A Few Words on Service from the Area Chair

Fellow Members of the NYC Area of NA,

I have been serving as your Area Chair since May, 2012.   As a believer in service rotation, I will not accept a 3rd-term nomination next May – yet, like so many other service positions in our Area, there is no one on the horizon to take over at the start of the new term.  In fact, it has been years since any position elected by the Area Service Committee has stirred up more than one nominee.  At this point, the Area seems to have surrendered to the “warm body syndrome”, and anyone willing to accept a title is elected.  I want to briefly address the impact of this “solution” on our service bodies, and call attention to the guidance offered in our Traditions, Concepts, books, and service pamphlets.

As a starting point, our 2nd concept tells us that the final responsibility and authority for NA services rests with the NA groups.

The NA groups bear the final authority in all our fellowship’s service affairs and should be routinely consulted in all matters directly affecting them… Conversely, if something goes wrong in the service structure, NA groups are responsible to take constructive steps to help correct the problem.   – Guide to Local Services, p 4.

At the ASC meeting, GSRs are the lifeline between the groups and the ASC: GSRs communicate the service needs of the ASC to their groups, and voice the conscience of their group when voting in trusted servants at the ASC.  So often there is a sole candidate for the position and the vote is a mere formality – however, our 4th Concept states that effective leadership is highly valued in Narcotics Anonymous, and leadership qualities should be carefully considered when selecting trusted servants.

Personal background and professional or educational qualifications, though helpful, do not necessarily make for effective leadership. When selecting trusted servants, after all, it is the whole person we trust, not just their skills. And one of the first things we look for when selecting trusted servants is humility…Through continuing to work the Twelve Steps, our trusted servants have come to know not only their assets but also their defects and their limitations.   – It Works How and Why, p. 6

The task of selecting leaders in our service bodies can be difficult at times. It might seem unkind to subject a member to intense scrutiny simply because that member has expressed a willingness to serve. In keeping with our Twelfth Tradition, our Fourth Concept calls upon us to consider leadership qualities carefully even if it feels uncomfortable to do so…To put a member in a position for which he or she is not well-suited does a disservice both to that member and to our service efforts. To put principles before personalities, we match talent to task and leave our feelings out of it. That might mean making ourselves available for a position, even when we fear rejection. Or it could mean electing someone we don’t like because we know he or she can do the job well. Even more challenging for most of us, putting principles before personalities may mean not electing someone who is our friend because we know he or she is unsuited for a position.  – Principles and Leadership in NA (Pamphlet)

When we choose a person who does not have needed skills or personal qualities to fulfill any given commitment, it is not only NA services that suffer.  Obviously, life-saving services may lag or even stumble to a halt, but we as servants and service bodies also pay a price.  Many times we have seen members of a service body become frustrated when a servant struggles with some aspect of his or her position – expressions of frustration at times create an atmosphere of disunity, distrust, and even hostility, which both alienates those trying to serve and discourages new service participation. In this way, the “warm body” method of filling our service commitments ultimately contributes to the cold atmosphere that feeds our existing service vacuum.

In addition, with only a handful of members doing service, those in service may feel stuck in their position for an indefinite period of time.  This further discourages people from accepting new service commitments – who wants to be trapped in a position, unsupported, for years on end?  We need to be clear that service commitments do not simply go on and on until a replacement appears, as we see happening so often around us.  NA asks us to serve on a term-by-term basis, renewing a commitment only if our service is both of value and personally manageable.

The practice of rotation emphasizes our fellowship’s belief in the value of anonymity in service.  NA service is not primarily a personal endeavor; rather it is the collective responsibility of the fellowship as a whole…Collective responsibility, not personal authority, is the guiding force behind NA services.   – It Works How and Why, p. 213

We need to always bear in mind that the ASC is a service body created by groups and comprised of group members to carry out functions that individual groups cannot manage on their own. Our Area Policy tells us to “carefully consider the ability of the NYC Area groups to provide the personnel, spiritual guidance and financial resources to adequately support the services they wish [a] subcommittee to provide.” (Section 11.5).  If too few group members are willing or able to sustain an existing service body, then the NYC Area must consider the possibility of a partial or complete suspension of that body.  Examples of this we have recently enacted are the suspension of Area Literature Distribution, and the suspension of the annual E&A Birthday Bash for this year.

The bottom line is that we are all accountable to conserve and channel our very limited human resources in just the same way we save and disperse NA funds; to most effectively help the addict who still suffers.  Today, I am asking members of this Area to rethink how we conserve, nurture, and channel ourselves.  Every month I am moved by the many members – both old and new – who show up despite all manner of personal challenges.  And I have stood before this Area month after month with all of my limitations and defects on full display because I truly want to serve you.  There is no doubt we are all here to serve – it’s just not always clear where and how we are most (and least) effective.  Lets please help to guide one another to the places in service where we can each truly shine.

When we choose trusted servants, we share in the responsibility for the job those trusted servants perform.  As a service body, we must be willing to honestly assess members we select for leadership positions, and equip them with the tools and support they need to be successful in their roles….We have a collective responsibility to infuse our service bodies with an atmosphere of recovery where people feel welcome and encouraged to grow. In such an atmosphere, our trusted servants are more likely to feel effective and productive, and our service bodies grow stronger.   – Principles and Leadership in NA (Pamphlet)

In Loving Service,  Mari F.