Chafing at Accountability

Accountability is one of the Big Words here in the Texas Annual Conference (of the UMC) these days. Sure, we’ve always had accountability. “Pay your apportionments or else!” “Don’t run off with a woman other than your wife, or else!” “Don’t rock the boat, or else!”

Now we hear of accountability not only for paying apportionments, but also for professions of faith, people in ministry, and worship attendance. We actually have to report on these things weekly. In some ways it reminds me of the old high school “read assigned text and answer the questions at the end of the chapter.” Here are some hoops – jump through them.

The hardest question re have to report on is the number of our people involved in “hands on ministry.” Although I’ve heard many examples of “hands on ministry” given, I’m still not entirely clear on the concept. What’s the alternative? What counts as “non-hands-on ministry?” Is it a bad thing? Or have we just decided not to count it?

Volunteering in the local school counts as “hands on ministry.” Does working in the local school also count? If so, we have quite a few teachers and educational professionals I can count.

What about the politicians in the church? Do my people serving on city council, school board, college board, etc., count as “hands on ministers?” Or do I first have to ask them a couple of questions:

A. “Are you doing this for yourself, just to make a living, or for your own glory?”

B. “Are you doing this to make our community a better place to live?”

If they answer affirmatively to B instead of A, do I count them as involved in “hands on ministry?” Or is this too cerebral, too relational, to count as “hands on?”

It is surely a good thing for our people to be more involved in ministry – whether “hands on” or “hands off” (assuming that’s the other kind of ministry). I don’t know about other churches, but we have lots of folks out there investing themselves in helping others. They don’t do it because a church leader tells them to. They don’t come to me for permission. They usually don’t even report on what they’re doing. Maybe something along the lines of “Don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing.”

We’ll see how it works.

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