14 Ways How to Start an H.A. Chapter
Edward Madara, executive director of the New Jersey Self-Help Clearinghouse has said, “A self-help group can be started by anyone with a bit of courage, a sense of commitment, and a good dose of caring.” [Joal Fischer, Power Tools: Ways To Build a Self-Help Group, (Charlotte, NC: SupportWorks, 1992), p. 8] Here are 14 steps to show you how to start an H.A. Chapter. Don’t try to take them all at once. One step at a time! You’ll be amazed how easy it can be.
1. GATHER BASIC INFORMATION: Order the H.A. video, the H.A. workbook, Lord, Set Me Free; Experience, Strength and Hope, a Policy and Advisory Manual; and Power Tools: Ways To Build a Self-Help Group. These will give you a good introduction to the philosophy and principles of H.A. WE STRONGLY URGE you to attend the first possible H.A. Training seminar and to encourage those in your chapter who have leadership potential to attend with you. It will make a tremendous difference in your chapter.
2. SEEK GOD’S GUIDANCE: Begin to seriously ask God, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6b). If you come to believe God would have you start an H.A. chapter, commit yourself to faithfully fulfill this calling. Scripture says, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:58). You will face times of discouragement, so promise God that by His grace nothing will stop you till the job is done! “…The Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you… But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing” (II Thessalonians 3:3,13).
3. BUILD A SUPPORT SYSTEM: Newcomers in an H.A. chapter are usually unable to give others support. They’re looking for help. What about your needs? Seek out a pastor, counselor, or friends with whom you can share your struggles. Tell them your plans and ask if they will be available to you. Assure them you are not expecting them to solve your problems but are simply looking for good friends who can listen, give practical feedback, and pray. Remember, “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it” (Psalm 127:1). Meet with your support people regularly, share your problems honestly (remembering to protect others’ anonymity), and pray much. When the people in your chapter begin to grow, they will be there for you also.
4. ESTABLISH LINES OF COMMUNICATION: Rent a post office box under the name “H.A. Fellowship” at a post office convenient to your work or home where you can send chapter materials and people can contact you by mail. Decide whether you want to put an unlisted phone in your own name (which is less expensive) or a listed phone with no address given under the name Homosexuals Anonymous (which is more expensive but makes it easy for people seeking help to find you and allows you to be listed in the “Guide To Human Services” section of the phone book, usually through the United Way). Have the phone line installed. Purchase an inexpensive answering machine or use voice mail through the phone company for this line so that people who call when you are not there can leave a message for you, if they wish. A suggested message might be: “Thank you for calling Homosexuals Anonymous, a fellowship of men and women seeking freedom from homosexuality. We cannot answer the phone now, but please leave your first name and telephone number at the sound of the tone and we will call back to you. We will be discreet and your confidentiality will be respected. If you cannot leave your name and number, someone will be here to speak to you in person on (day) between (time) and (time). God bless you in your struggles.” Give H.A.F.S. your chapter’s mailing address. Be sure H.A.F.S. has your personal address and phone number in case we need to contact you directly.
5. FIND A MEETING PLACE: Your pastor or someone in your support system may be able to contact local churches, hospitals, YMCA’s, and YWCA’s as possibilities. Where do Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, Al-Anon, or Adult Children of Alcoholics groups meet in your area? These places may be open to you also. When you have found a suitable place, determine the rent (if any) and set a time and date for your first meeting.
6. ORDER GROUP MATERIALS
7. REQUEST H.A. NEWSLETTER COVERAGE: Ask H.A.F.S. to run a story in the H.A. News to inform people in your area that a chapter is starting and urge them to contact you if they need help or can give assistance. We will also ask our readers from other areas to contact people they think might be interested and urge them to contact you.
8. ADVERTISE: While we believe in attraction rather than promotion, we also know we will not be able to attract people to a program of which they’ve never heard. We must get the word out in every proper way possible that there is hope and help in the struggle against homosexuality. Some forms of advertising cost little or nothing. You will find sample news releases for your local paper and sample public service announcements for radio and television in the section of this manual entitled “Advertising and the local H.A. Chapter”. Your newspaper may also list support group meetings periodically. Ask to be included. Bulletin boards in churches, Christian bookstores, and colleges and universities are good places to use posters someone with artistic gifts in your group can make. If you have the funds, advertise in the classified section of the newspaper with something like this: “HELP FOR HOMOSEXUALS: The (name) Chapter of Homosexuals Anonymous, a support group for those who wish to find freedom from homosexuality, holds weekly meetings in the (city name) area. Call (phone number).” To be effective, these ads should run on a continuous basis (daily, if a daily paper).
9. HOLD YOUR FIRST MEETING: Follow the format explained in the section of this manual entitled “H.A. Meeting Format”. Give an H.A. brochure and explain the New Members Card to all who attend. Urge all who come to commit themselves to attend for six weeks without missing so they can get to know the program and people and make an intelligent decision as to whether or not the group might be helpful for them. Show them your copies of the materials they can receive from us as well as the books they can purchase. Again, urge them to get the newsletter and to order their own workbook, copy of Experience, Strength and Hope, and the HA daily devotional. Don’t expect everyone to keep coming. Every anonymous group of whatever kind has its drop outs. Don’t hold yourself responsible for anyone else’s decision. If you feel discouraged should only a few come, remember God’s rebuke to Israel for despising “the day of small things” (Zechariah 4:10). If no one else comes at first, hold the meeting every week even if you have to work the steps alone! “And let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9. Be patient! You can expect more people and better meetings as the group matures.
10. SEEK REFERRALS: Contact people who might know men and women who want help. Send letters (samples are given in this manual in the section entitled “Advertising and the Local H.A. Chapter”) to local churches, counseling ministries, doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, social service agencies, and hospitals. Include an H.A. brochure. Do not try to contact everyone in one week by yourself. Concentrate on Christian organizations first, then move to secular ones. Get other members to help. Send out five or ten letters per person each week using the phone book and other lists available to you. Contact the United Way’s Information and Referral Service and ask to be registered with them. Also contact the national Self-Help Clearing House, CUNY, 33 West 42nd Street, New York, New York 10036, telephone (212) 642-2944 and the American Self-Help Clearing House, St. Clares-Riverside Medical Center, Denville, NJ 07834, telephone (201) 625-7101, to get the address of any local self-help organizations with which you should register for referrals [please check if the addresses and phone numbers are still up-to-date].
11. ORGANIZE THE CHAPTER’S FINANCES: Money can be a source of dissension so great care and wisdom should be exercised in this area. Keep good records of your expenses and the amount collected at the H.A. meetings. As soon as possible, elect a treasurer and assistant treasurer (see the section in this manual entitled “Local Chapter Officers”) and have them set up a bank account for the chapter (see the section in the manual entitled “Opening an H.A. Bank Account”). Some chapters use the name “He’s Alive Fellowship” to protect their anonymity. Explain the importance of supporting H.A.F.S. and begin doing so regularly as soon as possible (see the section in this manual entitled “The Local H.A. Chapter and H.A. Fellowship services”).
12. HELP CHAPTER MEMBERS UNDERSTAND THEIR PROGRAM: Order enough Policy and Advisory Manuals so that each regular attender may get one. Have an extra meeting to which all members are invited to read and discuss the manual. Evaluate your group in the light of your study. What changes might you want to consider? How can you better get the word out that there is hope and help for the homosexual? What can be done to promote healthy friendships within your chapter? Are people who miss a meeting being contacted and patiently encouraged to return? Are people seeking step coaching and are qualified people willing to serve in that capacity? Are new members made to feel a part of the chapter by being offered responsibilities they can manage (set up refreshments, clean up, etc.)? Selfishness is part of our sickness. If we want our members to recover, they must learn to reach out to others. Without new information and responsibilities, old members grow restless. Be sure to provide challenges for old timers and help for new comers. Consider groups for Bible study, growth classes, and social activities as outlined in the section of this manual entitled “Auxiliary Group Support”.
13. ELECT OFFICERS: When group members begin to show that they are working the steps, making progress in recovery, maturing in their lives, and reaching out to others, elect officers (see the section in this manual entitled “Local Chapter Officers” and “Leadership Qualities”).
14. START NEW CHAPTERS: Experts suggest that “fewer than four members restrict active, variegated group development and interaction; more than eight members create overcrowding on the one hand and too diffuse an emotional atmosphere on the other.” [Toby B. Bieber, “Group Therapy with Homosexuals”, Comprehensive Group Therapy edited by Harold I. Kaplan and Benjamin J. Saddock, (Baltimore: The Williams and Watkins Company, 1971), p- 524]. To maintain a vibrant work, plan for the day when your chapter becomes two groups. Urge your members to attend an H.A. Recovery Seminar and an H.A. Training Seminar to develop the leadership both groups will need. Then people who need extra support will have two meetings they can attend. The fact that each group meets at different times makes it possible for some to attend who could not do so at the time the original meeting was held. H.A. multiplies by dividing and thus can offer more help to more people!
Please remember, you are not alone in this undertaking unless you choose to be! H.A.F.S. is here to help you at every step of the way. We care about you personally and want to help you when you face difficulties. We are not sinless and we do not expect you to be perfect. Keep open and honest. Stay in close touch with us. Let us know how you are doing as well as how the group is progressing. Share questions, problems, ideas, and testimonies. Let us help each other to find ever increasing freedom in Christ!
(From the "Homosexuals Anonymous Policy and Advisory Manual")
What is so special about us?
What is so special about Homosexuals Anonymous (www.homosexuals-anonymous.com) and the Jason ministry (http://jason-online.webs.com) ? What is characteristic for our ministries? In short: We are truly family. In our groups – both local and online – and between the leaders you will find a very warmhearted atmosphere. That does not mean it is not going rough at times, but the brotherly love always takes us through.
In our group meetings we do not simply share own experiences. We follow the concept of Proverbs 27:17: “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)). Especially men need to cheer one another, but also encourage, advise, and support one another. A woman is born a woman – a man has to become a man, and he does so through a lively interaction with other men. That means we want our members to comment on what their brothers (and sisters) did or said – and not just swallow it down as if this is none of their business and as if advise is something bad.
Many of our members stay for a long period of time – others leave early. Recovery does not have a set schedule as the causes for same-sex attractions are many and each member deals with different ones. Our members are free to come back anytime once they leave if they wish to. If a member falls, we do not throw him or her out, we try to help him or her get back on track again by finding out why this happened and how future falls can be prevented.
Decisions among the leaders are being taken in brotherly accord.
Our leaders usually are mature men of faith: Pastors, therapists, Christian counselors and the like.
We see our 14 steps as a tool – one tool among many others. They are NOT the end; they are a means to the end of seeking freedom from same-sex attractions and living a godly life. We are not concentrating on the 14 steps per se in a legalistic manner as if the salvation of the earth depended on them. That is why we include all sorts of tools and resources in our program and are also able to shape it for special groups of people (like Muslims). Many factors contributed to the development of our same-sex attractions and to believe that one single program is good enough for everybody to deal with those factors, that one size fits all, would be a sign of arrogance & pride and thus not helpful for our members. We do not exist for our own sake or to glorify our own name, but the name of Jesus. We also work together with many other groups, organizations & churches – both secular and religious. We offer our help and support to Jews, Muslims, people of other faiths – and no faiths – without compromising our Christian heritage.
We do not ask anything from our members but the will to be free. They do not have to be Christians. However, they should be aware that this is a Christ-centered program and at least be open to work with those parts of the program they feel comfortable with.
There are only a few rules for those participating in our groups: No doctrinal discussions, no insulting of other members, no overly graphic and/or dirty language, no inappropriate behavior among the members.
Our members are encouraged to contribute and share stuff they consider helpful. This stuff does not necessarily have to be related directly to same-sex attractions or the 14 steps. As I already mentioned many biological, social, psychological, emotional & spiritual factors contributed to the development of our same-sex attractions, which in turn means that recovery has to deal with a wider context that includes all those areas as well. Some share songs, others talk or organize leisure activities etc.
We are non-denominational. That means, we do not have to focus on doctrinal questions, on fitting into church policies, on looking good enough from the outside to be “presentable” as part of a church, on not being allowed to use or talk about certain things that would not be in line with our denomination, on getting approval from elders or pastors and so on. All of that would lead us astray from our goal of seeking freedom of same-sex attractions.
Finally: All of our services are for free. That does not mean that what we are doing does not cost us anything. This is why we need to ask for donations. However, nobody that seeks help will have to pay anything for it.
We are here to love and serve people with unwanted same-sex attractions and their loved ones as well as anybody interested in that subject like Christ would. He is our head and our foundation – and Him we follow.
• Pray more
• If the Lord calls you to do that: Congratulations! This is a very rewarding ministry, but also highly responsible and at times stressful.
• Start preparing yourself. There are lots of good resources out there (like the books by Joe Dallas).
• Seek an accountability partner for yourself.
• Ask people from other ex-gay ministries for guidance and support.
• Make sure you have a daily spiritual life of prayer and Bible study.
• Join a local church.
• Get supervision and pastoral care for yourself.
• Make sure to surround yourself with healthy friends and family members who support you.
• Make sure to know your own emotional needs and have them met a healthy way.
• Know yourself. Know your strong and weak points and prepare yourself.
• Get training in Christian counseling or psychotherapy.
• Know the Bible.
• Know your adversary’s arguments and how to contradict them.
• Be sure you can take a strong wind blowing right into your face from now on: Gay activists won’t like what you are doing!
• Have perseverance. There will be times when you will be sitting alone waiting for the support group members or whoever to show up – and they won’t. Don’t give up – people need to be able to rely on the fact that there is a safe haven for them! Also know that you will get to hear some painful stories. Can you take that?
• Make sure to have some fun time in your life, some time to relax.
• Make sure to lead a physically, mentally and spiritually healthy life.
• Set up a plan for your ministry: What is it all about? Which resources do you have? How about finances? Is there a program you can work with? Do you want to offer your services for free or charge money?
• Go online. Set up a homepage, a facebook page and a twitter account. You might even want to offer Skype-meetings.
• Go international.
• Get more people into the boat. It should never become a one-man (or one-woman)-ministry.
• Make contacts with other ministries. We are not out to fight one another, but to co-operate!
• Is your ministry Christian or secular? Even if it is Christian, you should never make it a condition for people to join to be or become Christians themselves. You are out to help people with unwanted same-sex attractions, not to make Christian converts.
• The only condition for people who want to take part in your ministry or seek its help should be the will to be free – and nothing else!
• Times are getting rough. Are you ready to stand up for your ministry – and your faith – whatever might come up? Are you ready for legal – and other – attacks?
• Do you have a heart for people with unwanted same-sex attractions? If you don’t love them like Christ would, don’t even think of starting a ministry!
• Last but not least: It is so much worth it!!
Let’s go back in time: Some years ago, when I joined the online program of Homosexuals Anonymous, an online group was all I had. From there the Lord led me step by step towards freedom – almost like a father dragging his little boy while the latter one is kicking and screaming.
After a while I started regretting very much that there was no local chapter in Munich, Germany. Not a single one in Europe at all. Well, then the thought popped up to found one myself, and while I’m at it, why not just found a whole ministry as well?
The second thought was, “Yea right. Me of all should do such a thing. I must be out of my mind!”
But when the Lord calls you, He calls you with persistence. Father Bill Casey from the Fathers of Mercy would say that a calling sometimes starts with a sort of nagging voice that won’t leave you alone till you yield. Like someone standing behind you sticking his finger in your side while saying, “C’mon, c’mon…”.
Well, it is hard arguing with the big man above, so I started of.
From there my life took off. The ministry was named after a young man that just killed himself: Jason. A man with a strong faith that had unwanted same-sex attractions, but love the Lord more than the gay life, so he stayed on the right path. However, after ongoing insults of church members and unspeakable physical tortures by his peers, he could not stand it anymore and took his own young life.
The Lord who is able to bring good out of trouble saw it fit to awaken a desire in some men’s hearts to support the Jason ministry and spread it to other countries.
Over here in Munich, the local chapter has been meeting each week since 2005 with very few exceptions. I have met wonderful men during that time. The Lord also allowed us to address people through radio and TV shows, by addressing church assemblies, political party conventions – or by talking to concerned parents, pastors, spouses or people with unwanted same-sex attractions.
Sometimes I felt I did not want to do that anymore, but each time the Lord pulled me back to follow my call. Each time I was discouraged, He sent a light – and be it in the smile of someone who sought our help.
Yes, there have been attacks as well, but I could not care less about them. In fact, I pray for those who want us off the surface of the earth.
When I look into the eyes of a mother of a “gay” son that finally found someone who experienced freedom from same-sex attractions and who offers help, support and an open heart, I get more reward than I ever deserve.
Thinking back of the many men I was allowed to serve, my heart if filled with love, joy and deep thankfulness. I love each and every one of them.
Back in 2006, I was invited to a big church in the USA some of whose elders I met over here in Munich. Same story – my first reaction was, “NO WAY!!”. And my same-sex past was just one of my problems. Let’s just say I had been very far away from God until He called me back
But again – I kept on hearing that nagging voice until I finally yielded and flew over. I first spent about a week at that church, addressing the assembly, meeting with single church members and men in ministry of that area, addressing the men’s group – and was so very touched and thankful. The Lord faithfully guided my every step.
I then flew on to Pennsylvania where I attended the international Homosexuals Anonymous conference and got to know Dr. Douglas McIntyre who became a dear friend and is very close to my heart. I have heard few men in my life speaking with so much faith and holy fire than he did. To this day, I still count that time among the best days of my life.
Have I ever regretted starting a chapter – and with it a whole ministry? You got to be kidding me. It was the greatest blessing the Lord ever brought into my life – along with all those wonderful men that I am now honored to be able to call friends.
To cut a long story short: The Lord sets us free for a reason: Go out and spread the message of freedom ourselves!