Group Decision Making
Most groups hold business meetings regularly because S-Anon group unity is enhanced when all, or most, members of the group participate in the decision-making process. Groups that hold business meetings regularly tend to remain healthy and vital because members feel a part of the process, rather than “apart from.” As Concept Four points out, “Participation is the key to harmony.” These groups also are observing the spirit of Tradition Two, “For our group purpose there is but one authority – a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.” Thus, members are reminded to include a Higher Power as they discuss and vote on issues.
The terms “business meeting” and “group conscience” are sometimes used in-terchangeably because they are both forums for discussion and decision-making, but they have somewhat different meanings. See the “S-Anon Business Meetings and the Group Conscience Process” publication, number L-20, available as a free download from www.sanon.org, for a more detailed explanation of these processes.
What is a Group Conscience?
Simply put, a group conscience asks for an expression of opinion by members of the group, but there is more to it than just a “majority rule” voting procedure. Together, the members seek to be guided by a Higher Power in reaching a decision that will be good for the group as a whole, rather than for any one member or small group of members. As stated in Tradition Two, “Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern,” and do not exercise personal power or authority. The Second Tradition of S-Anon indicates that important decisions within the group are made by means of what is called a “group conscience.”
When group members decide that a group conscience should be taken, we do our best to assure that the following criteria are met:
• All group members are well informed on the issue.
• All sides of the issue have been heard and thoroughly discussed.
• All members have had advance notice of the date for the upcoming group conscience meeting.
• A substantial majority supports the decision.
When these conditions have been met, we feel confident that a loving God has been expressed in our process. We guard against unintentional domination by any individual or small group by making sure that the group conscience process is carried out in a thoughtful and prayerful manner.
Guidelines for Group Conscience / Business Meetings
Group Conscience meetings usually take place before or after a regular meeting. They are held on a regular basis to allow the group to make decisions about a variety of matters that do not specifically relate to personal recovery. Subjects that may come up for discussion include, but are not limited to: selection of group officers, service term limits, distribution of Seventh Tradition donations in excess of group financial needs, Twelfth-Step work in the area, local Information Service Group (Intergroup) activities, how the group wants to welcome newcomers, planning for a local event, and discussion of World Service Conference reports.
All members of an S-Anon group are invited to participate in these meetings, regardless of how long they have been in the program. If there is a very important issue to be decided, groups are encouraged to set a date in advance for the group conscience to be held, and make periodic announcements prior to that date.
When the issue to be decided seems to elicit strong feelings both pro and con, it may be helpful at the outset of the meeting to present the issue and allow each member to express his or her views without debate, comment, or crosstalk. A time limit can be set for the sharing so that the meeting can end at the specified time. Once everyone has had a chance to share, a vote or further discussion will be appropriate. A group may choose to use some form of Robert’s Rules to structure the discussion. A suggested format for discussion of such an issue is shown below:
· Begin with the Serenity Prayer.
· State the issue in the form of a motion.
· Ask for someone to “second” the motion.
· Ask each member to share an opinion.
· Conduct further discussion, if any. Vote or decide to postpone the vote to the next meeting. If a vote is taken and it is not unanimous, allow for the minority opinion to be heard, possibly re- vote.
· Close with the Serenity Prayer.
The Group Conscience Meeting may be led by the Group Secretary or any group member who is willing to chair it. The Secretary may take minutes, which may be kept in a notebook that is available each week for reference. It is important to remember that while order and structure are good, we most benefit from an open and safe environment where healthy discussion of sometimes emotional issues leads the group to resolution.
HELP IN SOLVING GROUP PROBLEMS
Most group problems can be solved by the methods suggested above – holding a group conscience meeting, or series of meetings, where the issue is examined in the light of the S-Anon Twelve Traditions and discussed thoroughly, with all members freely expressing their opinions. We can observe a Higher Power in action when we bring prayerful attention to the table, and in most cases, the solution becomes clear. Over time, if this solution appears no longer viable, another group conscience meeting may be held, to revisit the issue.
Your Delegate, Regional Trustee, the WSO, or a representative from your local Intergroup might be able to offer experience, strength, and hope if you desire further information about Group Conscience meetings. They may offer a perspective that has not yet been considered. These individuals can be contacted through the local Intergroup, or the WSO at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Each group is autonomous, and is empowered to solve their problems as a Higher Power may direct through the group conscience (Traditions Four and Two).
Last Updated April 2018