who’s keeping you accountable?
“Hello, my name is Mike and I do not drink coffee.” This is usually one of the first sentences that comes out of my mouth when I meet a fellow youth minister. I use this disclaimer because I’ve found that approximately 99% of all youth ministers drink coffee (or cappuccino or other fancy words that mean expensive caffeine). But instead of coffee, my drink of choice is pop. I’ll drink just about any pop, as long as it's not diet. In fact, I drank so much pop that I began to notice it was becoming a problem.
One day I decided I needed to do something about my addiction to carbonated beverages. So I turned to the two people I knew would hold me accountable better than anyone else: my two boys. While we were waiting for dinner one evening, I told them that I wanted to only drink one glass of pop a day and I needed them to make sure I followed through. Along with keeping track of what I was drinking, I gave them permission to ask me directly how I was doing. Not surprisingly, they were excited to have this new responsibility and have followed through without missing a day.
This situation has reminded me of a few important steps to make accountability work. The first step is to ask for help. This is obvious, but it's also the toughest step to take. Asking for help is admitting two things: You do not have it all together and you cannot do it on your own. Both are seen as signs of weakness by some people, but I see it as a sign of strength to ask someone for help. By asking for help, you're acknowledging to yourself that you want to make a change in your life.
Asking for help is a big step, but you have to be careful who you ask. Not everyone makes a good accountability partner, so you've got to be a little picky. You will want someone you know well, trust, feel emotionally safe around, and whose input you value. You'll be sharing sensitive information with this person and need to know it won't be neighborhood gossip before the night is over (see Proverbs 20:19). Even beyond confidentiality, you want to know the person is going to ask you pointed questions and see past any fluff answers you might give.
Which brings us to the biggest aspect of accountability: honesty. Accountability is useless if you don't tell the truth. Being asked how much pop I've consumed each day is pointless if I lie and say only one glass, when in reality I've had three glasses. My dishonesty will keep me from achieving my goal, place a veil of piety over my actions, and when discovered it will hinder my relationship with the person holding me accountable.
Everyone has something they need to be held accountable for. There are the obvious negative behaviors that people want to change: cheating, viewing pornography, plagiarism, smoking, and getting drunk. Youth ministers face another set of problems that need to be handled and might require accountability. Youth workers would benefit from having someone keep them accountable in these three areas: spending time with your family, spending time with God, and taking time to rest. When was the last time you asked another person to keep you accountable in one of these areas?