I was recently in a meeting with some people who were dreaming about the future of the Church. We were giving voice to the hopes and dreams that we have for the kind of community we long to be.
One young woman shared a recent experience she had at a Twelve Step meeting. A good friend was celebrating one year of sobriety and asked her to attend the celebration. The experience was enlightening and revealed a number of dynamics that she longs for in her faith community.
Her observations captured my imagination. Since then I’ve had several conversations with those who have more experience with Twelve Step meetings than I do. While no group is perfect, the following is a list of characteristics that mark many thriving Twelve Step groups:
- Radically inclusive…young, old, rich, poor, black, white, brown. Everyone is welcome.
- Radically non-judgmental…everyone is so aware of their own brokenness that they don’t have the time or energy to point the finger at anyone else
- Clarity of purpose…participants know why they’re there and they are desperate to get to it. They aren’t interested in trying to be all things to all people
- Profound vulnerability…from their very introduction they reveal who and what they are…broken and bound people seeking wholeness and healing
- Desperate need…they come aware that this group stands between life and death…literally
- Transformative experience…their connection with the group has changed them in profound ways, helping them to find freedom from addiction
- Excellent boundaries…no one is trying to fix anyone else
- Relationally grounded…you get a sponsor who walks the journey with you
- High accountability…people are challenged to walk the talk, and are regularly called on their stinkin’ thinkin’
- Interdependence…people are well aware that they cannot “win” alone and without help
- Clear process…the Twelve Steps are there for everyone to walk
- People marketing…they rely upon word of mouth, not slick marketing or website savvy
- They own no buildings, have little budget and survive on bad coffee. ‘Nuff said.
Look at your own faith community through these lenses and what do you see?
What hopes and dreams do you have for the kind of community you long to be?