How to Start a meeting

How to Start a meeting 2017-10-20T12:26:02+00:00

The following are general guidelines for starting and maintaining a new meeting.   Intergroup is here to help you with the resources necessary to get started, keep it going, address issues that arise, and help ensure the meeting survives.   You are not alone.  While starting a meeting can be challenging, the rewards of knowing you were instrumental in founding it, is truly amazing.

Each meeting makes its own decisions on policy in keeping with the 12 Traditions. The Traditions provide guidelines for group conduct just as the Steps provide guidelines for individual recovery.

A group needs a safe place to meet. Groups have found space in recovery centers, Intergroup centers, churches, parks, schools, hospitals, recovery book stores, or public service organizations at reasonable rents. Some meetings have started in someone’s home, but usually found the need to move into a larger, “neutral space” within a few months.  A good place to start is by finding facilities that already host other 12 step groups.  An easy way to find those facilities is by going to the websites of the other programs.  This process will tell you who is already 12-step friendly.  It’s not unusual for a facility to quote you a high price for space rental.  Don’t be afraid to remind them that this is a community service, and 12 step participants generally pay  $1 each to attend a meeting.  Let them know that it would be helpful if you could pay a lesser amount for the first 6 months while the meeting is getting started.  Many facilities will work with you.

If possible, you may want to get a commitment from two or three other program people to show up for a few meetings to insure the new group’s early survival. Meetings registered with the ACA WSO (registration form included in this packet) will be published in our online Meeting Directory which will help people find the meeting. Your local Intergroup may also have local meeting directories or call centers that can help new members find your meeting.

Each meeting provides opportunities for service which keeps the meeting operational. In a healthy meeting, several people do a little of the work and the jobs get done.

This packet contains a Sample Meeting Format. You may also refer to the ACA Fellowship Textbook for other samples.

Crosstalk is interrupting, giving advice, or making comments about another person’s sharing. It is also talking to someone or making distracting noise during sharing time. In ACA, we don’t crosstalk. When others listen to us, just listen, our reality, our truth, our ideas, our feelings, our self-image, our beings are affirmed. When we focus only on our own recovery (keeping out of other people’s), we are taking responsibility for our own lives. We do this by presenting all statements in the “I”, first-person, form.

Anonymity allows us to share our feelings and to experience an “Identity” apart from a “label”. “Who you see here, what you hear here, when you leave here, let it stay here,” is a good rule to follow in creating a safe place to share our feelings and recovery without fear of gossip, retaliation, or of our anonymity being broken.

Each meeting determines the books, tapes, flyers, or pamphlets appropriate to its literature table as each meeting is autonomous. In keeping with Tradition 6, “An ACA group never endorses, finances or lends our name to any facility or outside enterprise lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.” Always keep the Newcomer in mind and select appropriate literature to provide ACA information to any new member.

Ours is a program of attraction, not promotion. If ACA meetings already exist in the area, you may want to distribute a flyer announcing your new meeting at them. If they don’t, you may want to distribute flyers with permission at other 12-Step meetings and invite a few close friends.

The program grows because someone has a need to begin a new meeting and tries to meet that need.

The love and respect we offer to Newcomers is a reflection of the love and respect we are learning to offer ourselves.

At a regular business meeting draw up your meeting plan for what to do with disruptions at meetings according to group consensus. Some ideas you may consider:

1. Keep Tradition 1: Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on ACA unity.
2. Ask those who disrupt to leave.
3. Ask those who disrupt to take one week (2 weeks, 4 weeks…) away from this meeting.
4. Offer those who disrupt an opportunity to earn their way back into the meeting by making amends to the group and by performing a designated service.
5. Ban individuals who continue to disrupt the meeting.
6. Escort a person who is disruptive from the meeting. Escorting is done by a group of meeting members designated to do this as determined in a Business Meeting.
7. Shut down the meeting immediately and have all members depart for the common welfare.
8. Call the police if there is clear and present danger to lives, health, or property.

When problems occur for which this packet has no answers, check the Twelve Traditions and present the problem in a Business Meeting for a group conscience. The ACA Fellowship Textbook may offer some insight as well. If your group is still unclear on what to do, you may contact your local Intergroup or ACA WSO for suggestions. No matter the source of where you obtain your suggestions, it is ultimately your meeting that will decide what is best to do for its
own welfare.

We suggest that service positions terms be at least six (6) months in duration. These guidelines are provided for your easy reference. Each meeting is autonomous and can modify, change or delete guidelines as the group majority sees fit.


Guidelines For New Meetings

A. Meeting Secretary –
1. Registers meeting with the local Intergroup and Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service
Organization (ACA WSO) office.
2. Sends meeting information changes (new location, new officer, etc.) to ACA WSO and the Intergroup.
3. Opens and closes the meeting, unless this is delegated to another trusted servant.
4. Ensures meeting room is set up and cleaned up.
5. Welcomes Newcomers. Greets newcomers before meetings, talks with them after the meeting and provides New Member Packets accordingly, unless otherwise delegated.
6. Is responsible for the unity and safety of the meeting:
a. Hold business meetings.
b. Limits time of sharing by timer or other means.
c. Help ensure “no crosstalk” rule.
7. Announces service opportunities at least one (1) week in advance of the opening and facilitate the election process for new or established service jobs.
8. Presents the Secretary’s Report/Announcements during meeting.
9. Fills in or helps find temporary replacements for other services positions as needed.

B. Meeting Treasurer –
1. Collects and records 7th Tradition donations.
2. Pays meeting expenses (rent, coffee, etc.).
3. Reimburses members who present receipts for refreshments, literature, copies, chips, etc.
4. Keeps a “prudent reserve” (usually 1 month’s normal meeting expenses).
5. Sends 7th Tradition donations to the local ACA intergroup,  and World Service Organization offices (60% to Intergroup/40% to WSO).
6. Passes a second basket, if approved by the group conscience, designated for the ACA Intergroup, Retreat scholarships, or other worthy causes.
7. Gives the financial status of the meeting to the members of the meeting as designated by the meeting format (weekly, monthly, etc.).

C. Literature Chairperson –
1. Displays literature at each meeting (sets up literature table, etc.).
2. Replenishes all depleted literature (buys books, makes copies, etc.).
3. Cleans up and puts away literature at the end of each meeting.
4. Presents all receipts to the meeting Treasurer for reimbursement.

D. ACA Intergroup Representative –
1. Attends the local Intergroup meetings.
2. Makes concerns and questions of meeting known to the Intergroup.
3. Continue to offer support to the Intergroup or communicate service needs to the meeting.
4. Distribute information collected to the meetings (events, news, literature, etc.).

E. ACA WSO Group Representative –
1. Attend monthly teleconference meetings. Teleconferences are held the 2nd Saturday of each month. Dial (712) 432-8710 code: 846575# to connect with the callers. (You may call the office to obtain a new call in number if this number is no longer valid)
2. Makes concerns and questions of meeting known to ACA WSO.
3. Continue to offer support to ACA WSO or communicate service needs to the meeting.
4. Distribute information collected to the meetings (events, news, literature, etc.).

F. Other possible service opportunities –
Greeters, set up room/clean up room; Speaker Coordinator, Timer, Coffee person, Cake person, Chip person, etc.



This is the vote of the meeting fellowship on matters affecting the group. In ACA all power rests with the members of the Program, not in “trusted servants.” Every member may vote. Any decision reached is to be, as much as possible, a reflection of the will of the group and a reflection of the spirit of our fellowship, not merely a majority vote. For “Substantial Unanimity” to exist, every member needs to be considered and as close as possible to a unanimous vote needs to exist. If there is substantial disagreement on the issue, more information and discussion may be needed before “substantial unanimity” can exist. The issue is then tabled until the next Business meeting and discussed again. If considerable disharmony continues, the issue may be dropped in order to maintain the unity of the meeting (Tradition 1).

Members, who have an opinion on an issue that is in the “minority,” have the right to present their concern at their business meeting.

A Business Meeting, generally held monthly after a regular meeting or as needed, is the format used to determine meeting policy on issues such as:

1. Election of officers
2. Changing time/date/location/focus of a meeting
3. Meeting format
4. Timer/sharing issues
5. Discussing literature/book policies
6. Smoking/non-smoking issues
7. Financial reports
8. Organizing special activities
9. Having the presence of children allowed at a meeting
10. Possible violation of The Traditions by member(s) of a meeting
11. Possible violation of the safety of a meeting
12. Using the 7th Tradition to fund activities

During the announcements, a member may request a “Business Meeting” to discuss an issue. The issues to be discussed may be announced briefly with no discussion in the regular meeting. A business meeting is scheduled as soon as possible by the group (after the next meeting or at some later date). All members should have as much advance information and/or lead time necessary to prepare for a business meeting. For elections the business meeting might be announced one to four weeks in advance, for lesser issues, after the next regular meeting may be appropriate.

It is not recommended to try to get the group conscience during the “Secretary’s Announcements”. Attempts to do so often result in a rush job and resentment of those who come to share, not to discuss business issues.

The Secretary chairs the meeting. Each issue to be voted on is announced during the Secretary’s Report of the regular meeting. During the Business Meeting, the issue is discussed, possible solutions are presented, and a vote is taken. A majority of those in attendance sets the meeting policy. If someone complains about insufficient advance notification during the Announcements of a regular meeting, then the group takes a “group conscience”: to determine if sufficient advance notification was given. If most feel they were given sufficient time and data, the Traditions have been served and the policy stands.

Each year ACA has an Annual Business Conference (ABC). Each meeting is eligible to send a delegate and one or more alternates. At this meeting the group conscience of those attending will serve to give direction to World Service Organization (WSO) for the following year. The ABC is usually held in April. Meetings which do not send a delegate may still express their concerns in writing. WSO has also in the past submitted to all registered meetings issues of concern for the group conscience of all meetings that wish to participate. This process has been referred to as a “Group Conscience Survey”. WSO also may send “Ballot Items” which, if passed by majority vote of all who participate, will become ACA policy.

How to Start a meeting