3 Ways to Sustain Accountability Relationships


When we were teenagers, there was a lot of effort put into the idea of finding an accountability partner. As a young man, I found a group of guys that I would meet with regularly to pursue accountability. Eventually, the group dwindled down to just one other person and me, but we did our best to maintain our partnership even after he moved away for college. We had no real training and put no effort into thinking through accountability and so our relationship fizzled out as well.
This is not uncommon. Accountability relationships though hard, are also helpful for our pursuit of holiness. This blog post will give some practical ideas for sustaining (or starting) an accountability relationship with another believer.

1. Make Pleasing God Your Goal
“So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” (2 Corinthians 5:9) This provides the foundation for an accountability relationship. The common reason given for why an accountability partner is helpful is to keep a believer from sinning.

But if the standard by which we measure an accountability relationship is in how much or how little we are sinning or falling to specific temptations, then it will fizzle - either because of a victory over a particular sin or from the   hopelessness and despair of defeat. However, if we make pleasing God the goal of the relationship then worship and obedience, not merely victory become the reason to keep at the relationship.

The difference can be illustrated by comparing two accountability questions: The first, “Did you look at porn last week? The second, “Did you seek to please God in your sexual life last seek?
In one sense both questions provide accountability. The second, however, makes clear that pleasing God not just behavior modification is the goal.

2. Have a Plan for Conversation
If there was an unofficial poll taken among ex-accountability partners and the question on the table was, “What did you guys talk about?” I assume that most of the replies would admit that the number one topic of conversation was sexual purity and then afterword the conversation devolved into chit-chat about the previous week or current events. Having a plan for the conversation will help open up several areas of spiritual life and keeps the conversation on topic. Accountability relationships are for the purpose of accountability and mutual discipleship. So keeping the conversations on target with a plan will maximize time together with your partner or group.

Here’s an example of an agenda that I have used:
(Adapted from Dr. Donald Whitney’s personal accountability standards)

Choose one:
  • Read part or all of a Psalm.
  • Hear each other’s Scripture memory work
  • Share something you learned or a helpful insight from Scripture
Ask FELLOWSHIP questions of each other such as:
  1. What is the best thing that has happened to you since our last meeting?
  2. Do you have any unusual burdens or troubles this week?
  3. How is your [teaching, hospitality, outreach, deacon, or whatever] ministry going? 
  4. Where have you seen the Lord at work lately?
  5. What has the Lord been teaching you recently?
  6. Have you had any evangelistic opportunities lately?
  7. Have you had any obvious answers to prayer recently?
  8. What have you been reading? How has it impressed you?
  9. Where in the Bible have you been reading lately? What impact has it had on you?
  10. What is the growth point in your life right now?
  11. What are you passionate about right now?
Ask PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY questions of each other such as:
  1. Have you been with a member of the opposite sex in a way that might be considered compromising or questionable?
  2. Have any of your financial dealings lacked integrity?
  3. Have you exposed yourself to any sexually explicit material?
  4. Have you spent adequate time in Bible reading and prayer?
  5. Have you been meditating on, and not just reading, Scripture?
  6. Have you given priority time to your family (if applicable)?
  7. Have you fulfilled the mandates of your calling?
  8. Have you lied to me in any of these answers?
Ask PERSONAL GOAL questions of each other:
These are questions you may develop for yourself based upon individual goals (personal, physical, spiritual, relational, etc.) you have set for yourself for this year/month, and for which you desire the encouragement of accountability.
Ask each other, “How can I pray for you?”

3. Use Tools to Help Communicate Regularly

Inconsistency is a problem for accountably relationships. Maybe the plan is to meet once a week and that is a great plan until you decide it is too much to fit into your schedule. So you agree to every other week. Then someone cancels. Suddenly, once a week meetings have become once a month and the sound of the fizzle coming can be heard loud and clear. A suggestion to help avoid this problem is to make accountability relationships a daily part of your life. You read that right: daily. Remember the first point? The goal of this relationship is to help one another please God. That’s something we want to do daily. There’s many ways to do this. It could be through phone calls or texting. Here are two other ways to help make communication convenient.

Use Marco Polo
Marco Polo is a great app for video messaging. You can simply record a short video of yourself giving an update, checking in, or asking for a prayer request and send it to another person. They can watch it and reply at their convenience and so it helps communication fit into a busy schedule. The “face-to-face” nature of the app helps makes it more personal.

Use HabitShare
HabitShare is a free app that allows users to create “habits” and track your progress with friends. It also has a built in private messaging platform which makes it easy to leave a confidential note for an accountability partner. This app is great because it allows you to make a list of habits such as, “Read Bible for 30 Minutes” or “Pray with my wife before bed” and your accountability partner can see how you have been doing in keeping those commitments. I have used this app for nearly eight months and have never missed a day in updating my habits and then checking in on my partners, it’s that easy to use.
A few final thoughts: No accountability relationship is going to last long without mutual effort. In person meetings are essential to an effective relationship and the daily communication tools should never be a replacement for these meetings. We should also always be on guard for a lull in the relationship. Acknowledge this and get back on track as soon as possible. We make it our aim to please God and accountability relationships are one way to grow in godliness together.  
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