What is the difference between meetings and groups?
About a year ago I started a meeting in a rapidly growing city. We meet two nights a week with typically 10 to 25 people in attendance. I was told that there used to be a meeting in this town and when the meeting became a group personalities were put before principles and the meeting feel apart. It has now been suggested our meeting become a group and I'm trying to find out what the difference specifically is and what maybe the advantages of each may be. We have a lot of new sobriety at our meetings. Out of twenty probably six have over a year and I don't know how many out of the six would be willing to be GSR, or secretary, or treasurer. Do we need a steering committee and what does that entail?
There is more than one view when it comes to answering your question.
A group is pretty much any two or more AA members that have meetings. Unless a meeting is affiliated with a group already, when it begins the meeting basically is a group. The Traditions say that any two or three alcoholics meeting together may call themselves an AA group as long as they have no affiliation with other agencies.
From the GSO pamphlet P-16, "The AA Group...Where it all begins:"
The main difference between meetings and groups is that A.A. groups generally continue to exist outside of the prescribed meeting hours, ready to provide Twelfth Step help when needed.
The Traditions also say that "each group needs the least possible organization." This means that a group should be structured as simply as possible. If your group can continue to function with the level of organization it has now then there is no need "organize things" in order to be a "group." You already are a group and adhering closely to the principle of "least possible organization."
While your group may want to have a GSR or steering committee, there is no requirement to have them. If you can get by without a steering committee then the principle of "least possible organization" would seem to indicate that you shouldn't bother. A group should only take on an added level of organization if it is vital to the group's continued functioning. If you do not feel a need for a treasurer or secretary, there is no reason to have one.
If your group wants to be connected to AA as a whole through the formal AA World Service service structure you can appoint a GSR. The process to appoint one need be no more formal then having a two minute group meeting to discuss it and decide who will take the job. There is no requirement to have a GSR to be a group.
Many groups try to fill service positions and "do things right" simply out of habit or notions that there is a "correct" way of doing things in A.A. but there is no need to complicate things without good reason. We simply follow the guidelines set out in the Traditions which say we "may" form service boards or committees, not that we should.
If the people who come to your meeting believe that Step 12 and Tradition 5 are the reasons for your existence, there is no reason to meet except to carry the message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
The purpose of the A.A. General Service Structure (i.e., groups, districts, areas, and the General Service Conference is to change people by improving the ability of A.A. members to carry the A.A. message of recovery using the general service structure as a means of improving communication (i.e., exchanging ideas so we're better able to help others recover).
For more information on how AA functions as a fellowship you might want to read G.S.O.'s pamphlet P-16, "The AA Group...Where it all begins." It's available for download from the "Group Life" section of the AA website at http://www.aa.org/pdf/products/p-16_theaagroup.pdf
Some have found that reading from this 61 page pamphlet makes for a very interesting "discussion meeting." People take turns reading a page or so aloud, and then discuss the subject.
They can then decide whether they want to open the channels of communication with AA members and groups in other places to share experience, ideas, and avoid re-inventing the wheel.