H.A. Meeting Format
Normally an H.A. meeting is limited to those who are seeking freedom from homosexuality. If a pastor, counselor, family member, etc. wishes to visit, a meeting may be open to them by a vote of the chapter at a business meeting held at least one week prior to the visit. Members who object may voice their feelings and the group may then vote on whether to have the open meeting. A member who feels uncomfortable about an open meeting thus decided on has the option to absent himself or herself from the meeting. Anonymity is thus fully protected.
The following is a suggested format for an H.A. meeting:
“Welcome to Homosexuals Anonymous. We will be meeting every (day) unless notice is given a week beforehand. Meetings will be given at (starting time) and end at (ending time).
“Homosexuals Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who, through their common emotional experience, have chosen to help each other live in FREEDOM FROM HOMOSEXUALITY.
“The only requirement for H.A. membership is a desire to be free from homosexuality. New members are welcome at any meeting. All persons present are members and can participate as much or as little as personally desired. Please do not ask questions that would force an individual to reveal any personal information such as full name, address, occupation, or church affiliation.
“Because of the solemnity of our mission we as H.A. Fellowship choose to become engaged in no controversial issues that would draw our energy away from the staged goal, desiring only to mature in our relationships with those around us and rediscover the true identity that can be found only in the person of Jesus Christ as our faith perceives Him.
“H.A. is funded solely by contributions from its members.
“Confidentiality is very important. Information shared within the group is not to be shared with others outside the group.”
How It Works
“Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living that demands rigorous honesty. There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.
“Our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now. If you have decided you want freedom from homosexuality and are willing to go to any length to get it—then you are ready to take certain steps.
“At some of these we balked. We thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not. With all the earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely.
“Remember that we deal with homosexuality—cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power—that One is God. May you find God now!
“Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We asked God’s protection and care with complete abandon.
“Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery:” [Each member reads one of the steps from the H.A. step card, going around the circle until all steps are read, or the steps may be read in unison.]
“Many of us exclaimed, ‘What an order! I can’t go through with it.’ Do not be discouraged. No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles. We are not sinless. The point is that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.
“Our understanding of homosexuality and our personal experiences make clear three pertinent ideas:
1) That we were powerless over our homosexuality and could not manage our own lives.
2) That probably no human power could have given us freedom from homosexuality.
3) That God could and would if God were sought.”
[Material from How It Works to this point adapted from the third edition of Alcoholics Anonymous, (New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1976), pp. 58-60. Used and adapted with permission.]
Either the moderator or one of the group members (asked ahead of time) leads the group in opening prayer.
Each member is asked to introduce himself/herself using first name only. An icebreaker may be involved in the introduction. For example: “Give your first name and what quality you most treasure in a friend.” Let the icebreaker be one that does not require a lengthy answer.
If new members are present, senior members may tell of what led them to face their homosexuality, how God led them to H.A., how they have grown so far or what qualities they wish to develop. Make the new members aware that they may share some of their own “history”, too, but only if they choose to do so.
If no new members are present, proceed into the step material.
This portion of the meeting should last approximately 20 minutes. The moderator introduces the step guide (very informally…”And now George is going to lead a discussion on Step 10”) and the step guide leads this portion of the meeting in one of several ways.
1) Using the H.A. workbook, Lord, Set Me Free: Each person is encouraged to get their own book [you can download it for free from our homepage www.homosexuals-anonymous.com] and work on it during the week. Those who do not have books are given a Bible, can hear what is said, look up the Scriptures, and take their turn sharing. The step guide reads the written material while the other members read the Scriptures given in turn. People share their thoughts and feelings when the personal response section is reached.
2) Using the H.A. book, Experience, Strength and Hope: Each person is encouraged to get their own book [you can download it for free from our homepage www.homosexuals-anonymous.com], read the assigned material (usually an entire step) during the week, and answer the questions at the end of each section. The step guide shares his own answers to these questions and asks others who want to share theirs to do so. People share their thoughts and feelings as the discussion proceeds.
3) Using helpful resources (tapes, books, articles, audio-CD’s, DVD’s etc.). The step guide brings the tape and tape recorder (or the book, laptop, TV set or whatever else is needed), plays one message per week, and people share their thoughts and feelings during the discussion time.
4) Having the step guide give a short step talk: We recommend this only after using the suggestions given above so that the step talks will be given by people with some experience in working the program. See How to Make a Step Talk Real below.
The step guide might open this discussion by asking, “How did this teaching affect you?” This leads to a discussion of the step. It is not always necessary to focus on the step. In addition, there may be discussion on growth and struggle, on any other step, or attention may be turned to a hurting individual, allowing the group to minister to and support that individual. Remember, we cannot “fix” another person and it is impossible to meet all the needs of everyone at every meeting!
The step guide gives the meeting back to the moderator. Announcements regarding H.A. activities (socials, special meetings, Bible studies, updates, etc.) can now be made.
Each Homosexuals Anonymous chapter is funded solely by contributions from members. A collection plate can be placed in the middle of the circle or passed around the circle to allow members to contribute.
Variations of prayer are encouraged: group prayer, sentence prayer, selected individuals, or only one person praying. The moderator, when requesting someone to pray, should do so before the meeting starts. Not all persons feel comfortable with public prayer and may be embarrassed if asked without foreknowledge.
A spiritual song is a good, positive way to end the meeting. The song should be one everyone knows or can easily learn. Examples: “He Is Lord,” the “Doxology”, “Amazing Grace,” or Scripture songs/choruses.
An H.A. meeting should last no longer than one and one-half hours.
HOW TO MAKE A STEP TALK REAL
If someone could show you how to help a struggling person snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, would you be interested? If someone could tell you how to help a despairing person find real comfort and new hope, would you be interested? If so, read on!
England’s most powerful weapon during World War II was Winston Churchill. When he spoke, men and women took heart and fought on to victory. In like manner, a step talk that is real encourages people to continue their struggle until they find freedom in Christ. But how does one make a step talk real?
1. Make It Biblical.
Prepare a step talk like you would build a house. Without a good foundation, all is vain. The foundation of a good step talk is the written Word of God (the Bible) and the living Word of God (the Savior)--the book from God, who cannot lie, and the Son of God, who is truth incarnate (II Timothy 3:16,17; Titus 1:2; John 14:6). Christ and the Bible will never deceive us or cause us to deceive others.
People can misunderstand and misinterpret experiences. What we think or believe may be an illusion. It is only as we are true to Christ and the Bible that we are in touch with true reality. Our Lord Himself prayed to His Father on the night before He was crucified: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17).
So, see that your step talk is true to the Bible. If you are unsure whether what you are preparing is in accord with Scripture, ask help from someone who really knows God’s Word. A step talk that is real is not based on “I think” or “I feel” but “thus saith the Lord!”
The Bible not only grounds a step talk in reality, it gives it power. The Word of God “is full of living power: it is sharper than the sharpest dagger, cutting swift and deep into our innermost thoughts and desires with all their parts, exposing us for what we really are” (Hebrews 4:12 The Living Bible).
Once you develop a step talk, show that it is true to the Bible. Every man and woman who listens will face painful struggles. Put the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, into their hands that they may resist the devil so he will flee from them as he fled from Christ (Ephesians 6:17, James 4:7, Matthew 4:1-11).
This does not mean a step talk should be a chain of Bible verses. Use enough verses to show that what you are saying is biblical, but no more. Try to leave hearers with one key verse on which to stand in the coming week. If you do not know where to find verses on the step, refer to the H.A. workbook, Lord, Set Me Free or look up the step’s key words in a concordance or use a topical Bible which arranges key verses by themes. Both can be purchased from H.A.F.S. or your local Christian book store. Even better, start a notebook listing the Fourteen Steps and put key verses you have found in your Bible study under the appropriate step. Then note the step number next to the verse in the margin of your Bible.
2. Make It Personal.
Ralph Waldo Emerson complained, “I once heard a preacher who sorely tempted me to say I would go to church no more…. A snow storm was falling around us. The snow storm was real, but the preacher merely spectral, and the eye felt that sad contrast in looking at him, and then out of the window behind him into the beautiful meteor of the snow. He had lived in vain. He had not one word intimating that he had laughed or wept, was married or in love, had been commended, or cheated, or chagrined. If he had ever lived and acted, we were none the wiser for it…. The true preacher can be known by this, that he deals out to the people his life—life passed through the fire of thought.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The Divinity School Address,” (1838), The Heart of Emerson’s Essays: Selections from His Complete Works edited by Bliss Perry, (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1933), p. 87]
To open one’s life to others can be difficult because often we are not used to being open. We fear being vulnerable, or we are ashamed and afraid. We must display our wounds if we would heal others. We must choose others’ welfare over our comfort.
Share victories! They give hope and show how we win. To avoid giving way to pride or letting false modesty silence us, give God the glory (John 15:5).
Share defeats! They help the one who has fallen see God’s mercy and show others what to avoid. Reject the excuse that others won’t understand or will be hurt. They understand all too well and can be helped. Be honest.
Share what the group needs! What others need to hear, not what we want to say, determines the message. If a group is discouraged, share things that will lift it up. If people are complacent, share things that will warn of danger (I Corinthians 10:12,13).
3. Make It Simple.
It is easier to be complex than to be clear. To be clear: Have an outline, gather your material, prepare your conclusion, and write your introduction.
Always have an outline! It keeps you on track and helps your hearers follow you. Scripture is the foundation of your step talk “house” and an outline is its frame.
Let the step determine the outline. For example, Step 6 might be outlined as follows:
I. What We Are – heterosexual.
II. What We Need – to rediscover it; it has been lost.
III. How We Do That
A. Through Christ
B. By Faith
Sometimes one must go beyond the step. Never leave your hearers in despair when you expound their powerlessness in Step 1. Always point to the help available through God and His people. The lie renounced in Step 5 should never be considered apart from the truth embraced in Step 6. At times, motivation to work the step should be included. Thus, Step 8 might be outlined as follows:
I. Who Can Do It – those who are forgiven, free from condemnation.
II. What Must Be Done – root out:
B. Hidden hostility
C. Contempt for the world
III. How We Do It – searching and fearless moral inventory – journal.
IV. Why We Must Do It – for God, family, job, respect, sanity
Once you have written an outline, gather materials—an explanation of the step and your illustrations.
The Bible is the foundation of your step talk “house” and the outline is the framing. The walls are our explanation and the illustrations are the windows which let in the light.
You can get material for your step talk from many sources. The H.A. workbook, Lord, Set Me Free, and Experience, Strength and Hope contain a wealth of material. Save your copies of the H.A. News and make a list of material on each step and keep it in your workbook.
The Bible is full of helpful material. Consider the life of Abraham (see Genesis 12:1-22:18; Romans 4:18-25; Hebrews 11:8-12, 17-19) as an example of the faith life. Abraham believed what God said even though it was contrary to all human expectation. He demonstrated his faith by doing what God told him to do. He had to wait twenty-five years before the promise of a son was fulfilled. His faith sometimes wavered during that period, but he always got back up and kept on walking with God. God’s promise was fulfilled. Abraham’s faith was further tested when he was told to sacrifice Isaac. He was strong in faith and God kept His Word! Isaac lived!
Your own journals are a rich vein to mine. Use the experiences of others with their permission and in a way which will not embarrass. Keep a step file and note helpful material from your own reading. I’ve noted this under Step 1: Michael Jeter, a character actor best known for his role on the TV show Evening Shade, has always been open in discussing his years of drug and alcohol abuse. He says, “I didn’t cure myself,… God did. The only thing I ever did was get deeper into it, and when I finally decided to accept that I could do nothing on my own, I found my way out. I did become active with a recovery program. With the help of the group, I put one foot in from of the other and, well, it’s been 12 years now…” [TV Host Weekly, (August 7-13, 1993), p.47]
Having prepared the body of the talk, turn to its conclusion. Be sure to reach it quickly! Franklin D. Roosevelt suggested three rules for speechmaking: “Be sincere, be brief, be seated.” [Reader’s Digest (June 1986), p. 148] A good step talk is no longer than twenty minutes!
A conclusion can summarize your message. You might conclude Step 4 like this: “Thus we can see WHAT HAS HAPPENED: the power of homosexuality has been broken at the cross; WHAT MUST HAPPEN: we must believe that; and WHAT WILL HAPPEN: our true personhood will be restored.
A conclusion can also crystalize your talk. Step 5 might be concluded with this quotation from psychoanalysts Mildred Newman and Bernard Berkowitz: “Analysts once thought they had little chance of changing homosexuals’ preferences and had little success in that direction. But some refused to accept that and kept working with them, and we’ve found that a homosexual who really wants to change has a good chance of doing so. Now we’re hearing all kinds of success stories.” [Mildred Newman, Bernard Berkowitz and Jean Owen, How To Be Your Own Best Friend. (New York: Lark Publishing Company, 1971), p. 22-23]
You can also use a conclusion to activate your hearers by clearly telling them what to do and how to do it and/or to motivate them to work the step.
Finally, prepare the introduction. The first reaction of an audience to a speaker is “Ho Hum!” The introduction must awaken them or they will not hear anything you have to say.
One way to get your listeners’ attention is to shock them! You might say, “Some of us are going to die of AIDS…unless…” Another approach is to show them how important this step can be in their daily lives and search for freedom. If it has been especially meaningful to you, tell them how it has helped. Let them know this is not dull theory but life-changing truth.
4. Make It Practical.
Picture the people in your H.A. chapter. There’s Fred. His family just found out about his struggle and are rejecting him. How can you comfort him? And Bill just had a fall. What will encourage him to get back up and fight on? There’s Tom. He’s so lonely. How can you show him how to develop friendships that will safeguard him from seeking destructive companionship? Joe is really depressed. What will lift his spirits and help him banish self-pity? And Sue is the only woman in the group. What will help her feel at ease?
With these folk in your mind and heart, find God’s medicine for their hurts. Give them a clear method by which to attack their struggles. Give suggestions about what to do and instruction on how to do it. Don’t promise it will be easy but show that it is possible. Instruct minds, lift spirits, and strengthen wills.
5. Make It Vital.
A circuit rider of the last century was asked the secret of his power. He replied: “It’s simple. I read myself full. I think myself clear. I pray myself hot. And then I let go.” [William Norwood, Speech: It’s Techniques and Disciplines in a Free Society second edition, (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1961), p. 38]
Prayer makes a step talk live! “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6b). “…Without me ye can do nothing” but “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (John 15:5b; Philippians 4:13). “Call unto me,” says the Lord, “and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:3).
God never regards work without prayer and He never rewards a faith that will not work! Sloth is sin (Proverbs 6:6-9) and we cannot expect God to bless laziness. Prayer must be joined by preparation and practice.
Practice in front of a mirror with a tape recorder. Watch how you look and listen to how you sound. Speak as if talking to a few friends. Be sure there is variety in your pitch, volume, and speed. Do not read or try to memorize your talk. Use only a few notes. Practice until you know and can deliver your talk comfortably. Then practice with a sympathetic friend and ask for suggestions. When you have done all this, pray more!
As you think about your step talk, keep these words of Marlele LeFever in mind: “Becoming an effective teacher is simple. You just prepare and prepare until drops of blood appear on your forehead.” [Leadership, (Summer 1987, p. 19]
H.A. Business Meeting
The business meeting is a gathering of H.A. members, separate from the regular H.A. meeting, which allows for the discussion of business necessary for the management and operation of the chapter (format of chapter meetings, methods of advertising, plans for special events, treasurer’s report, the nomination and election of officers, etc.). It is best scheduled immediately following the adjournment of a regular H.A. meeting, convening once a month if needed. The business meeting need not be formal or lengthy. Most business can be taken care of in one-half hour.
Any H.A. member can call for a business meeting. However, the coordinator is responsible for scheduling regular business meetings (in conjunction with the wishes of the group as a whole) and acts as the chairperson of the meeting. If the coordinator cannot attend the business meeting, an alternate chairperson should be selected by the chairperson or the members. While the business meeting is separate from the regular H.A. meeting, the principles of the 14 Steps and the 12 Traditions still apply.
(Taken from the "HOMOSEXUALS ANONYMOUS POLICY AND ADVISORY MANUAL")