Guidelines For Starting a Support Group
A "Group" is 2 or more gathered to support one another and help one another. It only takes a few dedicated people to maintain a group meeting on a regular basis. Key elements in getting started are: WHERE can we meet, WHEN can we meet, and WHO are we meeting?WHERE: If approaching a church for a meeting room, some literature might help. We have an information packet available. Also, the meeting area should be private, free from interruptions or distractions, and comfortable to newer people. Some groups meet at restaurants, private homes, fellowship halls, or outdoors (beaches, parks) weather permitting.
WHEN: Try to pick a time that does not conflict with other activities at the site. Also, try not to conflict with local 12 step group meeting times.
WHO: Overcomers Outreach support groups welcome ANYONE not opposed to our general method of recovery. Many groups are primarily AA, AL-Anon, ACA, etc., but we must be open to the Lord leading us to help anyone in need of support. The steps can work for anyone, and the Scriptures work for everyone!
- Potential group leaders should be actively working their own 12 Step program, with a minimum of one year of continuous recovery.
- Order a "Group Starter Kit" or use the "Online Shop" link
- Review the contents and meeting format in the Overcomers Outreach "Freed Book"
- With the approval of your pastoral staff, set the time and meeting place. Put a notice in your bulletin and church newsletter.
- Pray some more!
- It takes only two or three DEDICATED people to get the meeting started. Be willing to meet regularly even though attendance may seem small. Make a six month commitment to attend every week.
- We recommend continuing attendance at other 12-Step groups, like "Alcoholics Anonymous" (for alcoholics), "Al-Anon" (for families and friends of the alcoholic). Meeting directories for these groups may be obtained by referring to the Yellow Pages or local telephone directories and calling the appropriate number in your particular area. Practical help is available from these traditional 12-Step groups, and, as they say, "take what you like and leave the rest." These are great places to let our lights shine!
- Pray some more!
- Be OPEN! Share what God is doing in your own life and be ready to LISTEN. Remember it isn't our job to "fix" anyone!
- Pray that the affected people in your congregation will have the courage to reach out for help, and BE THERE for them!
- Ask your Pastors to let other Pastors in the neighborhood know about your group.
- Pray some more!
Some Suggestions for Improving Attendance
The Group Coordinator Network (GCN) serves as a forum where ideas and issues are discussed by the groups to benefit all.
One on-going issue is how to improve regular attendance at meetings. The first consideration of any group should be the traditions of OO.
The traditions were developed to guide groups in this ministry as well as to avoid problems encountered by other groups in the past.
Although certain traditions are referred to below, groups should be mindful of all the traditions when trying out new ideas.
The traditions are aids, not obstacles.
5. The primary purpose of each group is to serve as a “bridge” between traditional 12 step groups and the church. We carry the message of Christ’s delivering power to individuals and family members both within and without the church who still suffer.
A good resource for potential members is the “other” 12 step programs. “Attendance at additional 12 step groups is encouraged” so GO. Let your light shine! Invite others you meet before or after the meeting to your OO meeting. It is NOT appropriate to announce meeting times or locations during the meetings. This usually generates a lot of negativity and should be avoided. Many newer people are seeking a “Higher Power” and may be open to us. Also, many Believers find these rooms and would find our meetings helpful. Refer to tradition 10.
Reaching out to church members can be a bit more complicated, but equally important. Be ever mindful of the shame and guilt others may be suffering from. Remember when you didn’t want anyone to know or thought they didn’t know? An announcement in the church bulletin is a good move. As we fellowship with our brothers and sisters we may become aware of some of their pain and delicately suggest they join us at the next meeting. Perhaps they are at wit’s end with a loved one. Assure them that they are welcome with or without the afflicted individual. There is hope for them as well. Assure them of confidentiality and ask to pray with them. How we both present and represent the group is critical. If your church doesn’t have an OO meeting yet, see if you can get the meeting you attend in the bulletin. Some may be more willing to attend a meeting not held at their church. If your church has a website, look into having the meeting time and place posted on it and, if possible, the overcomers web address, too. Making OO literature (information pamphlets) available in the church office or lobby might be worthwhile as well, but only with staff permission.
Support of the pastoral staff is also very helpful. Make a copy of the “FREED” book available to them and invite them to attend a meeting. They might be able to refer church members to us. We can be a valuable resource to these busy people, and that might bring some support from the pulpit. “If the pastor thinks it will help…” can be all the motivation necessary for a churchgoer to come to a meeting.
Most of all, we “carry the message” by example, as Jesus did for us. It is both our joy and responsibility to share what it means to have Christ in our lives. “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors as though God were making His appeal through us…” 2Cor5:20
11. Our public relations policy is based upon attraction rather than promotion; we need always seek the Holy Spirit’s discernment whenever sharing in the media, in order to maintain personal anonymity of all Overcomers Outreach group members.
Attraction is what grows meetings. It is what keeps members coming back. There are many ways to make a meeting or group attractive. Tradition 4 states: “Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or Overcomers Outreach as a whole.” This tradition encourages groups to be creative and allows freedom in how the meetings are conducted. Different “types” of meetings, such as topic, step, speaker, etc, can be used to improve attendance and participation. Many groups go through the FREED book list of topics in alphabetical order, with one meeting a month dedicated to the step corresponding to that month (step1 in Jan., step2 in Feb., etc). Consider having a speaker or speaker discussion meeting periodically (every other month or as appropriate). These meetings could be in addition to the regular meetings or incorporated into the regular schedule, as the group decides. One group does a “Scripture of the Year” pot luck and meeting at the first of the year to share a scripture meaningful to them rather than a new year’s resolution. Seasonal BBQ, pot luck, and dinner events all usually have good turnouts. Some groups supply literature and work step workbooks from the Bible. Have fun at meetings and people come back. The ideas are endless.
A key element in recovery is to feel “a part of” – that is, to belong somewhere. Participation in the group is so very important. The atmosphere of the meeting should be such that newer people are encouraged to share without being coerced. Many come “just to listen”. Let the Spirit move people to share. Service commitments are another way to get people involved. Coffee, setup, cleanup, and snacks or refreshments are good commitments. Greeters are a good idea too, if the meeting is big enough.
Every meeting has a “key person” or facilitator. Frequently, these serve as group leaders as well. Unfortunately, many groups have closed because of the loss of this one individual. That is why it is suggested that leadership be rotated. Not only does this draw other members into service to the group, but it also ensures the continuance of the group in case the leader leaves the group. Frequency of rotation is entirely up to the group – annual, semiannual, monthly, or even weekly – but should be done. If a designated leader fails to show up, the facilitator or someone who has led before could fill in.
A “successful” group does not necessarily have to be a large group. In larger groups sharing time needs to be limited to allow everyone time to share. Smaller groups might find it worthwhile to use a discussion style, asking each member’s input on each scripture. Small groups get larger and large groups get smaller.
As we grow in recovery we are blessed with the opportunity to serve others. Groups should serve the church. Serve the community. Serve the neighborhood. We can serve by helping at church events or cleaning up after. We can serve anonymously, but we must serve – we are FREE.
“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature, rather, serve one another in love” Gal5:13
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