It seems that year after year Conference recommends “Sponsorship” as the solution to apathy and disregard within our Service structure. The problem with this annual answer is the reluctance to acknowledge and make use of the groups who have had success in sponsoring into service. A group with a strong culture of service will also have a strong culture of sponsorship they go hand in hand.
One of the first mistakes most groups make when they put somebody in the tearoom, is that they see a tea person. A good group sees a future Conference Delete. That future delegate has already shown enough commitment with the help of their sponsor to step up to the task at hand. Under the watchful eye of the groups GSR they arrive on time and do the job, which the group has elected them to do.
If and when they have completed their term, the GSR will move them onto literature and then again to another group position. Once they have gained sufficient experience of all group positions they may be elected as a group secretary. At this point there will be higher expectations placed upon them. It’s a mistake to pretend that this is not the case.
Before being elected as a group secretary our former “tea person” should have read the booklets “The AA Group” and “ The Traditions illustrated”. When we represent our group in this position it’s also time to smarten up.
This at first can seem like a pointless and unnecessary gesture. We may hear cries of “It doesn’t help the newcomer”. It may or may not help the newcomer either way it has done something for me. It has changed how I relate myself to Alcoholics Anonymous; service has become a privilege and a responsibility.
Our new Secretary or future delegate may now be sat on a group steering committee and SHOULD be attending Intergroup as an observer. This is the time to EXPECT them to be reading the AA Service manuals for GB. We wouldn’t go to a Big Book meeting and speak without having read the Big book. Why is it okay to attend a business Meeting without have read the Service Manual?
At some point when appropriate over the next couple of years our former “tea person” who has been observing and reading our service material will be ready to serve at Intergroup and then on to Region.
Our Guidelines suggest that five years is acceptable to become a Conference Delegate. I suggest ten and here is why. Unlike most other positions, once we have served our time at Conference we can’t go back and do it again. We get one term and need to be ready. We will be more effective in the role when we are fully informed.
By the time our new delegate has represented Alcoholics Anonymous at their first Conference they should have read every piece of AA Service literature, have a working understanding of the Concepts and completed terms of service at both Intergroup and Region. It’s unacceptable to hear a delegate say, “ What is the service handbook” and believe me I’ve heard it.
So our former sketchy “tea person” has rotated through the service structure after completing their term at Conference. What next?
Simple, we rotate OUT and do not seek Re-election into positions at Intergroup or Region. Some may serve on Board sub committees and that’s great but most will be of more use sharing their experience in workshops at Intergroup, Region and their group. Encouraging others to perform the same duties, which they have successfully completed themselves.
It’s of more value to AA that we sponsor through the service structure those who follow us, as opposed to continue trying for re-election. As each departing delegate moves on and two of their sponsees take their place, we hear cries of “they are trying to take over” this is perhaps the biggest mistake of all.
Next time you read a conference recommendation about “sponsorship into service” don’t just pay lip service, make use of the experience from those groups who have a strong culture of Service and make change.
Change doesn’t happen over night, it’s pointless sending unprepared people to Intergroup, just to fill a position. It won’t help them and it won’t help AA. Sponsorship Into service takes years of persistent and patient attention, so build a solid foundation by starting in the Group kitchen.
WP, Road to Recovery Group