Guidelines for Chairing AA Meetings.
Question: We had a workshop recently regarding how to appropriately chair an AA meeting. Sorry I missed it. It seems I attend more and more meetings where newcomers are chairing meetings. Would you say it's appropriate for the chair person to keep order in the meeting and call on people to read and/or share and they keep their personal sharing to a minimum? I think it is okay to comment a second or two, but to share your own thoughts after everyone you call on takes up other's time to share. I always thought you give up your time to share if you are chairing.
Answer: Outside of A.A. we are accustomed to observing the "proper" way of doing things within an organization, but A.A. is not like most organizations. The only guidelines we are asked to follow are The Traditions and they place the individual group as the highest authority in A.A. There are no "rules."
There simply is no "appropriate" way to hold or run an AA meeting. Many meetings do not even have a "chair person."
If you are relatively new to A.A. the lack of rules or standard may seem odd, but the fact is that every group decides for itself what is appropriate...that's what makes groups "autonomous." Sometimes, an individual may stray from a group's customary fashion of holding a meeting. Some groups have written guidelines they have adopted and people are expected to follow. Other groups have nothing written. When a person doesn't follow a groups customs, it is up to the group to deal with it, usually during a "group conscience" session.
There is no place outside of the group to find rule books, policy and procedure manuals, or even much in the way of regional customs.
A local or regional workshop might be arranged to discuss how different groups do things. This may help the participants help their groups decide how they will do stuff, but there's only one Higher Power that guides group members in deciding what an individual group must do...and that Higher Power is not your group's District, Intergroup or Central Office, Area, Region, the Conference, or G.S.O.
Perhaps your best guidance is found in the long form of the 5th Tradition: "Each Alcoholics Anonymous group ought to be a spiritual entity having but one primary purpose-that of carrying its message to the alcoholic who still suffers." That does not mean the newcomer is the most important person in the room; it means carrying the message to the newcomer is the most important task before those in attendance.
By Tradition, helping the newcomer is the primary purpose of the group and it would seem logical helping newcomers would also be the primary purpose of meetings.
Page 159 of The Big Book describes the earliest meetings this way:
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