7 Marks of Enduring Accountability Relationships

Too often we relegate accountability to the “wouldn’t it be nice” status. It goes on the same list as having a budget and exercising–things we know we should be doing, but never quite find time to start.

Let’s begin by establishing that accountability is not just for life-dominating struggles. When we relegate accountability to crisis-status, we never feel like our life is that “that bad” until things really are “that bad.”


Then we live with regret. How did we let things deteriorate this far? Answer: we had a “that bad” standard for accountability.

Accountability is part of God’s definition of “healthy.” People who do not have relationships in which they are honest about their struggles (we all have them), seeking accountability and encouragement, are people who are becoming “unhealthy.” Nobody wanders in the direction of healthy. God-honoring lives require intentionality.

7 Marks of Enduring Accountability Relationships

The seven points below are meant to guide you in the kind of relationships that facilitate this component of healthy relationships. Your church’s small group ministry will most likely be where you find these relationships. Several references will be made to the advantage of having accountability through these kinds of weekly discipleship groups.

1. Voluntary: Accountability is not something you have (a noun); it is something you do (an active tense verb). You must disclose in order to benefit from the relationship. If you rely on the other person to “ask the magic question” or “just know” what is wrong or “call at the right time,” you sabotage the opportunity for accountability.

2. Trusted: You trust the other person(s), admire their character, and believe them to have good judgment. Many of us react negatively to the idea of accountability because we have not gotten to know people well enough to build the trust that facilitates this kind of relationship. Small groups provide the time and space necessary for trust to grow.

3. Mutual: One-sided relationships tend to be short-lived. A good accountability relationship consists not of a helper and helpee, but two helpers and two helpees. In a small group, you will hear the weaknesses and struggles of others as you share your own. You will help carry their burdens as they help carry your burdens (Gal. 6:1-2).

4. Scheduled: Accountability that is not scheduled tends to fade, even when we have the best of intentions. This is why small groups that meet on a weekly basis are an ideal place for accountability to occur. Everyone knows when to meet and has a shared expectation for how the accountability conversations will begin.

5. Relational: Spiritual growth is a lifestyle not an event. This means that we invite accountability to be a part of our regular conversations not just something that we do at a weekly meeting. It should mean that there are times when we are doing accountability and don’t realize it.

  • Caring for people and wanting to know how they’re doing with things they asked you to pray for is a form of accountability.
  • Hanging out together, casually hearing about life challenges, and offering advice or encouragement is a form of accountability.
  • Getting lunch and remembering to ask about an area of struggle is a form of accountability

6. Comprehensive: Accountability that exclusively fixates on one subject tends to become repetitive and fade. It also tends to reduce “success” to trusting God in a single area of life.

7. Encouraging: Too often the word “accountability” carries the connotation of “sin hunt.” When that is the case accountability is only perceived to be “working” when it is negative (i.e., it catches the particular sin in question). However, accountability that lasts should celebrate growth in character as fervently as it works on slips in character.

Establishing Quality Accountability Relationships

The key questions to ask yourself now are:

  • Who are the people in my life with whom I do or could have this kind of relationship?
  • Which of these characteristics are strongest in our relationship?
  • Which of these characteristics would require intentionality or fortify a weakness?
  • Am I willing to take the next step to begin or improve my accountability relationships?

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