Accountability. We’ve all come across the word but what does it mean in practice and why is it so important? For those who are working within the formal structures of recognised charities or churches, it’s probably already in place – part of the existing pastoral, discipleship and management systems.
But what if you’ve been called into missional work – pioneering, church planting or working outside those same formal structures?
God’s call may be clear but without the usual support structures around you where do you turn for input, encouragement, wise counsel, expertise, experience and knowledge from others and accountability?
What do we mean by accountability?
In essence, the way in which your ministry operates – financial, legally and spiritually – should be subject to a level of input from others which makes sure it is strong, sustainable, legally compliant and above all, operating in accordance with New Testament principles.
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)
It’s interesting to note that the New Testament is full of examples of teams – ministries which involve the support of others in a variety of ways. After all, this is not just about being compliant; accountability gives your ministry integrity because it provides protection, a moral and spiritual compass, guidance and direction, and demonstrates to others a willingness to take responsibility for one’s actions.
Having seen the negative impact on ministries, churches and charities where there isn’t accountability (and receptiveness to teaching) we understand what a vital ingredient it is in an effective Christian Ministry.
So who am I accountable to?
Where there are no formal structures, we see that there is accountability to the following:
- God (Romans 14:12)
- To any sending church or your home church
- To any dependents (1 Timothy 5:8)
- To ministry partners – those who are working alongside you or sharing the vision with you
- To your spiritual accountability group (see below and our paper ‘who’s holding your ladder?’)
- To any legal charity which may support you (that includes Stewardship)
What’s the role of an accountability group?
An accountability group or support group is halfway between a trustee board and a trusted group of friends – there to support, serve, challenge and influence. The relationship should be a two-way thing and because they are committed to you (and the rest of your group) they are more than just ‘mates’; they take their responsibility seriously. They can help you to think about important aspects such as pastoral issues, relationships, ministry effectiveness and help you in facing difficult decisions or circumstances.
They are also there to advise, challenge and guide: to monitor how things are going and offer their own insights. At times they may need to ask searching questions to develop a sense of accountability around issues such as timetables, attitudes, finance and debt. They might ask the kinds of questions you avoid: is there enough money to effectively run the ministry? What about time off for recharging your batteries? What does the future look like (long-term planning; retirement, etc.)?
Where does Stewardship fit in?
If you’re registering with us to receive funds from Stewardship it is important that we first establish your eligibility as a recipient. This starts with an application form, which is then assessed by an experienced member of our giving services team. Establishing that you have understood the need for accountability and have the relevant processes in place is part of our role.
You can read more about the kinds of questions and information we would generally need by visiting our website.
Once accepted, we may still ask for additional information, from time to time, to make sure that you remain eligible to receive funds. This gives you and your supporters confidence that all the checks and balances are in place. We are also able to provide a third party assessment of the appropriate level of support you should look to be raising. This is called a ‘cap’ and can be a helpful benchmark as you build your support.
We don’t just leave it there – we also offer two full days of training to help people who are or are going to be raising support for their ministry. We consider this training an essential part of helping you to create a sustainable ministry and have designed it to complement our Christian Worker account.
You can find out more here and watch some short clips from others who’ve been on the training.
What do I do next?
- Read who’s holding your ladder?
- Watch some short videos about support groups featuring Lynn Green and Lyndon Bowring
- Consider whether you have people around you fulfilling these roles; if not, prayerfully seek to approach people who will
- Book a place on our Finance for Ministry Training