Trust and Accountability: Old First E-pistle 10.12.18

Trust and Accountability: Old First E-pistle 10.12.18

I was invited this fall to join the POWER Board of Directors. Having not been as involved in organizing as much since I returned from sabbatical, and feeling a little guilty, I was leaning towards accepting.

The Board member who was doing the inviting suggested that they really needed more leaders, and someone who had history with POWER could be a help. Unsure what I had to offer beyond that, I accepted nonetheless.

I just returned from the POWER Board retreat. And I have to admit that during our sessions at Sandy Cove, Maryland and still afterwards, I am wondering what I have gotten myself into! Mostly, it’s just growing pains, I think, of an organization that has ballooned very quickly and is struggling to figure out the oversight structures and procedures for an institution working statewide with a $1.4M budget and a staff of over 20 organizers.  

While I am comfortable with the knowledge and experience of organizing I bring to my service on the POWER Board (I have been involved since the beginning), it’s still complicated figuring out how to move ahead hopefully.

I have only been at one board meeting and now the retreat, and like I said, I am not sure of all that we need to do to provide the leadership this organization needs. But I think I have found my contribution to this body. Even more than a local church board, the 12 of us on the POWER Board have a distinct challenge: once we Board members walk out of the meeting, that Board hardly exists until the next month when they gather again. And since the POWER Board isn’t going to see each other at church for worship or fellowship or in the grocery or neighborhood between meetings, there’s even less chance that Board members are going to get to what the Board has proposed to do.

So my “great” contribution: at the end of meetings, once a lot of good thinking and work has been done — and often pages and pages of notes have been scribbled and are left hanging on the walls, when people want to just get out of there and get home — my role is to slow everyone down and to ask that before we finish and depart, we fill up one more sheet with a list of action steps, with each one assigned to someone, and a deadline. It’s not much. But it seems to have become my habit. And it makes a difference. 

In fact, it’s amazing how much of a difference a little accountability can make. Even if not everything gets done, at least something gets done. You know the problem: a meeting goes well, and then everyone leaves and nothing that was decided goes anywhere. In a month, everyone gathers again and is surprised that nothing was done.

It’s obvious, really, that a list of action steps, assigned and deadlined, makes a difference. But its effectiveness still surprises me. So I’m going to wield my new “organizational gift” around Old First too, at all our SLGs, meetings, etc. The Elders could use a list of assigned and deadlined action steps. So could the  Christian Ed, Discernment, Outreach and Worship meetings. It’s really not rocket science, but unless someone does it…

Now, usually, I try and make the E-pistle somehow about something spiritual. And you might be asking “how is Michael’s little organizational insight / trick in anyway spiritual?”

Well, I think that ultimately accountability is about trust. The people in the community need to be trusting of each other — both that they will be accountable to what they said they would do, as well as willing to be called to account when they have not done what they said.

Trust can be a fragile thing in a community. Developing trust is a slow process; it takes time to develop and grow, even more time to plant roots and to spread. If we want to be a faith community known for its trust and accountability, may I recommend some spiritual practices:

  • Active listening is essential to developing trust. Not thinking about your response, or settling for what you think the person will say, but really trying on your end to listen for what someone is saying to you. James 1:19 says, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
  • A non-judgmental attitude is another essential element. Remember, we can be accepting of an individual while being discerning of the situation. But if you are judging the person, there is no real engagement with that person in their humanness. Matthew 7:1-2 says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
  • Caring for each other is also essential. We need to make sure people feel loved and valued before we can expect them to make themselves vulnerable. 1 John 4:21 says, “And God has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love all brothers or sisters.”

Accountability involves a willingness to open yourself up, to acknowledge your relations and responsibilities, and to engage in sharing sensitive or personal information. This is why trust is so imperative. If you sense trust, if you feel safe enough in your relationships, then you can let yourself be accountable.

The Bible says that God holds us accountable. In Romans 14:12 we read, “So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.” I pray our relationships with God are close and loving enough, that this personal accountability isn’t much of a stretch.

Christians are also accountable to one another. In 1 Corinthians chapter 12, we read that Christians are all part of the same body – the body of Christ – and each member needs or belongs to the other. This Scripture suggests the importance of strong accountability between the members of this community. As I said in a sermon recently, I understand what people are trying to say when they say “I am a Christian, but I don’t really go to church.” Theirs is a critique of the limitations of church! But I don’t believe you can really be a Christian by yourself. It is important for everyone  to have at least one other person in which to confide, pray with, listen to, and encourage.

Galatians 6:1-2 gives a helpful principle, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Christian accountability is also about encouraging each other to grow in their spiritual maturity. Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says to, “…encourage one another and build each other up…”

Are you accountable? Do you have a friend to whom you can go? Will that person hold you accountable in your spiritual walk? Are you the type of person that people can come to when they need accountability?

See you in church,