HOW TO GROW A CHAPTER
Many who think about starting a chapter get discouraged because they have unrealistic expectations. They believe that people will flock to the chapter as soon as they get a phone number and meeting place.
This is unrealistic. Chapters are not like weeds! They do not grow themselves. They require careful cultivation and much work if they are to grow and not die!
Why so much work?
A chapter must let struggling people know they’re there. Once people come, they must replace drop outs. AA gives terrific help to alcoholics, but “AA’s own surveys suggest that about half of those who come to the program are gone within three months.” [“Does Therapy Help?”, Customer Reports, (November 1995), p. 738]
Others who minister to those who struggle with homosexuality say it’s tough work. Mary Heathman, Director of “Where Grace Abounds” in Denver writes, we “often find ourselves grieving together over the fact of so many dropouts and so few overcomers. In ministering, we sometimes expend what seems like five hundred pounds of effort for an ounce of result. The temptation to give up is familiar to us.” [Where Grace Abounds Newsletter, (December 1994), p. 1]
When you face that temptation, remember, “Faith is worth nothing until it disregards the Failure around us and rejoices in the Faithfulness above us.” [Vance Havner, Day By Day, (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1953), p. 150]
That brings us to the main reason for difficulties. They are part of our recovery process. Many of us are weak in faith and easily discouraged. “Our Lord did not rebuke His disciples for making mistakes, but for not having faith.” [Oswald Chambers, The Love of God, (Grand Rapids: Discovery House Publishers, 1985), p. 116] God lets us face difficulties so we may see where faith is weak and have it strengthened.
Further, some of us are downright lazy! And sloth is serious sin (see Proverbs 6:9; 15:19; 20:4; 26:16; Matthew 25:26; Romans 12:11; Hebrews 6:12)! God allows difficulties to produce endurance and character in our lives so we may grow up into Christ (see Romans 5:3,4; 8:29). “He who serves God with what costs him nothing will do very little service, you may depend on it.” [Susan Warner in The New Quotable Woman edited by Elaine Partnow, (New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1992), p. 189]
What should I do?
Provide a balanced program. Allow 20-30 minutes for instruction from the HA workbook, Lord, Set Me Free!, and 45+ minutes for sharing. Too much sharing leaves folks without the truth they need to recover; too much instruction leaves them feeling not understood and lacking the opportunity to profit from the experience, strength and hope of others.
Use the HA workbook! Urge folk to work through several questions during the week, review what they have learned and discuss how to put it into practice. Consider this order we recently received. “Our group is growing ever so fast. Thanks to your book, Lord, Set Me Free!, we are advancing and expanding at an unexpected, yet glorious rate. We need a.s.a.p. six more Lord, Set Me Free!, four of which we have already promised to new people.”
Provide challenges for those who have worked the workbook (filled in all the blanks and completed the assignments). Urge those who have made progress to serve as people newcomers can call when their struggles are difficult and as step coaches. [The HA Brochure The Step Coach and directions in the workbook give them the instruction they need.] Provide auxiliary meetings (see the Policy and Advisory Manual) where they can focus on problem areas in their life and continue growing while coming to the step meetings to help newcomers. Remind them that they can still profit from the support they get from the chapter and its members.
Show that you care about each member. Call those who miss a meeting as long as such calls seem welcome. Try to send birthday and Christmas cards to your members at appropriate times.
Get the word out that your chapter is there to help men and women seeking freedom from homosexuality. Write letters every other year to churches and counselors in your area who can refer hurting people to you. They need to be reminded that you are still available. Place an inexpensive classified ad in your local newspaper on a regular basis. Urge members to think of folk they know who are struggling, to pray for them and to invite them to come for help. Approach local radio stations with public service announcements and ask if they will run them. [Sample letters, newspaper stories and public service announcements are found in the Policy and Advisory Manual]
Pray and wait! “Ye have not, because ye ask not” (James 4:2b). Remember that it is faithful, persevering prayer that God has promised to answer (see James 1:6-8; Luke 11:1-13; 18:1-8). Beware of despising “the day of small things” (Zechariah 4:10), and hang in there (claim Galatians 6:9)!
Consider these experiences. “I began a meeting (for heterosexual sex addicts) in my city. For the first year, I often sat alone in a church meeting room waiting for another person to show up. Many came and went, but eventually one other person stayed and the meeting grew.” [Burt Schneider in Jennifer P. Schneider and Burt Schneider, Sex, Lies, and Forgiveness: Couples Speaking Out On Healing From Sex Addiction, (New York:HarperCollins Publishers, 1990).
A couple starting a Christian group for people who struggle with addictions of all kinds “announced the O. O. group in their church, and just the two of them showed up every week for seven months before God rewarded their diligent efforts. Now tjey sometimes have as many as 40 attenders!” [Bob and Pauline Bartosch, “On the Road Again,“ The Bridge: The Newsletter for Overcomers Outreach, (Spring 1995). p. 2]
“The American Board established a mission among one of the many tribes of India. And for years and years the missionaries labored without result. Ten, twenty years passed, and no convert was made, and by and by this mission came to be known throughout the States as the Lone Star Mission. The Board at home took the case of the mission into consideration. Many thought it ought to be abandoned. They determined at last to write, and ask the missionaries in this trying field what they thought ought to be done. This was the reply that came back to the Board: ‘We are going on. With God nothing is impossible.’ Not long after their faith was abundantly justified. The blessing came. Thousands upon thousands accepted Christ; five thousand were baptized in one year, and the Lone Star Mission is quoted now, not as an example of missionary failure, but as a shining illustration of the triumph of faith.” [J. D. Jones, Commentary on Mark, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1914), p. 232]
And then remember this. George Morrison says the praise of Christ goes “to those who, through headache and through heartache, quietly and doggedly do their appointed bit…. It is not, ‘Well done, thou good and brilliant servant,’ else there would be little hope for millions. It is, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” [The Gateways of the Stars, (New York: Richard R. Smith, Inc., 1931), p. 43] “The world crowns success; God crowns faithfulness.”