Accountability groups healing souls in UNY
Asbury First UMC of Rochester is one of the larger congregations in UNY. Over the last year Asbury First UMC has started Class Meeting accountability groups through The Discipleship Project. They have 8 groups from 8-12 members, and 10 commissioned lay Class Leaders, coordinated and led by clergy leader, the Rev. Rachel Dupont.
Asbury uses a process that shepherds people through group spiritual formation toward mutual accountability. Their participation and retention rates have been extraordinarily high in this ministry area. Many participants and leaders have experienced and expressed that these groups are changing their lives. Rev. Dupont and the Leader's Team are planning to expand this ministry in the upcoming program year.
Carthage UMC is a smaller church in UNY, yet they also recognize the importance of accountability groups.
Back in the late 1990s, the Rev. Paul Rowley started an accountability "covenant” group at Natural Bridge UMC; Lori Hickey joined it and grew spiritually from it. When she became a certified lay minister and was assigned to serve Carthage UMC in 2018, she started an accountability “covenant group” there. When the Rev. Frances Hemstreet was appointed to serve Carthage in 2021, the accountability group was still going, with six members. She joined it in 2021 when Lori moved away; it is now women only.
Carthage’s accountability group continues to meet weekly in private homes, sitting around the kitchen table. They use the format Lori established, rotating leaders weekly. They each answer (yes or no) the 10 questions that are part of their "covenant" with one another; the questions relate to daily Bible readings and study, reading devotionals, attending weekly worship, receiving communion weekly, engaging in holy conversation and outreach ministries, and maintaining a balance between work, rest, and prayer time.
Rev. Hemstreet said, “We promise weekly to support one another in the life challenges we face, and we take seriously that commitment to these sisters in Christ. We pray earnestly for one another, and we are invited to share our challenges. I have seen a deepening in faith and faithful living among the members; some are seeking ways to actively lead in their local churches. Two have become certified lay servants, and at least one wishes to take advanced courses. They lead worship when I am away, and while their own lives are more complicated than mine at present, they still make the time for their own faith growth and development--and it shows in their work of the church.”
She adds, “Being part of a small (no more than eight to a group) spiritual accountability group has been very rewarding for me personally. I would encourage all to try it by committing to such a group for six months, and then evaluating the results. I think many will choose to renew the commitment to a spiritual accountability group annually.”