Mentor Benefit: Accountability

A mentor provides accountability to an isolated missionary…

There aren’t many people who are willing or able to check up on a missionary and his ministry. Even many great men simply feel unqualified to interject their opinion on missionary matters. Why? Here’s a few reasons that may partially explain it:
1) Unfamiliarity: they’re not sure what ministry in that cultural situation is and should be like
2) Distance: it takes quite an investment to stay updated about the details of a ministry on the other side of the world
3) Neglect: the channel between them and the missionary is closed up; they’re unsure the missionary wants their opinion

That being said, we need their input! We need someone that we’re accountable to. An un-reined, untethered, un-managed, unwatched, unaccountable missionary is in greater danger than they’d probably admit. Simple letters back home once a month or so are an accountability joke.* What we need is investment. It’s a lot to ask from someone, but there’s a lot on the line if you don’t!

Things have changed around here over the past months, but less than a year ago, I had basically no regular face-to-face interaction with other men in the ministry (I mean apart from phone and email). Nobody was here watching, so unless I called someone and filled them in, I was about as isolated as you can get. I’m thankful for the men that do call in and check on me, and who are willing to make that investment of time to listen to all the gritty details of our life here.

One big difference between missions and ministry back home is that on the mission field a young (in ministry-years) guy can be in charge of his own ministry, while if he was back home he would in all probability be serving on staff for a more mature pastor. Which is great – but dangerous, too, right? On the team of missionaries we work with, we half-jokingly (but only half) call our mentor ‘boss.’ He’s a good friend, too – but what I really need is a boss.

So, some accountability-checkup questions:
1) Is there a leader somewhere who could explain in detail what your ministry is like?
2) When you have an important ministry decision to make, who gives you input?
3) Is there someone whose opinion carries more weight with you than your own?
4) Do you have a leader that is willing to argue with you about your ideas and plans?
5) Who do you check in with about your ministry and progress, and how often?
6) What areas of your life are islands – that is, they are insulated from others’ input?
7) If there was something in your life, family, or ministry that needed to be changed, who would call you out on it?

In short, who’s really ‘the boss of you’? And please don’t say ‘a Jewish carpenter.’ A commitment to follow Christ as supreme does not preclude us from submitting ourselves to others who are out ahead of us. Get accountable, or get in trouble.

* Comedian: “That missionary’s accountable.”
Audience: “How accountable is he?”
Comedian: “He’s so accountable he writes letters home once a month.”
Audience: “Ha-ha, ha-ha.”
Comedian: “You’ve been a terrific audience! I’ll be here all week, folks! Drive safe!”

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  1. Why You Should Get a Mentor…and Listen to Him | Project Thailand - January 15, 2011

    […] Mentor Benefit: Accountability […]

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