This is not intended as a "how to" guide as I feel I've had many relationships that were not satisfying or "successful." In fact, I really try not to look at relationships - including sponsorship - as success or failure any more. Some of my most "successful" sponsees have drank or left the program and relationships that I questioned for many, many years turned out to be the joy of my life today. I can't tell.
Early on I was encouraged by "...any 12-step call I make where I stay sober is a success!" I guess I have the same attitude about sponsorship. I'm sober 26+ years as a direct result of, not so much being sponsored or sponsoring others, but being willing to show up in an uncomfortable relationship with intimacy and honesty that is way outside my comfort zone - on a good day, I deliberately only look for ways I can be useful or learn how I can become who God would want me to be. There are many good days I've had sponsoring people.
I spent the first several years in the program in "sponsor envy." I would hear AA speakers talk at length about "how they were sponsored" and think what I was missing - that, one more time, I'd joined a club and not followed the rules or found the secret relationship that would lead to my success.
- I've never sponsored anyone the same way I was sponsored or have ever been sponsored
- I've never sponsored any 2 of my guys the exact same way
My M.O. for the past 15+ years for most guys has been that we just sit down and read the book. I usually read it to them - one paragraph at a time. This 75+ year old, flawed (in my opinion) piece of literature still seems to speak to the heart of the "real alcoholic."
You can't be around as long as I have and be as curious as I am and not pick up lots of history and stories and experience which seems relevant so I share that as I feel led. That means this can be a really, really, really slow process. Elapsed time from the start to a completed 5th step and working on amends varies greatly but has been as short as 3 months and as long as a year. I try to be open to the spirit or the mood.
Since I live a pretty full life, the only times I can commit to consistently are early morning. Right now, my earliest guy comes to my house at 6am (has been 5am in the past) - the latest at 7:30 am. I generally have 5-6 mornings a week spoken for each week. I've let go of the 1-hour time limit I used to have so sometimes we chat for an hour, sometimes for more than 2.
After we've gone through this process for a while (has varied from 9 months to 5 years), we seem to evolve into a sort of "checking in" with infrequent link-ups at lunch, service events, etc. I am heavily involved with some members, only see others during scheduled times.
Again, this is just my experience. I think I'll be sharing about it for a while so I hope it is useful to someone. As Mary pointed out in a comment yesterday, your experience with sponsorship will vary if you're in the wilds of Africa. I think a future article might relate some of my experience with blogging and sponsorship. As a few of you have pointed out, sponsorship is a deeply, personal relationship that probably has nearly as many variations and differences as members trying to do/be sponsors/sponsees. The blogger who has best, in my less than humble opinion, articulated much of my perspective of the AA program (including sponsorship) is Mr. SponsorPants. I'm glad I don't have to compete with him at any level.
I'm just trying to share how sponsorship has worked for me - and not. If you'd like to share some of your experiences, I'd love to hear and learn from them as well.