As we talk about recalibrating mission, last month we looked at the need for relationships in all we do. This month, the focus is on real accountability.

Many mission agencies I’ve worked with tell me that they place a priority on accountability.  But when I question them on their accountability processes and system, not one of them does accountability – rather what they do is reporting. Many believe that accountability and reporting is the same thing – I’m sorry, it’s not.

Accountability by definition requires an accounting, an examination, an obligation, it requires responsibility.

Most mission organizations use a monthly or bi-monthly report form that their workers are required to fill out. This creates two problems:

  1. The reports are self-generated. This means I am evaluating myself. In two decades of generating such reports it was rare that I was ever asked to explain any of my answers. For many years I reported quarterly to multiple field directors. One quarter, to learn if anyone was actually reading these reports, I  simply took the last quarter’s report and without changing even one word, only the date, I sent it off to the 6 FD’s I reported to. And guess what.  Only one of six discovered what I had done!
  2. In querying a score of mission workers I found all (that’s 100%) simply took last month’s form, changed the date and maybe one or three other things and emailed it in. What is learned by such an exercise? And mission workers do this month after month! Reports should be a teaching tool. If both the writer and the reader are not learning something new from every report, why are we doing them?

Surely this is not accountability.

In business most reporting is done verbally, face to face.  Bosses meet or communicate with their direct reports weekly, if not daily.  In business we want to both see and hear that the work is being done, and done well.  In business if people write up reports about themselves they can expect to grilled on what they wrote and their accomplishments verified.

Whether we are Christian or not, when we write up reports about ourselves we are telling only what we want to tell. And if we are honest, most of us view ourselves and our work better than it really is. When we understand this, we realize that self-reporting fails to provide accountability.

We need real accountability in all areas of our life and work. OPEN mentors and NexusB4T mentors have their mentees set annual goals and/or quarterly objectives in ten areas of a person’s life and work:

  • Relationship with God
  • Character
  • Marriage
  • Children and family (parents, siblings if relevant)
  • Job or business issues and relationships
  • Home/sending church
  • Local ministry (including outreach and discipling)
  • Team-life
  • Language learning and contextualization
  • Personal finances.

As a mentor, we never tell people what to do, but we ask those we work with to prayerfully set goals for the quarter or year in each of these areas.  Our job is to hold the mentee accountable to these goals to ensure s/he is staying on track with God’s assignment for her/his life and work.

We need to hold people truthfully accountable for what’s going on in their marriage, their family, their team, their employees, their business, their evangelism—every area of their lives and work.

Keeping people accountable for the things God would have them do is an essential component of leadership. (Hebrews 13:17)  We leaders/supervisors/mentors need to connect with the people we work with to hold them accountable to what they say they are doing. Jesus didn’t ask His disciples to mail in their reports after sending them out. Rather He talked with them (Luke (9:1-10) and walked through life with them, taking them aside for a personal debrief and more training.

Accountability, it’s relational, it’s personal, it’s accounted for or verified.  Accountability is not gathering data.  It’s what we need – life-on-life accountability… as Jesus did.



PATRICK LAI and his family have worked in SE Asia for over 37 years. His experience in doing business with Jesus has brought him to understand the meaning of work and worship in the marketplace. He started 14 businesses in four countries, six of which are still operating. Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach businesspeople working where there are few or no Christians. Check out Patrick’s latest book, Workship, now available in paperback and e-book.

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