Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Underrated in Congregational Life: Accountability

Accountability is a loaded term for congregations, for both pastors and members.

It's hard to serve in a congregation in any capacity because it can feel like every member is a boss. However, ministries can go on for multiple years while accomplishing little. My wife and I have often discussed the concept that pastors (and other ministry professionals) work in a high-expectation, low-structure positions. I would argue that this is the nature of congregational life. Expectations are high, but the structure of meeting those expectations often lacks cohesiveness. People in ministry may feel accountable, but the accountability in ministry is often rooted in personal preferences as opposed to shared principles. Therefore, I believe accountability in congregational life is underrated.

Peter Steinke often says about congregations that they "tolerate too much bad behavior in the name Jesus." This applies to the entire congregation. Bad behavior in many forms is often tolerated it because supposedly it's the "Christian" thing to do. Bad behavior can take on many forms--verbal, sexual and spiritual abuse, underperformance, insubordination, destructive communication, sabotage, etc. To set up accountability structures can seem too corporate, and not becoming of an intimate family (I have concerns about the image of family in congregational life, but that's for another post). Even families have boundaries for appropriate behavior. Congregations and ministry professionals have a fear of accountability, because it can be risky for relationships in the short term, but in the long term, it allows each member of the Body of Christ the space to thrive.

Some congregations lack shared accountability. A pastor or ministry professional may act in an authoritarian fashion. A congregational leadership may deliver a list of expectations to a ministry leader without flexibility. Once a congregation moves toward accountability, a shared approach will provide stronger paths to communication, because boundaries need to be renegotiated from time to time.

Accountability is underrated because many congregations are often beholden to preferences and tolerant of bad behavior from pastors and congregation members alike. I hope that congregations can work together toward a shared accountability. It is a move with the risk.

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Location:Mckinley Ave,Tacoma,United States

1 comment:

  1. Accountability is a big bucket! What would be a pastoral measure for accountability? Is it kind of like asking what the meaning of is is?