Intentional friendships. Accountability groups. Mentoring partnerships. Whatever you call them, churches love encouraging Christians to have them. But in my experience very few of us manage to have genuine accountability partners that last more than a couple of months.
I have been incredibly fortunate to be in an accountability trio which has lasted since I was at school. It has been one of the most significant pillars supporting my faith and I am convinced it will continue to be for the rest of my life. It is just a shame our group is the exception rather than the rule
Here are five tips if you are looking to start an accountable friendship.
1. Have fun!
So often when people talk about accountability it seems so intense and miserable. People sitting around and being forced to expose their worst traits. Like Guantanamo Bay for your soul. So build fun into your times together. Just like any other friendship, accountability must be based around enjoying each others company for it to be sustainable. Don't just sit around being earnest and praying for each other. Do whatever you do to relax and enjoy eachother as people first and foremost.
2. Start low
It is unrealistic to expect yourself or others to bare all your sins at your first coffee, and probably unhelpful if you did. Building trust is a slow process and you shouldn't feel you must be able to launch in deep straight away. Having said that, that is not an excuse to avoid growing in vulnerabilty and honesty with one another. It takes time so allow it to grow naturally but make sure you are being increasingly vulnerable with each other.
3. Be prepared to be honest
The whole point of accountability is that you allow yourself to be open and challenged about your most hidden secrets which no one else knows about. As long as something is a complete secret, the devil can use it to condemn and destroy us. It is about bringing what is in the dark into the light. That is the beauty and strength of accountability. So if you are not prepared to be fully and utterly honest with your accountability friend(s), even if it takes a while to get there, then don't even bother. That defeats the whole point.
4. Ask the tough questions
I am a big believer that accountability should be a two way process. All parties involved should be completely vulnerable and honest with one another. So ask the tough questions. Ask the questions that you know you wouldn't want to answer. Probe and dig to give the others the space to be utterly honest. It can be a brutal and scary process because it opens yourself up to being asked the same questions back. But I can say from my experience it is one of the most spiritually beneficial processes I have gone through.
5. Tough love never judges
It is so crucial that the environment of your times together is never, ever, judgemental. If someone feels they are being judged, they will be much more inclined the shut off and not be honest leaving the whole process is pointless. Instead be firm with one another; never allow something to go unchallenged but always reaffirm the good in the other people as well as calling out stuff to challenge.
You can follow Harry Farley on twitter @HarryFarls