Letters to Young Men: Why Accountability Groups Fail

letters to young menRemember that accountability group in college where everyone went around the room and confessed their sins? You knew what everyone’s struggles were and sometimes you suspected your buddy was lying to you, but you didn’t quite have the guts to call him out. So it all broke down and everyone was still living with the same struggles as before. When you tried accountability you thought it was the key to everything… I mean it works so well on paper, but after you tried it you realized you were still lying to your mom, looking up swimsuit models on the internet, and letting curse words slip at the same frequency as before… but now you also had to lie about it once a week.

Here is the truth. Peer based accountability groups seldom ever work. I know they never worked in my case. Do you know why?… are you ready for it?… wait… wait… ok… here it is… The guys my age (myself included) didn’t have a clue! That’s right there is no, count it, zero wisdom in a room full of idiots… so maybe that’s a bit harsh (since I was in the room and those other guys might read this blog post). How about this… “You can’t tell someone how to get to where you have never been.” Jesus put it this way when talking about the Pharisees, “Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15:14 ESV)

The solution to this problem is actually quite simple though, you only need one person in the room who can see. Put someone in the room who isn’t an idiot and accountability might work (again I know this sounds harsh… but hang in there). Someone who has been around the corner can tell you how to get there (and doesn’t mind redirecting you when you blow it… because they actually know the next step)… That’s why there is value in having older mentors.

Do you want to be wise? Do you want to grow in your relationship with the Lord? Do you want to progress on the path of sanctification (be more holy)? Then find some godly older men to be your mentors!

When you are young you are looking for approval. It’s easy to hang with people your age because they are easier to impress. If you’re honest, part of you is a little bit threatened by hanging out with godly older men. I mean, after all… they aren’t talking theories anymore like you and your crew… they have actual battle scars (from real battles!) and war stories (from real wars!). But if you want first hand information on how to win the fight… these are the people you need to listen to (because they’ve been kicked in the teeth by the enemy and are still grinning!).

I was blessed early on to be mentored by several Godly men including my dad and my mom’s dad. I’ve served with two great pastors and sought out advice and wisdom from other great men along the way. There were times where I was intentionally the only idiot in a room full of wise guys because I needed their wisdom. My wife and I attended Sunday School Classes with older couples and intentionally befriended men and women who would invest in us. You see an idiot in a room full of idiots stays… get this… an idiot. But an idiot who will listen to wisdom from a wise guy… at least has a chance of becoming a wise guy.

Oh and one more reason you need to be mentored by someone older. You are looking for affirmation and you won’t find what you really need from your peers. But when an older guy affirms that you are on the right path, you are closer to becoming the confident young man God called you to be... so next time you feel the urge to get an accountability group together invite a godly older gentleman to the group and ask him to pour into you and ask him questions about whatever it is that causes you to struggle.

One word of caution: Not every older gentleman is wise about the same things. If you have financial goals pick a guy who seems to have his financial affairs in order. Unfortunately there are a lot of older men who spent too much time trying to impress their friends that they never picked up any wisdom along the way and they have little to share with you other than the testimony of wasted years. I pray you don’t become one of them.

Check into 1 Kings 12 to see a story about a guy who was more worried about impressing his peers than listening to the advisers his father appointed.

Discipleship 101: Be Teachable

So through the years God has blessed me to be able to be in a mentor/ coach/ lead/ disciple/ pastor or whatever the next buzz-word will be, several men.  For the first several years I didn’t recognize much of what was happening other than the guys who were hanging around me began asking great questions and I was able to teach from where I had been and what I knew to be true from God’s word.  These days I’m a little more intentional and I move forward with a larger game plan to develop and strengthen the gifts and talents that these men posses in the Lord.

Regi Campbell shares in his book Mentor Like Jesus that he generally picks the guys that he is going to mentor.  I tend to agree Regi’s line of thinking on this.  The disciple maker should choose the disciples.  For the longest time I didn’t know why I held this as a default position other than the fact that through the years I’ve rejected some folks who wanted my input and sought out others to influence.  Then it dawned on me… The guys I picked tended to have one quality in common… They were teachable.

Be Teachable

I learned a long time ago that not everyone who came to me for discipleship really wanted to grow.  Sometimes people sought me out for opportunity or endorsement; they didn’t always want to learn what I might have to teach.  As a pastor I know that my greatest work for the moment with these type people will not be actual discipleship, but in bringing them to a place of being teachable (which usually involves allowing them to fail repeatedly until they come to a place of frustration and through their frustration they overcome their pride enough to ask for help).

When Jesus called the first few disciples he said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”  The key to becoming fishers of men was to follow Jesus in such a way that he could transform them.  In essence they had to be teachable.  If you were to ask me to teach you how to fold a paper airplane and I were to repeatedly demonstrate very basic folding patterns while talking about how airflow over a certain shape were to create lift, I would expect you to follow at least the very basic folding patterns even if all the talk about airflow went in one ear and out the other.  However, if you were unwilling even to follow my basic folding patterns and try to attempt your own very flawed designs with no regard to how airflow creates lift I would call you unteachable.  My best hope at that point would be to move on and teach those who are teachable and hope that after 1000’s of failed attempts to make your plane fly that you would come back for some help with at least the basic folds.

But what if you were teachable?  What if you came to me and I taught you paper folds while talking airflow and while at first you didn’t understand airflow you did understand the folds?  Then you tried some modifications to my design and some worked and some didn’t.  What if then as we talked through why some of your modifications failed and succeeded you all of the sudden grasp what I was saying about airflow and this information fuels modifications and changes that work?  Then I would say that you are teachable and soon you will be able to teach others.

So it is with discipleship.  The first thing you must do is be teachable.  If you are not teachable, all bets are off.  I can’t make you into anything.  I can’t help you succeed.  Your own pride will hang you before we ever get started.  You must be willing to listen.  You must be willing to learn.  You must be willing to attempt under supervision.  You must be willing to discuss failure as well as success.  You must be teachable.  To not be teachable is to not be transformed.

The truth is that to really be a disciple, you must be teachable.  Are you teachable?

Even as a leader I strive in my own life to fight pride and to be teachable.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

“Mentor Like Jesus” by Regi Campbell (Review)

I ordered my copy of Mentor Like Jesus last week, got it by Thursday and read it by Sunday afternoon.  It was thought provoking and kept me engaged all the way through.  I was blessed by the book and some of the key principles and plan on reading it again slower in order to harvest all that it has to offer.

The author, Regi Campbell writes with a simplistic and straight forward fashion.  In essence the book is his story on how he fell into group mentoring, the lessons he learned along the way, and how similar it really was to how Jesus mentored the disciples.  The book also has a co-author named Richard Chancy who had been through one of Regi’s mentoring groups.  At the end of each chapter Richard shares the perspective of the guys who were being mentored.

Overall I really liked this book.  Some of the principles were common, but others stood out as brilliant insights into the world of mentoring.  Probably the biggest key I took away was that mentoring in group dynamic can be beneficial to those being mentored as well as to the one mentoring.

If you are looking for a good book on mentorship, this book is for you.  I highly recommend it to anyone looking to begin a mentor group.  The retail price is $16.99 (Hardcover), I got my copy for just under $12 at  Amazon.com.  I gave it five stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

3 Things I Learned From My Mentor

Early on in my ministry I had the privilege of being mentored.  It all started when I told my old youth pastor that I was going to college to become a student pastor.  He told me to find someone doing student ministry that I could sit in with and learn the ropes.  I quickly found an old friend who had been a counselor at camp and started helping him do student ministry.  At the time I didn’t realize that I was being mentored.  I would stop in his office for about 4 hours each Monday afternoon and talk to him (like he didn’t have anything better to do).  He graciously poured into me and helped me grow in my walk with God and as a pastor.  Here are 3 things I learned from having a mentor and I hope to pass on to those I mentor…

1. The Importance of Shepherding and Not Just Planning Events.

Lots of times young student pastors will fall in the rut of planning events with no real end game in sight.  It’s easy to plan what is cool or what will get kids motivated, but difficult to sit through strategy and scrap cool ideas for ones that will help you bring kids closer to God.  I was given pretty free rein, but the questions that came out of those mentoring sessions really helped me gain a shepherding perspective early.

2. To Remember that  Parents are Still the Number One Influence in a Students Life

I had several great ideas that would have made most parents sweat.  Lots of young student pastors make mistakes with parents early on.  They either take the kids off and forget to tell parents, talk bad about parents, or simply forget to include parents in the information process.  Parents are a vital part of genuine students ministry.  At the end of the day the students in my ministry aren’t coming home to my house for a Thanksgiving feast, they are coming their home.  Parents for good or for bad are primary disciplers in a students life.

3. Doctrine is Important

I was 18 when I started as a student pastor and while my doctrine was sounder than most 18 year-olds I knew, it wasn’t always completely sound.  It was important to have a mentor who could easily spot holes in my teaching method or in my thoughts about God.  I was often confronted gently with scripture and reminded that true thoughts about God have their origin in the Scriptures.