the Mind Project FB group if you’d like. It’s not a very active group so people may not see your post, but you could try it if you want. Here’s the link to it: https://www.facebook.com/groups/331000447097806/ – I have a post right at the top of that group where people can ask for accountability partners. I do think that would be super helpful.
As to talking deeply about things of God, I wonder if you just need to find the right person. In my experience, it seems like some people like to talk about things like that and others don’t. Also, some women will feel comfortable talking about deep heart issues after they’ve known people awhile, but not in the beginning.
I’ve also noticed in different places where I’ve lived that the culture there can also affect how much women share. Two of my friends moved to cities on the coast (one east and one west) and they said they had a hard time making friends there because it didn’t seem like women had time to be friends, whereas in the small town I live in, people are pretty relaxed and have time for each other.
I’m sorry I’m not more helpful with an app suggestion. I pray that you’ll be able to find someone to be accountable with and talk about deep things with, Melanie. My guess is that there are a lot of women out there like you who would love that – the trick is just to find someone! Praying God will help you with that!