I’ve been through Celebrate Recovery’s 12 steps five times now, four at First Baptist Church in downtown Dallas. Through that journey, I’ve had three sponsors and sponsored 10 men. I’ve been asked to sponsor others, but for various reasons did not agree. Here’s a rundown of what I’ve found to be the keys to success:
When asking someone to sponsor you…
- Pray about it. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you the right person; if they decline, do not get discouraged. Pray some more and ask the next person God puts on your heart. Let Him choose your sponsor for you.
- Seek a godly man (or woman…must be same-sex). I caution against asking a stranger. It’s best to observe the person and see if their walk matches their talk. God can always choose someone outside of this parameter, but in my opinion, it’s wise to have this personal insight going in. Note: In C.R., your sponsor must have completed a full 12-step study to qualify.
- State your reasons for choosing the person when you ask. State your objectives and expectations up front. Why did you choose this person? What do you want to accomplish? What do you expect from the relationship? What are your terms and conditions? What timeline? Know your answers before you ask. It will clarify your prayer in step 1 (above) and set the table for a successful journey.
- Ask the person what they expect of you. What will they require in return for sponsoring you? How will you work together through the steps? Where will you meet? How often? What are their terms and conditions?
- Don’t demand an answer immediately. Place the request and then suggest that you both sleep on it. If you agree to terms, set a “get to know you meeting” right away. Don’t wait for the 12 steps to call a meeting. Set a level of familiarity going in, and pray at all your meetings.
When agreeing to sponsor someone…
- Ask if they are a believer. In C.R., Jesus Christ is our Higher Power. You will not be able to arrive at His plan in the relationship without both of you leaning on Him. If they are not a believer, you should explain God’s salvation plan and be prepared to lead them to Christ.
- Ask why they thought you’d be a good sponsor? Check their motivations. Explore their terms and conditions. Consider if they are a good fit, before the work begins.
- State your expectations for the relationship. My suggestions include:
- You (the person asking you) must be in a 12-step study; otherwise, we’re just accountability partners. End of discussion.
- Jesus is your Higher Power.
- We agree to complete confidentiality; open, honest sharing is the foundation of the relationship.
- You are responsible for your own stuff; I am not your banker, boarder, bail bondsman, chauffeur, clothier or chef.
- You attend all regular and small group meetings.
- You fill out all the questions in the guide before your meetings.
- You commit to a thorough, written inventory and complete amends process.
- You call me regularly and work with my schedule when possible in setting meetings.
- Agree on a timetable for the relationship (i.e., just steps 4 and 5 or more?).
- What’s the exit plan; how will the sponsorship end?
- Pray about it. Sleep on it before you agree.
- If you agree, pray for each other and together, throughout the relationship.
- Get their group leader’s name, phone and email for accountability.
- The sponsor-sponsee relationship must be same-sex (too many snakes in the grass otherwise).
- It’s best to work with someone in a similar struggle, but not imperative.
- Remember, either of you can choose to end the relationship if you’re not growing in your recovery. No hard feelings. Open exit lanes for both parties keep it safe.
- If the relationship falls apart, agree that you will work together temporarily until a new sponsor is in place.
Ecclesiastes 4:9 says, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.” (NLT) Having a good sponsor relationship is central to CR success.