Create growth-producing accountability groups

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

The Principle of Three

A three-legged stool is one of the most stable of seats, even on uneven surfaces. This principle applies in developing accountability among believers. One often-overlooked facet of effective personal discipleship is small-group accountability. Individual quiet times and journaling are great, and very much needed. But accountability partners or triads can accelerate the Christian growth experience.

The Benefits of Accountability Partners

Two are better than one, according to Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

As you read these four verses, you will easily discover four good reasons for pairing people together for accountability:

  • They have a good return for their work (efficiency).
  • They pick one another up (encouragement).
  • They keep one another warm (exhortation).
  • They help defend one another against the enemy (strength).

Do these not sound like worthy elements for a good accountability program? They can help address several issues for growing Christians:

  1. Today's adults are so busy with activities and responsibilities that they must have a maximum return on their investment of time (efficiency).
  2. We are all prone to fall away from our commitments to God and need someone there to help us when we fall (encouragement).
  3. People can run "hot and cold" in their devotion and need someone to help keep them warm toward God (exhortation). We all need someone who will "hold our feet to the fire!"
  4. When caught all alone, the enemy can overpower anyone. There is strength in numbers (strength).

Ecclesiastes 4:12 goes a step further to declare that "a cord of three strands" is even stronger with these same synergistic qualities of strength, exhortation, encouragement and efficiency.

A Cord of Three - What a Concept!

A cord of three - what a great concept for accountability groups! The group dynamics certainly change when a third person is added. Suddenly it is not quite as easy to skip out on a meeting, give in to temptation, or miss a quiet time if people know they will answer to two others. Accountability ties are greatly strengthened. These relationships grow even more when youth realize the involvement of the Holy Spirit in their group and process.

Steps to Implementation

Here are some steps to initiate a Cord of Three accountability program:

  • Develop a Cord of Three flier that explains the concept and lists the benefits of three-person accountability groups.
  • Through announcements and other publicity, promote Cord of Three groups for several weeks before sign-up.
  • Develop a Cord of Three accountability guide. - Use this guide to list specific areas of accountability on which the group will focus (for example, quiet time, movies/TV viewing habits, moral issues, truth).
  • Conduct a Cord of Three retreat (or attach to one already planned) or special session on the value of three-person accountability groups. - At the end of the event, give attendees the opportunity to form groups of three each, to hold one another accountable in specific areas.
  • Form new groups as needed to provide an accountability group for every person who wants to be part of one. - Share periodically at events or in Sunday School. Use testimonies of those who have had positive results. Touch base with at least one group each week to see how they are doing with their meeting times.
  • Continue to refine guidelines for the triads, and offer periodic training in proper accountability procedures. Consider whether groups should meet in person, over the telephone, in a chat room, by e-mail or in some other way. What questions need to be asked? What part does prayer play in the weekly meeting? What should happen when one person misses?

Are Cord of Three accountability groups meant for everyone? Realistically, not all believers will want to engage in one. Continue to encourage and keep the groups functioning. The results of efficiency, encouragement, exhortation and strength will produce greater maturity, which helps your ministry reach one of its Great Commission goals: "Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (Matthew 28:20a)."

Herb Ingram is a Christian Education Consultant, founder of Christian Education Consulting, and member of Bannockburn Baptist Church, Austin, Texas.

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