How To Use The Traditions To Start A New Group

After you have prayed for a good long while, read through my posts on How to Think About The Traditions 1-12, done the exercises, have read AA Comes Of Age, The Three Legacies section on the Traditions, and have read The AA Traditions Pamphlet, no longer in print, which I am including here, and read the Traditions Sieve one-on-one or with a group, etc., then…

Gather some people who want to start a group using the Traditions. Remember, most groups are started with a resentment and a coffee pot, so this is a totally different deal. How to find these people? See if you can gather some old-timers who are willing to re-read everything above-mentioned with you as a group. Hold a Traditions reading and discussion workshop. Plan on it all taking a while to get established. P. 58, Alcoholics Anonymous “Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path.” Thoroughly, not quickly.

Once, you have the old-timers through the Traditions Material, a good way to start a group is to hold an Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book Workshop at someone’s house or at a private location. Go through the Preface, Forwards, Dr’s Opinion and first 164 pages with a group of the old-timers and some newcomers, with the purpose set forth, that at the end you will want to form a group. Have one of the old-timers who has gone through the book a few times be the reader. Have a potluck ,weekly and read the book together as a group. Be warm and friendly and inviting. Let everybody share. Invite new people to come every week. Keep it about alcohol. Make sure that people understand that they should have a sponsor taking them through the 12-steps as well, because it is impossible for members of a workshop like this to have a true First Step Experience in a workshop. That needs to be done one-on-one, with a sponsor.

When you are through the whole book – a year or more- you should have a solid group of people who are pretty much on the same page. You may lose some people in step 4 and only have 2 or 3 left, but that is enough. The Long-form of the Tradition 3 states, “any 2 or 3 alcoholics gathered for sobriety, may call themselves an AA group, provided that, as a group they have no other affiliation.” It is likely some of them will have pretended to go through all the steps, but as long as you have a majority of Recovered Alcoholics in the group, the balance of unrecovered cling-ons will be balanced. They will either recover at some point, or they will fall away. This is up to God to decide.

From there you will be able to begin with the Traditions to form your group. Make sure there is no “leader”. The old-timers – the person who read during the workshop, will have to step back a bit and allow the newer people to have their say in the group. You do not want to encourage the Personalities before Principles scenario that so often takes place in groups. This is why you will need 2 or more recovered people to balance the power among the newer members. All the recovered members will have to be willing to share the power. Having a bleeding deacon who has to have the spotlight at all times or the final say, will stifle your group and ultimately kill it. However skilled and loved that personality is, when that person dies, the group will scatter, and if they are heavy handed in their approach, the group will split apart. The best thing is to go in knowing that we have a tendency to become Personalities or desire hot air blown up our asses, and be transparent about it.

The establishing of the new group should be done in a private location and not be open to all of AA, initially. You will be ready to open your group up to everyone once you have been through the Traditions several times, with all your issues and the group dynamics have been ironed out with the present members, because new people will want to sway the group conscience away from using the Traditions and the group will have to be ready for that and willing to stand up for principle.

The group should decide on it’s format, using the Traditions. The old-time group format is to share what we used to be like, what happened and what we are like now. Topic meetings are actually very organized and against the 9th Tradition. The purpose of an AA meeting is to help the newcomer identify – p. 159-60, Alcoholics AnonymousSeeing much of each other, scarce an evening passed that someone’s home did not shelter a little gathering of men and women, happy in their release, and constantly thinking how they might present their discovery to some newcomer. In addition to these casual get-togethers, it became customary to set apart one night a week for a meeting to be attended by anyone or everyone interested in a spiritual way of life. Aside from fellowship and sociability, the prime object was to provide a time and place where new people might bring their problems.”

My group reads AA literature and if a newcomer shows up, we switch over to experience, strength and hope. Some groups have raffle tickets to decide who randomly gets to share. Some groups are call-up. Some are call-on. Some have cross-fire. Where you are going to be located, if you are going to have a meeting in a facility of some sort, if you are going to offer child-care, if you are going to have an Intergroup rep and a GSR* and be part of the AA Service structure, and the name of your group, when and how often you will have a group conscience meeting – all these questions should be decided through the Traditions.

Once all this is established, you will be ready to have your group listed in the Intergroup Directory. Let people find you. Announce your new group at other meetings. But don’t try to drum up support- if people stop showing up it is because the group has lost it’s purpose. We don’t need to run around financially supporting one another. I always have put money only in my home group’s basket. Let God decide these things and you will find yourselves in a new service role that will be very satisfying and interesting.

*If you decide to have a GSR and Intergroup Rep, it would be wise to have an AA Service Manual study prior to sending someone as your GSR. It would be best if the group could get together and discuss what they read – and have someone available who has been through the process in service to answer questions. These days, in my Area, it’s all very political and about personalities – so if a GSR goes without any knowledge of Traditions or the Service Manual, they just won’t “pick it up” there – they really need to have a handle on the procedures before they head into it and never sending a newcomer into that position as that is just not thinking of the common welfare of the group or AA as a whole..