- The size of the group often determines how the business meetings are structured. Some are very formalized with set agendas and an appointed chairperson. Regular reports from the information service representative (ISR), Group Representative (GR), group secretary and treasurer are given. Other meetings are freewheeling discussions led by whomever calls the meeting with almost all decisions reached by consensus.
- Any subject qualifies for group conscience consideration. It may be the approval of using group funds for sending the GR to the district meeting or area assembly, or determining if the group wishes to recite a closing prayer and which prayer will be used. It might be polices such as: Will AA events be announced only if Al-Anon participation is included? Should there be a special collection for the local information service, area, assembly or World Service Office (WSO)? The list is endless.
Arriving at an Informed Group Conscience
- The majority uses the Twelve Steps and Traditions, service guidelines and Concepts, along with Al-Anon Slogans to help them reach decisions. One member shared, "Our Steps cover any personal conflict."
- Other members state that "principles above personalities" and " our common welfare should come first" are tools used by their groups to reach decisions. Regardless of the problem, each group inevitably turns to the Traditions and Concepts when faced with group conscience decisions.
- "It is wonderful to watch how well the Al-Anon Traditions and Concepts work at business meetings. I have never come across a problem that could not be solved," was yet another comment.
- When the group is in the process of becoming informed, the opportunity presents itself for all points of view to be heard. While all members may not be satisfied with the final vote, no one individual is responsible – members know the decision represents the will of the group at a given moment.
Frequency, Scheduling and Encouraging Participation
- How often business meetings are held varies greatly. Some groups never have a business meeting while others meet regularly, weekly or monthly, for example.
- When members are starting a new group, they should conduct a group consensus on when and how often business meetings will be held.
- Although not all members may wish to attend, they are encouraged to participate in the group conscience as a healthy part of recovery.
- The NYC chapter of Al-anon family Intergroup suggests as a minimum, holding quarterly business meetings scheduled for: March, June, Sept & Dec.
Groups that have found ways of increasing participation at business meetings share their successful strategies:
- We changed the name “business meeting” to "group conscience" and find members respond better because it is in keeping with the spirit of Al-Anon.
- We urge new members to participate. It helps them feel a part of the group.
- Have a definite time limit, the shorter the business meeting, the greater the attendance!
- Have a potluck lunch, supper or refreshments; go for coffee afterwards.
- Close the regular meeting 15 minutes early and then start the Business Meeting.
- Announce the meeting and topics two to three weeks in advance.
- Many sample formats were sent to the WSO in response to the Inside Al-Anon appeal. All showed a genuine concern and value for their group, the recovery it offers and the democratic spirit of Al-Anon as a whole. Many explained how their group developed its format, its needs, experience, successes, and mishaps. In general, the formats consisted of some or most of the elements listed below.
Tips and Topics
- Open with a moment of silence and the Serenity Prayer
- Meeting chaired by a group program chairperson or group representative
- Reading of Steps, Traditions, and/or Concepts of Service
- Division of agenda into old and new business sections
- Group officer and trusted servants reports, e.g. Group Representative, Treasurer, Secretary, Information Service Representative
- Sharing activities from the district, information service and/or area
- Reading announcements such as group anniversaries/gratitude dinners, holiday potlucks, new literature releases, WSO quarterly Seventh Tradition appeal letters
Approval of literature orders and reports
- Support for Alateen and appeals for Alateen sponsors
- Voting on issues from the group meeting, district or area, or returning to the overall group for a group conscience decision
- Public Information work such as placing meeting information in newspaper community calendars
- Deciding on the routine operation for the group such as refreshments, babysitting, meeting topics, and election of officers
- Discussion of special concerns such as closings, the use or display of outside literature, crosstalk, discussion of religion or therapy, or lack of funds
- Planning of special events such as a group anniversary, gratitude meeting, open meeting, special speaker, or participation in an AA event
- Closing with a prayer
- From among the many formats submitted, it was clear that there is no one right, universal or absolute format that must be followed .
- Each group should find one that is suitable for their needs. However, there was one consistent message from all who shared: We feel secure because we are able to resolve conflict . Our group is healthy because we are "taking care of business."
- The business meetings help groups avoid chaos and maintain unity. Control by a "Mr. or Mrs. Al-Anon" type and an atmosphere of survival on a crisis-to-crisis basis are averted. Frustration and disagreements can be handled because the group holds regular business meetings.
- Group conscience is the guiding light of Al-Anon business meetings.