We expect it – at work and in our personal lives.
So what does that mean? When we say accountability is important, what exactly are we saying? Why is it important? Where do we see it happening already? What can we do to make it happen?
As with anything else, the first step to making something happen starts by naming it. Organizationally, that’s already begun with General André Cox’s call for an International Accountability Movement. But we – all of us – need to be exploring and talking about accountability in our own ministry units and workplaces as well. To spark some conversation, we’ve rounded up some stories and resources that for you. After exploring these, you may think of some great stories or resources that you’d like to share. If so, please forward them our way – we’d love to hear from you.
Scroll down to explore further.
Highlighting what accountability looks like for people and places in The Salvation Army
Recently, Commissioner John Wainwright, the International Secretary for Business Administration was in Winnipeg for a gathering of the business leaders of the Canada & Bermuda Territory. During one of the sessions, he provided an overview of The Salvation Army’s Accountability Movement. Now in its second year, this initiative encompasses all aspects of Salvation Army structure and operation and applies to every territory, command and region, from the office of the General right down to the ministry unit.
We asked Commissioner Wainwright and some of the participants at the gathering a few questions about accountability and the Accountability Movement.
A lot of the work of the Accountability Movement has to do with policy, structure and process. How do you see the Accountability Movement actually impacting the ‘person in the pew’ in our territory?
JW: I think it can provide people with a greater sense of ownership and belonging. The changes this will bring will give a structured way that people can contribute to our organizational commitment to accountability and transparency; they have formally been given a right to participate in the process.
As a territory, Canada & Bermuda has many accountability mechanisms in practice already. Do you have a cautionary word for us?
JW: Your territory does have a lot of accountability measures in place already, and we are fortunate to have representatives from Canada & Bermuda on a number of our working committees. However I would advise you not to be too comfortable or complacent. Leaders at every level need to make decisions and act solely in terms of delivering The Salvation Army’s mission.
What are some of those existing mechanisms?
Arnold Adey (Assistant Financial Secretary): I see a number of areas where we practice accountability from a finance perspective. The commitment to produce and publish regular financial statements ensures accountability to donors and funders in how funds are used.
Where you see accountability ‘in action’ in your division?
Derland Orsted (Divisional Secretary for Business Administration, British Columbia Division): With respect to the General’s Call to Accountability, I see this particularly in the area of Impact Measurement. In the BC Division, our Divisional Executive Board is taking a more accountable approach or view to how we invest our resources (people, property, finances). We are asking questions such as, “What difference are we making in this ministry unit and community? Where are we making the most difference? How do we measure the change in people’s lives?” These are important questions that provoke a deeper level of thought and discussion as to how and where we invest our resources. In other words, we are accountable to measure the quality of services, not just quantity. We want to know that we are making a difference.
Spiritual reflections on accountability
Lt-Colonel Ann Braund, Territorial Secretary for Spiritual Life Development
Many are doing church alone; attending church but avoiding people, keeping greetings brief and conversations superficial, “It is a dangerous game to pretend that we can connect with Christ while remaining disconnected from his body.”[i] “In our life together we share responsibility for one another’s spiritual well-being. The vitality of our spiritual life is enhanced by our accountability to one another, and when we practice the discipline of accountability our spiritual vision becomes objective, our decisions more balanced, and we gain the wisdom of the fellowship and the means to clarify and test our own thinking.”[ii]
We are accountable for one another.
As believers in Jesus Christ we are the “body of Christ” each part of the body belonging to the other (Romans 12:4-5). “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26).
We are called to support one another
Partnership is a theme throughout the Bible. The apostle Paul was wise enough to realize that he could never operate well without partners. At almost every point in his ministry he linked up with others called “fellow –soldiers,” “brothers,” or “yokefellows.” When he wrote to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:9 ff) he shared information on the movements of all his partners: those whom he had sent out, those who had deserted him, those who were still there. It is very clear that Paul did not like to be without partners in his life and work. Gordon McDonald in Renewing Your Spiritual Passion tells of the partnership of the Billy Graham team. “A group of men heard a call from God early in their adulthood, and they banded together to support Billy Graham pursue the goal of world evangelization. These men quietly gave him courage, insight, and strength. They chose to martial their energies and pour them into Billy Graham much like the jump start that is necessary for a weak car battery.” McDonald goes on to write, “I often wonder how many men and women there are whom God could probably have used more effectively had they been a part of a team that included partners.”[iii] We are called to support one another. “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). The early church, responding to the new life of Christ in them, recognized a need to come together for teaching, fellowship, breaking bread together and prayer (Acts 2:42).
We are called to challenge one another
As iron sharpens iron so one person sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17 NIV). Here we have the image of two knives being rubbed together to create a mutually good benefit, sharper and more efficient blades. The other day a fellow colleague sat in my office so grateful for the increased clarity that came from a meeting we had just attended; ideas and thoughts were discussed, challenged and developed leading to a sharper, clearer vision, one which revealed a way forward. We are better together. Paul challenged Timothy to pursue God and fan into flame the gift of God (2 Timothy 1:5-7). When Major Shari Russell, Territorial Aboriginal Ministries Consultant, led chapel at Territorial Headquarters she encouraged the gathered crowd to form a circle around the exterior of the room. We stretched, shoulder to shoulder, all around the room. She then invited us to clasp hands symbolizing that we all have something to give (hand down) and we all have something to receive (hand up) from one another. We then danced a prayer while holding hands and acknowledging our togetherness.
We are called to carry each other’s burdens
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way we fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). I sometimes struggle with appropriate boundaries; what is mine to carry and what is not. When our children were young I thought it would be good for them to have a newspaper route. I assisted them in getting the job, helped them learn the route. I bought a cart with wheels and sometimes helped them push the heavy load up the hills. I was happy to provide support but sometimes it felt like it was my newspaper route and not theirs. So I kept trying to figure out the right balance – what part is mine and what part is theirs. As parents it is sometimes a tricky balance. There are loads that our children must carry for their own growth and development. Yet we carry their burdens to assist them in learning how to carry their own load. Galatians 6:5 says “each one should carry his load.” Galatians 6:2 says, “carry each other’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” What is the law of Christ? Primarily it is love, sacrificing love. Galatians 6:2 is echoed in Philippians 2:4-9, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests others. Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus…” Individualism looks at the burdens of others and says, “It’s not my problem.” Over and over again God’s word urges us to guard against selfishness and to show genuine interest in the positive steps of others. When a brother or a sister falls down and is being crushed by the burden of sin, sickness, the loss of a loved one, loneliness, rejection or unemployment we are to take steps to gently and humbling lift them up. In our life together we are to have eyes to see the burdens of others and work to make their burdens lighter.
We are accountable to one another.
[ii] Robert Street, Called to be God’s people
[iii] MacDonald, Renewing your Spiritual Passion, page 194
Training and workshop activities
Ask & imagine exercise
Can be used in: Staff team building, training, workshops
Time required: 3 hours
- Identify the value you are working on, in this case, accountability.
- Divide your group into small groups of 4-5 people.
- In their small group, ask them to share their personal stories about a time when they felt that their team or workplace (current ideally, but it could be from another workplace) displayed a strong sense of the value – accountability. Be fulsome in the description. You could use these questions to guide the sharing:
- What was the situation?
- What were you doing?
- Who was with you?
- What was happening?
- How did this experience make you feel?
- What was the most memorable aspect about the experience?
- After everyone has had the opportunity to share (allow 30-45 minutes for the discussion), staying in their breakout groups, ask them now to imagine a time five years from now when everyone on the team / in the workplace is a living example of the value – accountability. Ask them to describe what would be happening in the team or the workplace. What would it feel like? What would it look like? (Allow 20-30 minutes for this discussion.)
- Still in the breakout group, ask them to now to respond to the following questions:
- What does this value – accountability – mean for the work of your team? Why is it important?
- How will you operate differently to role-model this yourselves now?
- What are some concrete goals / action steps which you would want to see happen to have this value – accountability – ‘live’ in daily operations. (Have them write these down.)
Bring the small groups together and share the outcomes from step 5. Are there common behaviours? Is there a ‘macro’ behaviour that everyone can strive to model? Consider creating a values covenant / commitment document for everyone to sign that can be posted in a shared space.
- Group reflection. Ask the group to reflect on their major learning from this exercise.
By the Numbers
Resources for exploration and conversation
John G. Miller
TarcherPerigee Publishers, 2004
Copyright © 2016 The Salvation Army Ethics Centre. All rights reserved. The Salvation Army Canada and Bermuda Territory.
Territorial Commander: Commissioner Susan McMillan. Executive Director: Dr. James E. Read.