I always check the expiration date on the milk carton, making it even more of a surprise when I recently took a swig of sour milk. I knew it was not polite, but my reflex overruled my etiquette and I spewed the putrid substance from my mouth. I like milk but it has time limitations.
Just about the time I think I have the fastest computer or smartest phone, I see an advertisement for one that makes mine look obsolete. Most of the products we purchase today are not necessarily engineered for long-term use because a short life-span is economically beneficial. I like gadgets, but they have time limitations.
What about people and accountability relationships? Should they come with expiration dates? When we say we will hold someone accountable, what is the time investment? Are we simply to look upon accountability the way we do service contracts on appliances? Shouldn’t the accountability relationship be different? I believe the answer is “Yes.”
Here are some guidelines to consider in evaluating your accountability relationships:
• Don’t commit if you are not committed. This is not double-talk; this is straight talk. If you are not going to follow through then do not commit to any accountability relationship.
• Define the terms of the accountability relationship in advance. Some accountability relationships are deeper than others. There is a difference in holding a friend accountable for being on time to a meeting each week and using accountability as a genuine discipleship tool.
• Discuss what the accountability relationship will look like and agree on the terms. The law of expectations is vital in accountability. If you do not communicate expectations it may destroy friendships or your ability to effectively minister to that person.
• Determine systematic evaluation points. It is vital that you periodically evaluate the personal progress or lack thereof in the accountability relationship. Pre-set evaluation points will aid in motivation and take some of the sting out of correction if it is necessary.
• Defensive attitudes will nullify the accountability process. Transparency from both partners is required for this to be profitable.
• Depend on the Holy Spirit to know when to let go of an accountability relationship if it is just not working. If the person consistently refuses to move forward in their faith or to even take small goals seriously, it may be time to turn your attention to another person.
Things have time limits but relationships don’t. Accountability is more than a process, it is a relationship. How do you know when to stop the accountability relationship? I am not sure it ever really ends as long as two people are motivating each other to grow spiritually. It may go on indefinitely but will likely morph over time as each person grows and moves forward in their faith.