Open 12 step meetings are at the core of many church-based recovery ministries. Modeled after the customs and group dynamics of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, these meetings allow participants to practice the Christian disciplines of confession, testimony and prayer in a safe and confidential environment. The word ‘open’ implies only that new participants are welcome to join the group at any time.
A wide variety of meeting formats are being used by groups of this kind. This format is taken with some adaptations from the ‘Living Free’ program developed at Skyline Wesleyan Methodist Church in San Diego. Additional information about this program is available in the booklet entitled “Living Free” available from RPI Publications
Most open 12 step meetings use a written script which is read by several group participants at the request of by a leader chosen for each meeting. When first exposed to this kind of meeting format, many people find the use of a script to be ‘canned’ or even insulting. The use of a script, however, has several important functions. For example, it de-emphasizes the role of the leader in the group. The leader does not have to prepare any creative questions or group activities in advance. Some people put it this way: “If you are working on your own issues and you can read, you can lead a 12 step group”. The use of a script also emphasizes the fact that all participants are present to work on their own issues not to passively receive from either the leader or other group participants. The use of a script makes it clear that the core of the group process is not the introductory activities but the period of no-crosstalk sharing which follows.
While many groups choose not to do so, other on-going open 12 step groups choose to affiliate with one of the distinctively Christian organizations that are forming networks of such groups. Look here for a list. Each of these ministries has a distinctive ministry philosophy and orientation. We encourage you to educate yourself about these organizations.
Hello, and welcome to the Living Free support group meeting. My name is __________ and it is my turn to lead the meeting tonight. Please join me for a moment of silence, after which we will recite the Serenity Prayer.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to your will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.
This group is committed to creating a safe place for men and women to share their experience, strength and hope. This is not a therapy group, no one is here in a professional capacity. Our purpose is to grow spiritually – to grow in our relationship with God. We are not here to talk about others, to condemn, criticize, or judge anyone. Our desire is to improve the quality of our lives by looking honestly at who we are, by learning from listening to and sharing with each other, by placing ourselves in the care of our Higher Power, Jesus Christ, and by engaging in healthier behaviors.
Living Free is a recovery program sponsored by this church as a way to introduce people to Christ-centered recovery. There are various groups and courses of study offered throughout the year. A calendar listing options available to you is on the literature table.
THE TWELVE STEPS
The spiritual disciplines of the twelve steps are an important foundation for our group so I’ve asked __________ to read The Twelve Steps for us. And, after each step is read, I’ve asked __________ to read a biblical text which helps to clarify the meaning of the step.
This group is self-supporting through our own contributions. We ask for your contribution at this time.
(Note: If your group has contributions as part of its traditions, take time for a collection before continuing.)
Are there any recovery-related announcements?
Is there anyone here today for the first time? If so, please tell us your first name so we can greet you.
If you are new to a twelve-step support group, we offer you a special welcome. We suggest that you attend at least 6 meetings to give yourself a fair chance to decide if this group is appropriate for you. We encourage you to exchange phone numbers with other members of the group for support between meetings. Phone lists, literature and information on other recovery support groups will be available after the meeting. If you have any questions, please feel free to talk with me at the end of the meeting.
It is our custom to introduce ourselves by first name only. If you wish to identify your primary addiction as part of introducing yourself, we welcome you to do so. Please do not feel compelled, however, to introduce yourself other than to share your first name. My name is ______________.
(Note: The custom in most groups is to respond to each person’s self introduction by saying “Hi, name”.)
Every meeting we remind ourselves of some basic group guidelines. Many of the principles and traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous are used as part of our group. We respect the confidentiality and anonymity of each person here. Remember that whatever you hear at this meeting is shared with the trust and confidence that it will remain here. Who you see here, what is said here, when you leave here, let it stay here.
Before our sharing begins, I will read our Guidelines for Group Sharing.
1) Everyone is invited to share, but no one is obligated to do so.
2) Please keep your sharing focused on recent experiences and events. Focus on your personal experience, strength and hope.
3) Limit your sharing to 3-5 minutes. Allow everyone in the group to share once before you share a second time.
4) Please…NO CROSS TALK. Cross-talk occurs when individuals speak out of turn and interrupt one another. The group is disrupted, and focus is diverted from the individual whose turn it is to speak.
5) Refrain from asking questions. Questions will be answered after the meeting so that sharing will not be interrupted.
6) If you have recently used chemical substances which have had a mood-altering effect on your behavior, we ask you NOT to share until after the meeting.
7) We are not here to advise, soothe, or solve other people’s problems. We can share what we have done to change our own behavior, but not what we think someone else should do.
This meeting is a step study. The Twelve Steps represent a spiritual discipline which can provide a way out of destructive behavior and an opportunity to improve our relationship with our Higher Power, Jesus Christ.
Today’s meeting focuses on Step __________.
As your leader for this meeting, I will share for a few minutes, then will open the meeting for general sharing relating to the topic being covered. If you would like to share please raise your hand to be recognized. This is a spiritually-centered program, and we ask you to also share how your spirituality related to the topic or the Step being discussed.
(Notes: At this point the leader reads the step which is the focus for the meeting and shares from his own current experience. When finished, the leader can either continue the sharing time by acknowledging a volunteer from raised hands or can continue the sharing by asking the person next to them if they would like an opportunity to share and continue by moving around the room. If the group is larger than 20 people, many groups will form small groups of 5-7 people for the sharing portion of the meeting.)
“We will now take time for prayer requests. These requests should be regarding yourself or other group members.”
(Note: A time of prayer follows. The prayer time can be structured in a variety of ways depending on the customs of the group.)
Living Free is a fellowship of (church or organization name) and is intended to complement not replace other twelve-step groups. We encourage you to attend other twelve-step meetings that apply to your situation. We also encourage you to bring a friend to this or to other Living Free meetings and to invite them to experience some of the benefits that can be gained from participating in this program.
Remember! What you hear at this meeting is confidential; leave it at this meeting! It is not for public disclosure or gossip. Please respect the privacy of those who have shared here today.
Will everyone please clean up after themselves and help rearrange the room?
Will all who care to, stand and join me in closing with the Lord’s Prayer?
Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed by thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.