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5 Basics of an Effective Accountability Group

Last Updated: February 13, 2023

John Doyel
John Doyel

John Doyel dedicated himself to helping men recover from sexual sin and return to God. He led a recovery ministry at Vineyard Columbus called 180 Recover.

How many times have you asked someone to hold you accountable, only for them to do a lousy job? They might have thought that was what they wanted to do but had no clue how to do it. Plus, if it includes holding you accountable for your sexual purity, there are two primary problems: 1) They do not know how to do it, and 2) You do not want to tell the truth.

For an accountability group to be effective, it must think long term. Being set free from sexual brokenness does not happen in a ten-week class with ten accountability sessions. We have been walking in sexual sin for years, if not decades, and that kind of hard wiring in your brain does not change quickly. Add to this the fact that our sin nature craves sex, our world offers that fix in a matter of moments, and we have an enemy who wants to keep us in bondage, and recovery is going to take a lot of work and a lot of time.

Whether you’re looking to join an accountability group or lead one, it must have at least these five qualities to be effective.

The accountability group meets weekly and continues as long as needed.

If you have been developing this highly addictive behavior for years, understand you will have a battle on your hands. I have had men find freedom from sexual addiction who struggled in the beginning to get one month of sobriety. Some of my best leaders had taken two years before they began to make good progress.

If someone is single with no immediate or serious consequences for a fall, then it is just too easy to give in again, promise to never do it again, and then end up falling back in two weeks later. Porn is as addictive as any drug, and going through withdrawal can take at least 90 days.

Having a group that meets at the same place and at the same time is fundamental for recovery. Make every meeting and participate in the discussions and whatever program they are using. If you have a wishy-washy attitude and have not hit rock bottom, you will probably give up after a few weeks. So, I ask people to commit that they will be a part of the group for at least a year.

Related: Why Can’t I Stop Watching Porn–3 Reasons It’s Hard to Quit

It must be a safe place where you can tell the truth without condemnation.

An effective accountability group must be a safe place where members can be completely honest. Everyone in our program begins by writing out their sexual sin history from the earliest memory up to that day. Then they share that with someone of the same gender they can completely trust. It might be a pastor or counselor or the group leader. This is very painful and difficult to do, but the value of it cannot be measured. You are letting light into the darkest secrets about you, which takes away the power of those secrets.

Once that has been accomplished then you need to share weekly how well or how poorly you maintained your boundaries. Allow the members or the leader to ask you questions so that you get out the whole truth. It is too easy to rationalize and minimize our sins, and then we have not indeed told the truth.

For example, last Wednesday a young man shared in one of my Online Support Teams that he had a fall. When I tried to find out what happened, he shared he actually looked at porn for an hour and acted out three times. He was shocked when I asked those questions. I was not trying to embarrass him–I just wanted him and the group to know whether this was a little fall or something more significant. Everyone in the group also shared about times where we fell multiple times. This will help him a lot the next time he is tempted and reports to the group. There was no condemnation, but compassion coming from all the others.

Related: The Two Most Important Questions If You Have a Setback

Group members must meet weekly and have daily contact.

That’s right! I said daily contact. Any 12-step group will tell their addicts that if they want to get through withdrawal, they need to do a 90 in 90. That means going to 90 meetings in 90 days. Why? Because getting through withdrawal requires daily encouragement.

It’s biblical! Hebrews 3:13 says, “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

Members of our 180 Online Support Teams and our church small groups use an app called GroupMe. They are all connected–so if someone sends a text for help everybody in the group gets the text and can respond quickly.

This means that they never should feel like they are alone again. When tempted they can take out their phone, turn it on, open the app, and type in “HELP.” I timed it, and it took me 16 seconds, and someone responded in 23 seconds, and in another 30 seconds, three more people responded. So, I like to say I have a minute to win it if I am being tempted!

A leader must be experiencing sexual sobriety.

The success of any group will happen when there is a good leader who has proven they know how to walk in purity. Our leaders must have six months without porn or masturbation and need to maintain that walk. An occasional slip, or even a fall is acceptable, but if they continue to fall, then they should step out of leadership.

Because of this, I hold my leaders accountable in our own group. I model for them the way they need to run their group by demonstrating my own honesty and compassion toward them if they are struggling.

It helps you set strong boundaries with strong consequences.

This is huge! We all need to set good boundaries, and then we need to keep those boundaries. Plus, it is critical that there be strong consequences if someone goes over a boundary they have set. Let’s see maybe Jesus gave us an example of this.

Jesus said that if a man looks at a woman and lusts after her, then he has committed adultery with her in his heart. Do you know what He said next? If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out, and if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off. All that if you just have a lustful thought.

Clearly, Jesus is using hyperbole here in Matthew 5. But the point should not be missed: a boundary without a consequence is only a speed bump.

For example, I noticed that I struggle with my boundaries whenever I would drink. So, I told my leaders that if I have a drink of alcohol, I will pay each of them $20.00. There are 16 of them, so that beer would cost me $320.00. I have not crossed that boundary since I set it unless they grant me permission for a special occasion.

I guess that you have good boundaries, but are there severe consequences if you cross the boundary? They do not have to be expensive, but they need to be something you would not want to do. One guy, if he crosses a boundary, will go to the local park and pick up cigarette butts for an hour. Another will shave off his beard, and after that his hair, and if that still did not work, then his eyebrows.

So that you know, 180 Ministries now runs seven Online Support Teams and we are willing to start more for whoever needs to be in one. They are strong and effective, and those in them are having more sexual sobriety than they have had in years. If you want more information, just email me at doyel@me.com.




  • Comments on: 5 Basics of an Effective Accountability Group
    1. Roelf Van Wyk

      Thanks for the practical advise – it will definitely assist me with my on going fight against my addiction and bad sexual behavior.
      Sometimes it feels that victory is so close – if I can only find a effectie accountability group to assist.
      May someone please advise how can I find a accountability group near where I stay.
      Please advise

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