It may be easier for you to start a secular A.A. meeting than you think. You need only find one other recovering alcoholic in A.A. willing to start it with you.
The main difference between secular A.A. meetings and other kinds of A.A. meetings is the meeting format – the script the meeting leader uses to conduct the meeting. No one is asked to recite any prayers or readings that invoke the name of any deity as part of the format of most secular A.A. meetings.
We have a sample-format on this website that’s only slightly different from formats already in use by many A.A. groups of all kinds throughout Michigan.
Here are some tips for starting a secular A.A. meeting:
• Ask members of an A.A. group you already belong to, or those at an A.A. meeting you attend regularly, to hold a “group conscience” meeting to consider whether they would be willing to adopt a secular format for the meeting.
• Explain to your fellow A.A. members why it’s important to “widen the gateway” into A.A. for still suffering alcoholics who may not believe in God and who think A.A. may be too religious for them. A.A. meetings specifically for newcomers or young people are especially good candidates for switching to a secular A.A. meeting format.
• If a meeting you attend regularly is held at an Alano Club or similar facility, it’s likely there are several different kinds of A.A. meetings held throughout the week at the club. Explain to the club’s board or steering committee why it would be good to add more diversity to the lineup of A.A. meetings at the club. Check if there is an additional weekly time slot available at the club for a secular A.A. meeting.
• You may need to locate a meeting place that is not already being used by existing A.A. meetings. Although some secular A.A. meetings are held in church basements as many other A.A. meetings are, you might try to find a space in a more neutral location, such as a public library, fire hall, community center, hospital, treatment center, or even a private home.
• Read the A.A. General Service Conference-approved pamphlet The A.A. Group for definitive guidance on how to start and operate A.A. groups and meetings. You might also check out some additional ideas online for how to start secular A.A. meetings — at AAAgnostica.org and at secularAA.org.
• Come up with a good name for your group. A lot of secular groups are named after Chapter Four of the Big Book, “We Agnostics.” However, if you use the words “atheist” or “agnostic” in your name, some people will think you must be an atheist or agnostic to attend, and that’s just not so. Consider using the word “secular” in your group’s name.
• Consider using only A.A. General Service Conference-approved literature within the format of a new secular A.A. meeting. Of course, anyone can read aloud from any kind of literature or discuss any topic they like at any A.A. meeting. But try to avoid creating the misperception that a secular A.A. meeting is somehow not a “real” A.A. meeting by including unapproved readings in your meeting format.
• Make it clear to everyone that secular A.A. groups and non-religious members of Alcoholics Anonymous strive to uphold the same 12 Traditions as all other A.A. groups and members.
• Go to lots of other A.A. meetings and announce where and when the new, secular A.A. meeting will be held and ask people to check it out. Prepare flyers to hand out at other A.A. meetings or post on bulletin boards at Alano clubs and other places A.A. members congregate.
• At A.A. meetings where they “close in the usual manner” by reciting the Lord’s Prayer, look for people whose lips aren’t moving – and be sure to hand them one of your flyers.
• After you and at least one other A.A. member have been meeting for one month, you can register your group with the A.A. General Service Office (GSO) in New York. You will receive an official group service number when you do this. Having that number and official GSO recognition in hand may aid your effort to have your A.A. meeting or group listed properly in local directories by your Central Office or Intergroup office.
• Make sure your secular A.A. group elects a Group Service Representative (GSR) who links your secular A.A. group to A.A. as a whole and who regularly participates in A.A. service activities at all levels.
• If your new secular A.A meeting or group is in Michigan, please Contact us at Secular A.A. in Michigan so we can list it here as well. There is also an international directory at secularAA.org. In addition, we have a statewide Facebook page and links to other national and international secular A.A. groups online that you might find helpful.
The following paragraphs contain links to some items you may find useful to include in the format of your new secular A.A. meeting.
Here are some additional readings you might consider including in your meeting format that are all A.A. General Service Conference-approved and do not contain anything suggesting that you need to get God to get sober. A portion of Chapter 3 from the A.A. Big Book is an especially good reading. In addition, Appendix 2 of the Big Book seems to walk back some of the religiosity contained in the first 164 pages of the Big Book.
Also, a reading from the opening paragraphs of the relatively new A.A. General Service Conference-approved pamphlet Many Paths to Spirituality can really set a good tone for a secular A.A. meeting.
Many A.A. groups put together a binder with hard copy of their meeting format and all the readings which are handed out for volunteers to read aloud. In case anyone shows up at your secular A.A. meeting and starts asking pointed questions about why you think you can have a “real” A.A. meeting without prayer and repeated references to God, read them some of the Bill W. Quotes provided here. You might also think about copying and pasting the Frequently Asked Questions from this website and including them in your binder if anyone shows up at your meeting with similar questions.
Remember that Tradition Five states: “Each group has but one primary purpose — to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.”