This is the third installment in a series on the New Evangelization for family faith. In the first message we compared typical approaches of communication with current social media technologies. The second post explored how to use social media to help communicate and connect with those within our ministries. Today we’ll look at how to establish accountability within our programs; what accountability is, and what accountability is not.
Accountability in any context is a challenging subject. In faith formation we tend to think of accountability in primitive terms. You know, “Do this by a certain time, or else!” But it doesn’t have to be that way!
How NOT to Establish Accountability
Accountability is not setting mandatory expectations or deadlines with the hope that our parish members comply. If all we expect is that people complete forms or attend certain meetings or events to be in good standing, we are the ones missing the boat! Inevitably, people will miss deadlines and meetings and then we become frustrated. Repeat this cycle over a few times and we become cynical, critical, and complaining, the opposite of the example we should be setting.
Accountability is also not drawing a line in the sand, implying, “Our way or the highway!” When we fall into the trap of pitting our church initiatives against secular family responsibilities inevitably we will lose. Are families who tend to every church expectation more holy than those who do not? Are families who miss church events less holy than those who do? Perhaps it’s time to redefine our idea of accountability!
Responsibility vs. Accountability
By all means our parishioners and members should be responsible for complying with church policies. Simply put, responsibility is the quality of following through with commitments. Accountability is the quality of or willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own actions. While related, we can assign responsibility to others but accountability has to come from within. So how can we help our parishioners and families develop a sense of accountability? How do we establish accountability with those in our flock without compromising expectations?
Create a Culture of Pastoral Accountability
To begin, we must create an environment they want to be a part of. If mandatory deadlines and attendance are the only concerns we have and communicate, then we have sent a clear message. Yes, those issues are legitimate, but missed deadlines and attendance will diminish when we reset our emphasis on the real purposes of our ministries.
Take a moment to reflect on what our desired outcomes really are. What we really want is for families (also dubbed households) to experience the love, grace, and forgiveness that Jesus brings to those who choose to follow Him. Ultimately, we create a culture of accountability through trusting relationships and encouragement. That is what leads to individual, or self-accountability. When we identify our truest desires for our families and clearly communicate them we will begin to see a new culture emerge.
We, in ministry, and our families themselves, are connected through Christ. Our connectedness means we must lay aside the island mentality. We do not stand independent of one another. Consider the following passage as stated by the Apostle Paul:
As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” . . . If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Cor. 12:20-21, 26)
Friendship and Trust
Accountability enables us to share our lives with one another in a deep, introspective way. We can do this through personal sharing, by praying for one another, for our families, and for our parish and communities. It is precisely through openness and personal sharing that we see Christ in each other. We begin to see God move more deeply through our relationships.
When people share these types of experiences within their families, small groups, and church administration, they begin to take accountability for results. They are not just doing their responsibility but take ownership for their role, and are motivated to personal accountability. When people choose to take accountability, they are more likely to invest their hearts and minds in getting things done, allowing them to achieve results that often exceed expectations.
Affirm and Encourage
One constant is that we often need to remind people that in order to receive something, we must first put in an effort. Before all retreats in youth ministry, I would always remind students that they will only get out of this experience what they’re willing to put into it. As ministers, we are here to help them grow as individuals and as a community. The result will be that they will learn to share what they have received!
PS – If you like what you see here subscribe now to receive weekly posts from Transforming Catechesis!