When you think of an accountability relationship, picture someone running alongside you in a marathon. Eventually, you are going to get tired and want to slow down or stop. But there is a reason you will run longer and harder than you would expect — that reason is your running partner. Their presence, their encouragement, their accountability will push you to do more than you thought possible.
Having a literal running partner is a great strategy for finishing a marathon, but it is all the more valuable in this race called life. We need someone (or multiple someone’s) who will be there to keep us going when we spiritually tire. We need someone who will push us to grow. We need someone who will help us become the godly women we strive to be.
We need what we often call an “accountability partner.” But what should this practically look like?
Here are 10 quick tips to help you choose the best accountability partner, and make the most of your time with her.
#1) Find someone who won’t let you off the hook.
If you are hoping your accountability partner will actually hold you accountable (which seems like a reasonable goal!) it’s counterproductive to pick someone who will let all your shortcomings slide. You need to enlist someone who takes godliness serious, and loves you enough to care about your godliness. You need someone who is willing to call out your sin and push you when you need it.
#2) Define your goals.
You need to know what you are shooting for if you are going to make progress. Furthermore, your accountability partner needs to know what you are shooting for. Using measurable language and concrete goals, communicate what you hope to accomplish (i.e., “I am seeking to not complain in my heart when my kids….” or “I am working to add 10 minutes to my daily prayer time, so my prayer time should total….” or “I plan to read 1 godly living book each month.”)
#3) Commit to honesty.
Accountability is only beneficial if you are telling the truth about your life. Your very first accountability interactions should be very straightforward in regards to the current status of your strengths and weaknesses. When your partner has a clear picture of your typical struggles, they can encourage you where you need it most. More than that, they can rejoice with you when they see how much you grow in the coming months.
To put it simply, it is helpful for your partner to know where you are starting, not just where you are heading.
And it goes without saying, you should continue to be candid about your progress (or lack thereof). Accountability is pointless if the facts are not being discussed.
#4) Connect regularly.
Nowadays there are so many ways to connect with people: texts, phone calls, emails, and yes, even face-to-face. Many people carry out their accountability relationship combining these options.
Most importantly, accountability needs to be regular, and it needs to be through a medium of communication you can’t hide behind. If relevant details will be skipped via email or text, then you should talk on the phone or meet up.
I think most people would say it’s best to meet in person regularly, and follow up often with something quick, like texting. This combines the benefit of “in person” communication with constant encouragement and accountability. Whatever you choose, make sure it is regular and fosters real accountability.
#5) Speak in unmasked language.
When you give an account of your progress, state things so they are understood. “Prayer is not going well” could mean you are getting distracted in your hour-long prayer, or it could mean you haven’t prayed for 8 days. Be specific and clear (if you want real accountability).
#6) Ensure accountability touches all areas of life.
We all have certain weaknesses. Most accountability will focus on those specific issues. But that doesn’t mean we won’t be tempted to falter in other areas–in fact, that is where sin might sneak up on us most.
One suggestion to avoid blindspots is to schedule a time to get together every few months to discuss a wide range of issues (not just the typical struggles). Discuss spiritual disciplines, church attendance, ministry involvement, financial stewardship, personal holiness, relational issues, and whatever else is “going on.”
What a shame it would be if we focused so much on one or two areas while simultaneously failing in other areas that weren’t on anyone’s radar.
#7) Make prayer a key component.
If there was one thing accountability partners should do (besides asking personal questions) it would be to pray for one another. God is the one who enables godly living, thus asking for God’s help is the greatest thing we can do for each other.
Faithful prayer will also foster genuine concern for our sister, which will likely prompt more faithful encouragement and accountability.
#8) Forget what it’s “supposed” to look like.
Personally, I picture the ideal accountability being a 2-way accountability relationship where the couple has an uninterrupted meeting at Starbucks for 1.5 hours every week. Maybe it’s just my stage of life, but this is not the reality. Of course, there is benefit to having that type of consistent face-to-face undistracted time, but the heart of accountability can be accomplished while looking quite a bit different.
It may be that much of your accountability is over the phone, or is with children running around. Or perhaps you might have more than one accountability partner. For example, there may be a sensitive issue in which it’s most appropriate to talk to a particular friend who can help, while a different friend would be better for pushing you in your spiritual disciplines.
Or you might see the need to be held accountable by someone who doesn’t currently need your accountability. While mutual accountability is a great set up, there are times for you to reach out to a more mature, godly woman to help you move forward in a very specific way.
Ultimately you know what areas you need encouragement in–and you need to figure out the best way to have the accountability you need.
#9) Be the kind of accountability partner you want.
If we want someone to care about our life, to spend time asking us questions, praying for us, encouraging us — we better be willing to do the same for someone else!
Even if the person who is holding you accountable has someone else holding them accountable, there is someone out there you could be investing in! Regardless of who it is, be sure to love that person in the same way you want to be loved (Matthew 22:39).
#10) Don’t be afraid to change up your accountability.
Just as there are various seasons in life, there will likely be various types of accountability needed. More encouragement may be needed during specific seasons, so you may need to seek out extra help. Or certain accountability relationships may prove difficult to practically maintain, so you might need to find something more realistic.
You might also find that some accountability partners no longer hold you accountable the way you need it. Unless an honest conversation solves this problem, it is likely better to find a different person (or an additional person) to keep you accountable. Don’t sacrifice good accountability on the altar of not hurting someone’s feelings.
Whether you need to revamp your accountability, keep it going, or find yourself a partner, now is the time! You are well into this race called life, but you have miles ahead– and you will “run” longer and harder than you’d think possible if you find yourself a good accountability partner!
So find that someone, and get running!
[In case you missed it, the preceding post provided the biblical rationale for the necessity of accountability. You can find it here.]