Keeping Yourself Accountable as a Single Missionary :: Gospel Fellowship Association Missions

Keeping Yourself Accountable as a Single Missionary

Karen Hall
3:24 read

Being a single missionary comes with many blessings and opportunities for ministry that married missionaries may not experience. But depending on the particular missionary and the physical ministry situation, that singleness may also come with some pitfalls in the realm of personal and ministry accountability. In my single-living situation (no believers live in my neighborhood and my co-workers are about a 30-minute walk away), I have sometimes wished there was someone looking over my shoulder, keeping me accountable for proper stewardship of time, interactions with nationals, and my personal spiritual walk.

Stewardship of Time

Let’s face it, we are generally more productive when the boss is around, right? As a single missionary working out of my home most days of the week, no one is present to observe whether I am staying on task or piddling around on my phone checking on some “urgent” item that I have already checked 10 times that day, or perhaps dawdling through necessary chores to avoid the task at hand. To counter the temptation to fritter away time, I have found it helpful to keep in mind those supporting me financially stateside. Many are putting in long hours in spiritually challenging environments, supporting their families as well as tithing to support their home churches and missions. Recalling their labor and sacrifice challenges me to honor their diligence by making sure that I am putting in similar if not greater time and effort weekly. Believers in supporting churches have entrusted missionaries with a task, and it is important to honor that trust with a proper stewardship of time.  

Something I found illuminating during my initial foray into language learning here was keeping a time chart in 30 minutes increments of each day of the week for several weeks to see how much time I was really giving to language learning. I found that I was spending less time than I thought by several hours each week. That simple exercise prompted a more diligence and better use of spare moments with vocabulary review cards and other language learning tasks. I wouldn’t recommend this activity for the long term (especially in my setting here in a relationship-prioritized culture,) but it was helpful in the first intense phase of language learning and may be helpful to others in similar situations.

Another way to provide accountability in this area is to have people regularly into your home. Whether inviting an unbelieving neighbor or a missionary co-worker, simply having someone present can provide  some accountability regarding  time management and ministry tasks.

Everyday Relationships with the Local Community

A single missionary living at a distance from co-workers or possibly not having any co-workers may also lack accountability regarding dealings with the local community. My lack of proximity to co-workers in this relatively tribal community (which sometimes feels like a soap opera mixed up with a wild west flick), has often made me pine for a believing onlooker to monitor my reactions to the people and ruckus around me! Surely, I would have an easier time dealing graciously with people if I knew that someone who really had a heart for their souls was looking on. But the mindset I need is that there is One ever present Who observes not only my speech but also my heart towards my national friends. Living in that reality is chastening and encouraging. He reminds me that every person around me is a unique image-bearer of God who needs mercy and compassion just as I do. The One who is observing has gone before in sacrificially loving broken souls, and He calls me to do the same.

Spiritual Accountability

What if you don’t have co-workers or any mature Christians to provide spiritual accountability? The Lord has allowed me to work with a team that meets weekly for prayer and fellowship, and this has provided much needed accountability. However, the Lord has challenged me recently to ask younger and relatively immature Christians to provide accountability in a certain area in which I have publicly struggled. I simply needed others to know I was struggling and come alongside, providing accountability and praying with me.

James 5:16 says, Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. The “one anothers” that I have available right now are mostly very young believers who are often struggling themselves with basic areas of Christian growth.

In addition to gaining their prayers, one result of this rather humbling experience has been their willingness to hold me accountable in this area and to exhort and encourage me. As believing brothers and sisters, they should be “one anothering” me by exhortation, not just vice versa. As a result, some have also been more open with me in general about their own spiritual needs, which has allowed me to reciprocate with prayer for them. Of course, confessing and asking for accountability from younger believers should be done carefully. Weightier matters should be reserved for handling with my spiritual leaders on the field and at home.

For those with or without on-site accountability, GFA has recently introduced regional directors and a regular opportunity for accountability check-ups with those directors and their wives. This has been a good opportunity to be encouraged and exhorted in certain areas of life and ministry. As in James 5:16 above, it has promoted more “one anothering” and allowed the spiritual weapon of mutual prayer to be used more effectively.

All these methods of improving accountability for single missionaries demand a certain mindset, a little discipline, and may cause a bit of pain—but what would accountability without pain be? Proverbs 27:6a reminds us that Faithful are the wounds of a friend. I have found this interaction to be very profitable “pain,” and hope that the Lord will continue to challenge and grow me in this area.


Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), Copyright © 2008 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.