I have attended well run step studies in the past. I think the thing that has been important with those was that whoever chaired the study meeting had worked the 12 steps and was basically walking the walk. I couldn't find anything on line about how to put together a study meeting in Al-Anon, so I came up with some thoughts based on my own experience.
- If the meeting is approved by WSO, then only conference approved literature may be used. The Bible and the Big Book of AA are not conference approved for Al-Anon. But there is a wealth of CAL from Al-Anon. The first step meeting I ever attended was one in which we read How Al-Anon Works. It was a great introduction to the program and to the steps and traditions. There are a number of other good CAL books such as the newly published Discovering Our Choices.
- I think that one of the first things to do is to decide what kind of meeting this should be: a step study or an Al-Anon book study. It could simply be called a "Study Meeting" which would enable attendees to not only read and discuss the steps, traditions, and concepts but to also read from other books such as How Al-Anon Works, Discovering Our Choices, and other CAL.
- There needs to be a decision as to who will be there each week to "lead" the meeting. Having a back up person available would also be a good idea. It would be ideal to have someone who has worked the steps be there. The "leaders" are simply there to maintain continuity not to lecture or to dominate. Since this will likely be a reading group, a suggested approach is to have a person read a few paragraphs and then briefly discuss the material. Avoidance of cross talk is highly recommended because it tends to slow things down.
- The "lead" is willing to conduct the meeting according to the format. This person is obligated to uphold the group conscience from the chair; and be willing to explain the group's function and goals to newcomers and visitors before, during, and after the meeting. This person must be willing to interrupt an individual who is off the step and remind them of the purpose of the meeting.
- It's important to have a group preamble or group conscience statement which lays out the framework for the meeting. It defines our mission, the way we carry our message to others. It defines the ground rules of the meeting. It could, for example, make it clear that sharing at a step study meeting depends upon whether a person has direct experience with the 12 steps. The chair would also make certain that no cross talk occurs. There needs to be agreement on the meeting "rules"--e.g. no cross talk, sharing briefly and not going on and on, limit the group to those who arrived at the start of the meeting and not at the end. It might be advisable to find a smaller room to have the study group so that individuals who come in for the regular open meeting don't disrupt the group.
- The chairperson needs to keep the meeting focused. At each meeting, the chairperson would announce the step or reading and the pages that will be covered. The chair would then ask people to read a few paragraphs and then discuss what resonated with each as they read. A study meeting needs to stay on topic and not wander off into other directions. This weakens the group and can also be frustrating.
This just points out my experience. I personally think that study groups, whether step or CAL book studies, are beneficial to recovery as long as they have some structure and leadership.
Sorry for the long post. I just had to get these thoughts down. Maybe some of you on here will have some thoughts on how to improve this so that it will be useful as a guideline for the next group conscience meeting. Please let me have your E, S, and H on this.