Spiritual Direction

Implement the accountability factor in your group.

When you throw out a challenge to your group members, you hope for good results. Even if they are inspired to move closer to God or modify an unhealthy behavior, they may still follow through with action for a while but lose heart when the going gets tough. There are times when human discipline is not enough.

As the leader, you can introduce the accountability factor. Just as students study harder when a test is coming up, most people are more likely to stick with a prescribed program if they know they will be held accountable.

With accountability, however, one style doesn't fit everyone. Some people are quite willing to open up every area of their lives while others are very private individuals. Therefore, you need to carefully consider the makeup of your group before making a proposal that would make some members uncomfortable.

One of the following helps to maintain a commitment may be adaptable to your group:

Keep a journal. This works well for those who want to spend more time reading God's Word. Passages read can be recorded each day. For a more aggressive regimen, select a guide that requires you to read the entire Bible in one year. As they are read, passages are simply checked off.

Keeping a record of food that was consumed each day can help to establish more healthful eating habits. People who derive comfort from food may prefer to forego pleasure of the palate rather than look bad on paper. As an incentive for sticking to a diet, emphasize the fact that eating to glorify God is an even higher motive than losing weight. Weight loss is a bonus that comes from obedience.

Promote teamwork. "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!" (Eccl. 4:9-10).

You can promote a buddy system by soliciting another person to help you achieve a particular goal. For example, you might say, "I'd like to cut down on the time I spend watching television. Would someone volunteer to help me keep myself in check?" If you want to improve the quality of the programs you watch, give the other person permission to call at any time and ask, "What are you watching?" If you want to spend your time on something more worthwhile, make daily reports of time spent in front of the TV.

After you have introduced the idea of teamwork, encourage other group members to form partnerships to help each other modify behavior. Keep the concept in mind and promote it any time an opportunity arises. When someone makes a prayer request, ask for a volunteer to share the burden. Encourage the two people to keep in contact until the issue is resolved.

Two people who have the same goal make ideal accountability partners. In some cases, it is advisable to match someone struggling with a bad habit or an addiction with someone who has overcome a similar problem.

Plan a group project. If it is feasible with your group members, you might ask everyone to participate in a particular project. Allow group members to choose the activity.

Suggested projects:

  • Read the one-year Bible as a group.
  • Read a challenging book at the same pace.
  • Call, visit, or send a card to a shut-in each week.
  • Call another member of the group and pray together each week.

Each month put someone who needs the Lord on the prayer list. Ask each member to pray for the salvation of that person every day.

Whatever project you choose, find ways to check up on how well group members perform. Even asking for a show of hands of those who carried out their commitments will be effective. You might ask members to form groups of two or more to discuss the activities of the week or you may periodically ask someone to report to the entire group.

Implementing the accountability factor into your group may be slow going, but keep at it even if you encounter some resistance. The journey from earth to heaven is achieved one step at a time.

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