This article is written with the understanding that the “official” stance of AA is that, “A good sponsor who is an atheist does not try to persuade a religious newcomer to abandon faith, nor does a religious sponsor argue theological matters with an agnostic newcomer.” That a sponsor should never impose his or her personal views on the sponsoree. This stance makes sense if a sponsor’s and sponsoree’s views of their “Higher Power” are different. But the foundation of this article is coming from the perspective that having a Christian sponsor for the Christian sponsoree has greater advantages and should be seriously pursued.
For a Christian in recovery, having a C of “kindred faith” will not only give the 12 Steps more authority and power in our recovery, but together we can access deeper healing of the soul (mind, emotions and will) through mutual participation in prayer, deeper application of Biblical truth and encouragement into a deeper personal intimacy with the Creator of the 12-Steps…God!
So this is written not to dispute basic AA principles, but to help guide the recovering Christian to find a Christian sponsor who will not only do everything that an AA or NA sponsor is suppose to do, but who will also help us stay in fellowship connection with the Great Physician and Counselor who IS our RECOVERY. Someone who will keep us connected to both the Truth and the Truth Giver.
Where Do You Find A Christian Sponsor?
Alcoholics Anonymous began in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, who both found their recovery through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and Biblical truth. Hence, AA’s roots are found in the Bible and the earliest AA meetings promoted a personal relationship with God. As the years passed, the Bible was deemphasized in efforts to make AA more “user friendly” and God was replaced as a “Higher Power”. This way, people who had no faith could receive the principles of the Bible (the “12 Steps) without having to accept the Creator of the “12 Steps”…but instead identify their “Higher Power” as anything they wanted it to be. As a result, most AA Meetings avoid talking about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit directly.
However, in 1990, John Baker from Saddleback Church founded “Celebrate Recovery” in response to this missing element in the modernized AA Program. While Celebrate Recovery functions in many ways like other traditional twelve-step recovery programs, there are program features that are specific to Celebrate Recovery. One major feature is that it is a Christ-centered program.
While there are some AA Meetings that are Christ-centered, they are very difficult to find. So the easiest place to locate a Christian Sponsor is by attending local Celebrate Recovery meetings. You can search for local Celebration Recovery Groups by going to: locator.crgroups.info and type in your city, state or zip code.
If you live in an area where there aren’t any Celebrate Recovery groups, you may need to attend AA Meetings and your sponsor may need to come from this source. You might be able to find a fellow Christian who is attending the same AA Meeting that has some significant sobriety and who is willing to be your sponsor. You can search for AA Groups near you by going to: www.aa.org/pages/en_US/find-local-aa.
If you cannot locate a Christian in your AA Meeting, you may need to ask a person who is not a Christian to be your sponsor. If that’s the case, try to also obtain a Christian “Mentor” whose relationship with Jesus is one that you admire and desire to emulate. You will most likely find this person at your church through Bible Studies or Small Group Ministries. So, in this scenario, you would have an “AA Sponsor” to help with the 12 Steps and a “Spiritual Mentor” who will help you grow in your relationship with God.
The other option you may want to consider is to start a Celebrate Recovery Group yourself. This does take some commitment, work and dedication, but if the Holy Spirit has laid this on your heart, He will empower you to get it off the ground. While this might be a scary option for you, one of the greatest ways to stay in your recovery is to be leading or mentoring others in their recovery. You can go to: http://www.fellowshipnwa.org/start-a-cr-ministry to learn more about how to start a CR Group in your location.
What Is A Christian Sponsor?
Basically, a Christian sponsor is someone who has something that we want in terms of sobriety, personal integrity, and spiritual maturity. A Christian sponsor is a major ingredient in our aftercare program that will assist us in our journey to recovery. Studies have shown that if the person receiving sponsorship views his or her sponsor as having similar recovery goals and approaches to achieve those goals, outcomes are better. So as a Christian walking out our recovery, it is important to find a sponsor who is also of kindred spirit, or as the Bible puts it, “equally yoked”.
Having a Christian sponsor should be thought of as a “buddy system”. Just like when we go out swimming in deep waters it’s strongly suggested that we have a buddy to help us navigate the unforeseen undertows and reefs. In sobriety, there are lots of surprises that can easily pull us under because we are still very “raw” and “fragile” to reality and our spiritual walk. The experiences of our Christian sponsor (both in addiction and long term sobriety) serve much like the lifeguard at the pool or on the beach who is watching us, advising us and coming to our assistance when needed.
Our Christian sponsor should be modeling for us what it looks like to face life’s terms with the needed strength and guidance from God. They need to be the type of person that we can learn by watching and by imitating them. The Apostle Paul understood this important principle when he encouraged the believers in Corinth by saying, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV) Hence, it is very important that we look for a Christian sponsor that is walking intimately with God themselves…for we have a far better chance of permanent recovery with a sponsor who models not only what needs to be done, but how to connect with the loving, relational God who empowers us to do what needs to be done.
A Christian sponsor needs to care enough about us to “risk” the friendship by telling us the truth when needed. Christian sponsors need to show us “the path” and it must be done unselfishly and without hesitation. Our Christian sponsor will not be effective or helpful to us if he or she is just being our friend. They have to be walking in truth and be willing to speak that truth to us…as hard and as upsetting that may be for us to hear.
Most good Christian sponsors have almost the same temperaments…faith, hope, patience, honesty, humility, strength, and a willingness to show their own weakness as they are in touch with the reality of God’s grace in their lives. It is in this humility we should be able to see that human nature will only take us so far and that the keys to our ongoing sobriety lie within spiritual truth and connection with God.
Once again, our Christian sponsor should teach us by “doing”. Not just by telling us, but by modeling for us. Our Christian sponsor should demonstrate to us how life really works on this side of recovery when God is in control. As we learn to live this new life that was modeled for us by our Christian sponsor, we will learn from them at a deeper level and see them as the “blessing” in our sobriety.
Choosing A Christian Sponsor
Below are some of the things you should be looking for in a Christian sponsor and some issues to steer away from.
An Effective Christian Sponsor:
- Is a Christian
- Attends Church regularly
- Demonstrates a trust in God
- Experiences a daily person time with Jesus Christ
- Demonstrates a familiarity with the Holy Spirit
- Has one or more years of continuous sobriety
- Attends CR, AA or NA meetings on a regular basis
- Is familiar with the approved core program
- Does not over extend schedule and has adequate time to be a sponsor
- Sponsors only same sex
Questions To Ask
- Do you attend CR, AA or NA on a regular basis?
- How long have you been sober?
- What do you feel is the primary role of a sponsor? (The correct answer: help the newcomer work through the steps.)
- How many people are you presently sponsoring?
- How do you feel about meeting outside of CR, AA, NA on a regular basis, and how often? (A good sponsor meets with a new person at least weekly.)
Things To Avoid
- The sponsor does not emphasize the need to work through the steps.
- The sponsor lacks personal boundaries and “demands” that a “sponsoree” helps solve the sponsor’s personal or social issues.
The Truth About Your Sponsor
We need to understand that no matter how smart, how educated, or how spiritual our Christian sponsor is, they do not have the power to help us stay sober. Our Christian sponsor’s job is to point the way by guiding us through the steps in the power of the Step Giver…God. Because by doing this, they help us with getting on the path with God and His intended purpose for us in our sobriety. It is God’s healing that happens to us and not the fancy or heartfelt words of our Christian sponsor. God’s work does the miracle…our Christian sponsor is simply there to guide us to the Path.
Article contributed by Dan Delghi, D.Div
For information about the treatment program at New Life Spirit Recovery, click here.