I have never been fond of accountability groups. I have been a part of several over the course of my life as a pastor, church member, and seminary student. I always felt like there was something… manipulative about them.
Accountability Groups I Have Been In
Here is my sense of every accountability group I have ever been in: they pretty much only force people to become liars. Oh sure, maybe the specific sin that the group meets together about is discussed and out in the open, but most often, the other sins are kept hidden and safely locked away. Furthermore, what happens most often in accountability groups is that if a person doesn’t want to talk about his sin, all the accountability group does is make him feel more guilty about it, which then makes him fall into the sin even more.
I was in one accountability group where we were dealing with issues of sexual temptation. The group lasted about two years, and we all did pretty good admitting our failures and praying for and encouraging one another. The group fell apart when one of the members got arrested and sent to prison for molesting a young girl. In the two years we met, he never said a word about any such struggle, temptation, or risk he was facing in this area. Not one word.
I was part of a different group a while back, and I recently learned that one of the men in the group is facing the possibility of divorce because of an addiction to pornography which he hid all those years.
I am not judging or condemning these men. What I am saying is that accountability groups don’t “work.” Some people will swear that accountability groups do work, and that every person should be part of one, but I’m just not so sure….
While counseling and accountability groups might be temporarily helpful for some, they do not result in lasting success for the vast majority of people who participate in them.
What Accountability Groups Focus On
Accountability groups usually focus on guilt and peer pressure to modify behavior. There are other behavioral management techniques that are sometimes used as well, but for the most part, there is very little about an accountability group that is overtly “Christians.” Oh sure, the accountability group might pray and talk about the Bible, but in general, there is very little difference between a Christian accountability group and any other form of behavioral management group. And usually what is discovered in these groups is that even IF a person is able to modify one behavior or overcome one addiction, they often fall into some other sort of destructive behavior or addiction, which often makes their overall condition worse than it was before.