Dear Mr. SponsorPants,
- A format of some sort: Something written down is best so that the meeting can stay consistent, which helps it feel "real" and safe. In my experience the simpler the format the stronger the meeting. Generally there is a brief reading (In my little corner of the world the first few pages of Chapter 5, "How it Works" from the Big Book are commonly used -- up through the a, b, c part which concludes with "that God could and would if He were sought.") Then someone Speaks (or Chairs, or Pitches, all regional terms here in the USA for basically the same thing: The person who talks first, and usually for a pre-determined lenght of time.) Meetings I go to vary in this, and there are those in which the Speaker talks for ten minutes, twenty minutes, or for almost the full duration of the meeting. Then, there might be sharing from the rest of the group -- some meetings have timers of three or five minutes for the other sharing -- others let people go for as long as they need. (There's pro and con on both those approaches.) Then there might be one more reading and then generally the meeting concludes with a prayer, most often in my experience The Serenity Prayer. I'd like to add that it is a custom in my part of the world for people to thank the speaker after the meeting -- to literally line up and one after the other shake hands or hug and express gratitude to the speaker for coming. I've been to places and meetings where this is not the custom, and while it's not wrong to NOT do it, I think it is a good healthy thing for all parties if you DO do it. But again, that is a regional thing. (And by the way, in the book "My Name is Bill" by Susan Cheever -- which I enjoyed immensely -- at one point somewhere in it -- I haven't read it in forever -- she gives an overview of a "typical" AA meeting that I thought was very good as well. If you can find a translation you might enjoy that as well and it too might be helpful.)
- A space: Either a room you can easily afford with a nominal payment -- one which a fledgling meeting can pay on its own in short order (as our meetings are self supporting through our own contributions) OR a "donated" home space for that hour or so. (Remember, all the original AA meetings were in someone's home -- that's a tried and true method.) Also, you'll need an assurance that the space will be "yours" every week at that same hour for a good period of time.
- A Secretary (or two): A person or couple of people who are willing to serve as Secretary for the first few months until enough people regularly come so that you can hold an election. As it says in the literature, "our leaders are but trusted servants, they do not govern." Starting a meeting confers no special status or authority in the meeting that you've started. When you're up and running it's better for all concerned to hold a group conscience and have an election -- sure, they can elect you, but the opportunity for others to step in is clean, above board and, in my experience, the best ego deflater and resentment quasher possible. Once you have a few regular members you can divvy out some other service commitments, like Set Up, Clean Up, Literature, Phone List... maybe a Sponsorship Announcement asking people willing and able to sponsor to raise their hands. You don't need everything all at once of course.