11 Sep 2015
She wants to meet with you. She’s part of the youth group. You know something’s been up, and you’ve been eager to get together. But when you finally sit down, after some awkward initial talk, she says it: “I think I’m gay. I’m attracted to girls.”
If you’re like me, your first impulse is to wonder what to say that would be helpful. You don’t want to push her away from you, but you’re speechless. Perhaps you were taken off guard. Perhaps you have no clue where to begin.
These situations can feel like we’re treading on unstable ground, especially if we’ve never experienced the same struggles of another. But can we find common ground? Can we help at all?
1 Corinthians 10:12-13 is a familiar passage: “Therefore let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.”
Under this sun, we all share common temptations. While we might not struggle or sin in the same particular ways, what’s going on inside the student who struggles with same-sex attraction and what’s going on inside of you have similar flavors. This student is not “other” than you. She is no stranger. She is a fellow sufferer who lives in the same fallen world that you do.
She is tempted to abandon her Lord. She is tempted by the strong, competing desires within her. She is tempted to walk the curvy and broad instead of the straight and narrow. And so are we.
What about James 1:14-15? James writes: “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
Beneath her attraction to those of the same sex, this student has other intense desires within her. These desires are similar to yours: desires for companionship, meaning, purpose, identity, relief. In fact, many non-sexual desires can often lead to sexual fruit and behavior.
Usually unaddressed and hidden within, it is these desires that we twist into ruthless and demanding idols. Our desires, along with our belief structures and worldviews within, produce the multitude of things we struggle with, whether it’s same-sex attraction, pride, worship of other people’s opinions, or any other fallen fruit.
Can you relate to someone who wants companionship or a refuge from life’s often unrelenting storms? Can you relate to someone who feels that his or her identity needs to be defined by someone or something other than Jesus? Can you relate to those who want to follow Christ but find strong, competing, sinful tendencies within themselves that move them in destructive directions?
A Common Saviour
Without seeing the common ground between us, we tend to distance ourselves from each other. We either think less of students because we would never do “those” things, or we think less of ourselves in terms of our ability to help.
God, however, closes the distance: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in times of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).
One of the wonders of the Incarnation is that Jesus lived a real, human life and experienced all the desires, temptations, and sufferings that we experience. He knows what life is like, and that experience of commonality is what uniquely qualifies Him to help us. He understands us, and He is powerful to aid us.
We reflect the help, understanding, and love that Jesus gives to us by moving towards our students in empathy and compassion, not away from them in bewilderment and fear.
When we walk alongside students with same-sex attraction, it really isn’t a question about finding common ground. It’s about recognizing the common ground that we already have. We both share the same fallen human condition of misplaced beliefs, desires, allegiances, and the like, and we both have access to the same divine Help who comes close to us in love, understanding, and power.
When our students come to us with their struggles and temptations, we certainly will not know everything, but we already have a common ground from which to work. Let’s work towards uncovering that ground and approaching the throne of Jesus together.
11 Sep 2015
“So how far is too far?”
There’s no quick way to answer the student who asks this question. But what if there’s something wrong with the question itself? Are there better questions we should be asking? After all, in any dating relationship, there are cosmic implications at stake that this question simply doesn’t grasp.
How can we shepherd and direct our students when they ask this question? Better yet, how can we give them principles in the areas of dating and sexual holiness that will govern their actions from now until they die?
Asking The Right Questions
The Bible ultimately gives us two commands for living: love God and love others (Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37-39; 1 John 3:23). These two commands can be teased out to provide us with two ultimate questions for living that replace the proverbial “how far is too far?”: How can I love God? How can I love others?
Only these questions will enable students to avoid hitting that not-too-distant iceberg and sinking into sexual sin. Framed with these two goals, we can see that dating with sexual holiness is about more than simply dating. Like every decision we make, it is a question of worship and discipleship.
Our sexuality and relationships are meant to be stewarded before the face of God and in love and service to others.
How Can Students Love God?
We love God by keeping His commandments in faith (1 John 5:1-5), which means that whatever causes us to forsake His commandments and our faith in Him is not done out of love for Him. For the inquisitive teen, this certainly rules out anything that would cause him or her to worship idols, dishonor parents, murder (or hate), commit adultery (or lust), steal, lie, covet, or the like.
As students think through loving God by keeping His commandments, perhaps they can ask questions such as these: Does going “this far” make an idol of out my boyfriend or girlfriend? Does it cause me to dishonor my parents? Does it cause me to lust? Does it cause me to lie while hiding my actions or to covet?
How Can Students Love Others?
So how do we love others? By serving them and not using them (Phil. 2:1-3). By helping them to follow Christ and not ourselves (Matthew 28:16-20). Perhaps our students can ask questions such as these: Does going “this far” serve my boyfriend or girlfriend in a Christ-like manner, or does it serve me? Does this particular action communicate that Christ is Lord, or that we are mini-lords? Does the particular action help my boyfriend or girlfriend follow Jesus?
As this question surfaces and as different dating scenarios arise, we can help students filter them through these two ultimate goals for living. By doing this, we help them see that they live before a God who is worthy to be loved and worshiped in the midst of their relationships and who calls them to love others in response to His great love for them.
11 Sep 2015
Many of us have a burden to say something to our students about the obvious sexual deluge that’s bearing down on them. But with the constant, horrifying reports of student ministers taking advantage of kids in sexual ways and lawsuits splashed on the front page of the news, we need to approach these conversations wisely.
Our student ministries have to address these matters, and often that means having safe, one-to-one conversations with students. But how exactly do we do this?
Accountability Begins With Us
The reality that we ourselves need to have someone who is holding us accountable is foundational to having safe, one-to-one conversations with students about sexual issues. We need to ask ourselves, Who knows me and my sin struggles? Who am I meeting and talking regularly with about my own issues? How honest am I being with those in my own life?
If you supervise youth staff or volunteers, it is also a good idea to make sure your workers are in this sort of relationship with someone else. It doesn’t necessarily have to be with you, but honesty and vulnerability must begin with ourselves and our staff before we seek to be a safe place for students.
The following tips, each of which will be expanded in future posts, can aid you in having safe, accountable, one-to-one conversations. They might seem obvious, but it’s sometimes the obvious points that we can forget.
1. Gender to Gender
In an informal context, such as a one-to-one discipleship or conversational time, same-gendered meetings should be the norm. However, there are certain times, such as formal interviews, where a student minister must meet one-to-one with a student of the opposite sex; but this should be done in an office with a giant window while people are around! Of course, there is the danger of homosexual sin, but this is where the accountability structure of the minister can serve as a safety net. Still, gender-to-gender meetings protect the majority of students and student ministers from any inappropriate conduct.
2. Go Public
I love the concept of student ministry as a fishbowl, visible from every angle. As mentioned above, meeting alone with students in a room without a window is never a good idea. Never. Neither is meeting with them alone at their houses. Don’t do it. Public places, however, can be everyone’s best friend. A student is probably somewhat intimidated by meeting with you in the first place, and a public environment can dispel a little of the one-to-one pressure.
A public environment is also highly visible: others can see everything. This is a fantastic accountability tool to make sure all of our behaviors are kosher.
Of course a church office is also fine, but that heightens the intensity. If you do decide to meet with a student in a church office, make sure you meet with them during times of heavy traffic in the office and not after closing time. Your office must have a window.
One of the most important things about one-to-one conversations with students is that parents know where their children are at all times. We need to make sure that students have gotten permission from their parents and that their parents know where their kids are before we meet with them.
Again, accountability on our end is a must. Our supervisors should also know that we are going to have, or just had, a conversation with a student about sexual matters. This doesn’t mean that our bosses need to know the extreme details of our conversations, but it does mean that we are being “visible” with those in authority over us. This transparency guards us from having secret portions of our ministry with students, and it also keeps supervisors pastorally informed and aware.
At times, we must bring parents into the loop. I say at times, because it is not always prudent to bring parents in on the matter right away, as Johnny’s occasional lust life is hardly something to divulge to parents (see below).
Urging students themselves to confess to others is a great way to shepherd them as well. As a way to help students grow, it’s a good idea to encourage them to tell at least one parent of their struggles. Let’s always try to get parents involved. As a student, honesty with parents can be a beautiful training ground for life, since one way the Spirit grows and strengthens us is as we confess and are open with each other.
Also, as faithful undershepherds of our students, let them know that you are available to be with them during those conversations and every step of the way.
Let’s never promise students complete confidentiality. We simply can’t offer it, nor should we. Right from the start, we are trying to wrestle students from the fear of being known and into the security that Christ brings, which means beginning by saying things like, “I know a lot of what we are talking about today is embarrassing. And I know you don’t want a lot of people to know. I promise that we will bring in only those people who need to know, possibly your parents. But friend, Christ has secured you. You are safe in Him.”
One obvious exception to confidentiality is the issue of sexual abuse. If we perceive that this student has suffered sexual abuse (any inappropriate actions from an adult, any unwarranted actions from a peer, etc.), then we have a duty to immediately notify our supervisors for the safety of our students. To do this, we must know our state laws and church policies regarding the reporting of sexual abuse. This is absolutely crucial.
However, if a student is participating in sexual acts with another student, such as sexual intercourse or sexting, we also need to bring parents into the loop pretty quickly, as these situations now involve multiple lives and families.
In situations like these, again encourage students to bring their parents into the loop themselves. Give them a timeline. And if the student hasn’t told the folks by the end of the timeline, pick up the phone. If you are reporting situations like sexual abuse and those mentioned above, it’s also important to let the student know who you will tell and when that will take place.
We often need to have one-to-one conversations with students who are struggling sexually. In this fallen climate, however, we’ve got to be smart and safe. Hopefully, these principles will aid us in being effective disciplers of God’s children as we swim around in the fishbowl of student ministry.
11 Sep 2015
The issues of sexuality are already daunting issues, and the mere thought of bringing them up with students can seem as awkward and intense as a junior high dance. So what is the foundation for having a student ministry that can aid students in the fight against sexual sin?
Student ministries that can address sexual issues well are ones which are marinated in the truths of Jesus Christ.
The Gospel Marinade
Let’s theologize for a second. Every time the Apostle Paul gives us a command, that command is based on who we are in Christ. One of the greatest chapters in the Scriptures on the Christian life is Romans 6. Paul poses a question: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” (v. 1).
After five chapters of writing about the beauties and riches of the grace of God that flow to us through Jesus Christ, Paul raises this question for a good reason: it’s easy to misunderstand the free gift of grace!
Instead of simply slapping them on the wrist (Stop it! Quit looking at porn, junior-high kid! Stop having sex with your girlfriend, highschool boy!), Paul tells them, “How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (v. 2).
Paul tells his Roman friends that they cannot treat God’s grace cheaply. Why? Because they have been changed by and united to Christ! They have been made new by His mercy and grace and transformed by His Spirit. Their old selves have died with Christ, and they have been raised to new life in Him (v. 4-7).
Our lives as believers are grounded in who Christ is and what He has done. This means that the same grace, mercy, love, and challenge to our sin that characterize our relationships with Christ should also characterize our relationships with, and ministry to, students.
The Gospel Marinade in Student Ministry
Our students often feel ashamed and imprisoned because of their sexual sin. The good news of Christ Jesus alone frees students to be honest and engaged, because Christ has secured us by His life, death, and resurrection. He was shamed for us. He was mocked for us. He was punished on our behalf. Now, in Him, we are adopted, freed, loved, cherished and made new. The Gospel of Christ frees students from the same fear and shame that often paralyze us as well. It alone gives them an unshakeable identity out of which to operate.
Our job is to create a marinade where our students are constantly being reminded of their new identity in Christ. Here, they will know that they are safe, that real change is possible.
Here are three ways we can work this out practically:
- “Just stop it” doesn’t stop it. Many times we can communicate that sexual sin is as easy to get rid of as throwing away three-week-old, refrigerated Chinese food. Unlike moldy sweet and sour chicken, sin is alluring and deceptive. Are we simply slapping our students’ wrists, or are we taking the time to help them connect the dots between their identity in Christ and their actions? This takes time and patience.
- Make sure the “imperatives” are grounded in the “indicatives”. Whether it’s in our large group message applications or in one-to-one times with students, “God wants you to do…” should always come out of “this is who you are and who you have been made to be in Jesus.”
- In our one-to-one time with students, let’s make sure we are constantly rejoicing in who our students are becoming in Christ. Sexual sin is discouraging and dark. Point out specific ways in which you can see their conformity to Christ. Are they serving others in youth group? Have you seen them speak a kind word to another? Have they reported to you that they have been disciplined in getting in the Word? Let’s celebrate with them and encourage them as we see the Lord work in their lives!
As we seek to bring up sexual issues in student ministry, let’s make it a priority, day after day, event after event, conversation after conversation, to strengthen each other by the grace, mercy, identity, and challenge to holiness that come from being called children of the Living God. This Gospel marinade will make it possible for thriving, honest, and life-changing student ministries that address the sexual issues of our broken world.
11 Sep 2015
Almost every student in your ministry over the age of eleven has engaged in masturbation. They may not masturbate every day or three times a week, but masturbation probably plays some role, small or large, in their lives. And, if we’re honest, it’s probably played some role in our lives as well.
We’re hearing a stronger voice in our church culture today that says, “It’s okay to masturbate. After all, it can function as a release! You need it!” The concepts of self and need are the two pillars that support this misleading argument, and it’s those that we’ll be tackling.
Godly Sexual Desires
One of the first truths we must first discuss with our students is that God has created them with legitimate sexual desires. The desire to be intimate with another human being, to feel the pleasure and rapture of being with someone else, is not inherently wrong. However, Until marriage (and even within marriage!) these desires can turn into demands and be used in sinful ways.
We need to validate for students that submitting their desires to God will always be difficult. Masturbation is tempting. There’s just no way around it! This means that we have to approach our students first with compassion and empathy, noting the intense pull of both legitimate and sinful desires.
Also, we need to make our students aware that non-sexual desires and beliefs can lead to sexual sin and fruit. For some, masturbation has little to do with simple pleasure and a lot to do with alleviating stress, tension, sorrow, and the like. The point is this: in this fight, we will have to submit sometimes legitimate, oftentimes sinful, desires to the Lord in prayer and faith, and this will be extremely difficult.
Perhaps we can begin our conversations with something like this: “God has created you with good desires for sex with another person. Of course these aren’t sinful in and of themselves. But we often turn those desires, sexual or not, into demands, and that’s where masturbation comes in. It’s a gruelling fight to submit those to the Lord. But Christ has saved us and is with us now to help us fight this battle. He has given us His Spirit and a way to come to Him in prayer for help.”
After validating legitimate, created desires and the difficulty of the struggle, how can we help students think through the complex issue of masturbation?
What About Self?
The Bible doesn’t say anything about masturbation, but it says a lot about sex.
If we look at Song of Solomon, we realize that sex is meant to be relational. The young woman is enraptured by her husband’s raisins, apples, fruit, face, and voice, but her delight in them is completely connected to her delight in him. They belong to her husband. Sex is relational: it’s between a husband and a wife who give themselves completely to each other.
Chapter 3 opens with the words, “On my bed by night I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him, but found him not. I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares; I will seek him whom my soul loved,” (v. 1-2). Whom did she seek? Him.
In the most sexual book of the Bible, sex is not solo or self-centered. It is not simply about gratifying desires, sexual or not! Sex is about a mutual relationship and partnership enjoyed within a marriage where everything else, from finances to joy to grief, is shared.
This may seem like an out-of-the-blue question, but what is the crowning moment of sexual intercourse? The orgasm. These feelings, these moments of rapture, were created to be experienced in the union and intimacy of a covenant relationship focused on giving to each other. To experience them without a husband or wife is to enjoy them outside of their intended context.
A quote attributed to Woody Allen goes something like this: “Don’t knock masturbation. It’s sex with someone you love.” Hmmm. That one should make us stop and think. Love and sex in God’s book never end with ourselves. Love and sex push us outward in service to our spouses.
Let’s begin to think seriously about the issue of masturbation and to tell our students just what masturbation teaches them concerning sex.
Whether as a parent or student minister, perhaps you can give this post to your students to start the conversation and follow up with these questions:
Have you experienced any of these intense desires mentioned in this post?
What do you think is the best way to deal with them?
How do you think we can follow Christ in this area?
Check out the next post in this series HERE.
11 Sep 2015
Let’s continue with our masturbation talk. Check out Part 1 on the selfless nature of sex HERE .
Now, let’s talk about “need”.
We must validate to our students both the natural, God-given desires for sexual intimacy and the intensity of the struggle to submit all of our desires to the Christ. The act of masturbation, however, is about gratifying our own desires, sexual or not, in an ungodly way. It is these God-given desires that we often turn into perceived “needs”.
Cause of Death?
We need to eat and drink water, or we’ll die. We need to sleep, or we’ll die. But we won’t die if we refuse to engage in solo-sex. No one’s autopsy will ever conclude, Cause of Death: Lack of Masturbation. This perceived need has been turned into an idol, something we worship at all costs.
Every time we masturbate, we buy into the lie that it can calm the desires within us, whether they are sexual or not. Students must know that the temptation to masturbate is loaded with empty promises. It does not have the power to satisfy or quell the struggles within.
Christ calls us to bring every desire (whether it be relief from anxiety or stress, longing for intimacy, desire for pleasure, or any other desire) to Himself in prayer and supplication. Habitual masturbation is simply slavery to self and perceived needs, something from which Christians have been delivered (Galatians 5).
What about Jesus?
The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus meet us in our brokenness. Christ has given us all that we actually need. He has given us salvation and restored communion with God. He has promised to sustain us in this life and the next. His person and work alone free us to relinquish and repent of our perceived needs.
Paul says, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh and its passions and desires,” (v. 24). If we belong to Christ, our passions and desires, though incredibly strong, have no real authority over us. We must neither deny that our passions and desires are often unrelenting nor make it seem like the fight to submit them to Christ will be easy. However, we affirm that if Christ is our master, our passions and desires cannot rule over us.
As sons and daughters of God, we have killed these passions and nailed them to a cross. Christ’s death is the deathblow to our sinful desires and perceived needs. Practically, this means that the desire and “need” to masturbate have absolutely no authority over the Christian. The Christian’s master is Jesus.
What About Me?
The question inevitably follows: how can we submit these desires to the Lord? We’ll offer four beginning suggestions to help students:
Pray. The temptation to masturbate, regardless of the desires underneath, can feel like an unrelenting, raging tempest. But we know the God who can calm such tempests. Instead of white-knuckling it (simply going for a run, taking a cold shower, etc.), let’s come to the Master of storms to ask for relief, for reminding of who we are in Jesus, and for help.
Get to the Scriptures. After seeking the Lord in prayer, whether we have a favorite passage memorized about God or have access to a Bible, let’s make it our default setting to come to His word to see and experience the riches of His person and work. How about starting with John 4:13ff to be reminded that what we are really longing for is the water only Jesus can provide?
Phone a friend. Does the student have a trusted mentor? A godly friend? Let’s pick up that phone and ask for prayer!
Get Out. We put this last, because it’s easy to miss our relationship with the Lord when fighting sin. But if students are tempted during times of isolation, specific times of the day, or in particular situations, while engaging the Lord and others in relationship, we should encourage them to flee the situation in which they find themselves. Go for a run. Drive somewhere. Take a swim. Play some basketball.
God calls us to pursue Him with every ounce of strength He provides. While difficult and intense, the struggle with masturbation really does bring us to our knees day after day in humble reliance upon God for faith and perseverance. Though our sin, the Enemy, and our culture tempt us not to, it’s a noble and sanctifying fight to pursue Christ.
Let’s be diligent to teach students the glories and riches of biblical sexuality. This sexuality mirrors the selflessness of Song of Solomon, is distilled in the Gospel of Christ, and is used to love God and serve others. We must, at the same time, warn students of the dangers of selfish sexuality.
How can you help students follow Jesus in this issue? Could you hand these posts out and begin the conversation? Here are some follow-up questions that we could ask:
What are some desires and felt “needs” that would make masturbation look like a good option?
What are some practical ways we can take our desires and perceived “needs” to Christ?
11 Sep 2015
No one likes sitting through a sermon without a landing strip in sight. How many times have we sat through a talk, cruising at 30,000 feet, way above the cloud-cover, and wondered, Will he ever land this plane? What difference does this make to me?
I’ve naively felt wonderful after many large-group talks with students. Everything went great, I hit all my points, there were no mic problems, they laughed at one of my jokes, and I’m even getting them out on time!
That is, until I see the looks on their faces. Clearly, they’re still cruising at 30,000 feet, and I haven’t brought them down to ground level. I’ve bailed out of the plane and left them with no pilot! I’ve sent them out on a Wednesday night totally unprepared for Thursday morning.
What will students face on Thursday mornings that makes landing the plane on Wednesday nights so crucial?
On Thursday morning…
…many of your students will be tempted to look at pornography.
…some of your students will experience same-sex attraction and shame and guilt because of it.
…some of your students might masturbate.
…many of your students will be reminded of the sexual shame of their past.
…one of your students might receive an unsolicited sext from a friend.
…one of your students might send a sext.
…one of your students might be called a “fag”.
…one of your female students might be looked over like a piece of meat.
Wednesday Night Application…
Talking about sexual issues with students can be awkward and unnerving. But one of the easiest and most strengthening ways in which we can talk to students about sexual matters is to make Christ-centered sexual application in our Wednesday night talks.
Think about this: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth,” (John 1:14).
And the Word became flesh…
Christ didn’t shout general platitudes about the Christian life to us from His throne in Heaven. He came down to talk with us in human language…face to face.
It is crazy to hope that students will be able to take our generalized comments about sexuality on a Wednesday night and apply it to the specific issues that they will face on Thursday morning. Jesus spoke real words, in a real body, in the context of His people’s suffering and sin. We should too.
For Thursday Morning
The Gospel is life-giving when it addresses real, specific sins.
What might this look like? Let’s look at a passage on God’s faithfulness, such as Isaiah 49:14-15: “But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.’ ‘Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!’”
The main point is this: God will not give up on His people though they feel abandoned. Here’s what it may look like to quickly make an application to sexuality:
“Some of us here may struggle with same-sex attraction. Does it ever feel hopeless? Does it ever feel like the Lord has simply abandoned you? Students, He has not forgotten you. He knows your pain and your weakness. He remembers you and is with you now.”
Or what about this:
“Some of us here might struggle with the temptation to look at pornography tonight or tomorrow. It can feel like the Lord has abandoned you when you are tempted. All you want to do is look at that porn. But Isaiah reminds us that, even though we may feel alone, we are not alone. God is with us. When we are tempted, let’s cry out to Him who has never left us.”
Those seven or eight sentences take less than 30 seconds to deliver but can be a powerful reminder to students stuck in sexual sin.
Let’s make it a priority to think of little ways in which we can incorporate Christ-centered applications about sexuality into our Wednesday night talks. We will begin to feed students where they are and meet them in their shame, brokenness, and temptation. We will land the plane and get them back onto the solid ground which is theirs in Christ for the specific sins and struggles they may face on Thursday mornings.
11 Sep 2015
Accountability relationships are great when they work. But have you had any failed accountability relationships and wondered why they didn’t work? Are you in one right now that doesn’t seem helpful? Try asking some of these questions.
Have we been honest?
The idea of confessing sexual sin floods us with fear and shame, making us want to hide in darkness. But part of the beauty of an accountability relationship is the freedom to bring sin into the light with another Christian. Because we have been saved by Christ, we don’t need to hide our struggles. We are safe in Him, no matter what.
Think through reasons why you may not have been honest. Have you been too concerned about what your friend will think of you? Have you been unwilling to make the sacrifices needed to change? Talk with your friend or group about your struggle to be honest and suggest some changes to get the discussion going.
Have we been meeting too sporadically?
If you don’t know when you’re going to talk to your accountability partner or group, it is easy to lose sight of your goals. Meeting regularly ensures that you will help each other look to Christ in your struggles and be honest with God. Think of meeting regularly like charging your phone. If you don’t charge it regularly, you’ll miss calls and text messages and be annoyed that you can’t use it. Similarly, we need to recharge regularly by gaining encouragement from each other. Ask what might be getting in the way of meeting more regularly. How can you keep in better contact with your accountability partner?
Do we have a specific plan for our accountability relationship?
Maybe your meetings have become sporadic because you haven’t made specific requests for your relationship. Times over coffee can quickly become purposeless. Instead, be clear about your plan.
What are your hopes for the relationship? Some could be, “I want you to keep me accountable for my sexual sin,” or “I’m tempted most on Saturday nights. Could you call me then so we could pray together?” If you were friends with your dentist, you wouldn’t want to go for a check-up and just chat away the time without having your teeth checked. Similarly, when you are meeting for accountability, make sure to have some sort of plan. Pray, read a passage of Scripture, share failures and victories, probe and ask questions, share goals, then pray again.
Have we prayed and read the Bible together?
It is easy to skip reading Scripture and praying when you’re pressed for time. Maybe you began by praying and reading faithfully, but it has just fallen by the wayside. If so, ask yourself why prayer and Scripture haven’t been central to your relationship. If you feel pressed for time in your meetings, schedule longer sessions. Or if you just forget to pray and read, make it a priority to do these first.
If we meet with our accountability partners and do not pray or read Scripture, we are not taking advantage of the power of the Holy Spirit in our relationship. We gain great strength in joining others in prayer and hearing someone else lift up our burdens to God. We are helpless without God working in us, and we must call on Him in times of need.
Have we gone deeper?
You’ve been honest with each other about what you’ve done. But have you explored the reasons behind your sin? Are you too focused on what happened without asking why?
Behind every sin is a whole host of desires for things like relief, comfort, love, and acceptance. These desires come from beliefs about God and ourselves like, “God doesn’t give me what I really need, but porn can.” Noticing these desires and beliefs will help you move beyond just the outward behavior to the inner motives.
Have we talked about Christ?
Not only is it important to go beyond the surface level of our behavior, but we must also point each other to Christ. Do you remind each other of Christ’s work on the cross and His forgiveness? Do you encourage each other to cultivate a desire to honor and love Christ? Often our motivation to get rid of sin can be more about relieving our discomfort and shame rather than loving and obeying God. We serve a God who cares about our hearts and about our love for Him. We must actively cultivate a desire to honor and love Christ in all that we do.
Even if you’ve experienced difficulty and failure in your accountability relationships, keep pursuing them. While it takes a lot of time and effort, your relationships will produce the fruit of walking in the light. Through your friendship, you will be able to help each other look to Christ and walk in obedience.