Alcoholics Anonymous is the largest peer-based support group in the world with a presence in 180 nations. Despite its widespread growth and staying power (AA is nearly a century old!)This organization has no formal ruling body. Instead, the smallest levels of the organization, the AA groups themselves, hold most of the power. They run autonomously with little to no interference from the overall organization except for Alcoholics Anonymous’ core principles, the Twelve Traditions as well as bylaws. With so little governance at the base and top levels, it can leave many wondering who runs AA meetings and how anything gets done.
Alcoholics Anonymous Leadership Roles & Duties: AA Service Structure
Although AA purposefully lacks a formal hierarchy (a decision the founders made in order to prevent corruption of the organization’s initial purpose), that’s not to say that there’s no form of leadership at all. There are multiple leadership roles in AA, all of which are vital to maintaining the structure and functionality of meetings. Tradition Nine specifically speaks on the necessity of leadership to “preserve our spiritual and democratic Fellowship”.
These duties include the running of the meetings themselves (i.e. welcoming new attendees and leading the introductions; selecting the reading and guiding the discussion) as well as the equally important behind-the-scenes operations (i.e. buying and setting up refreshments, securing the meeting space, etc.).
Overseer of the meetings, the chairperson coordinates the other group officers and effectively runs AA meetings. They determine what type of meeting is being held (open or closed), the passages that are read, what the discussion format will be, etc. They also lead the cornerstone aspects of meetings such as reading the Preamble to begin meetings and then closing with the Serenity Prayer.
The secretary is responsible for record-keeping, making announcements, and general upkeep of the groups’ communications. This includes maintaining bulletin boards, newsletters, email/phone contact lists, and taking minutes at business meetings. If an AA group doesn’t have a chairperson, the secretary is the role that usually takes over those duties.
The treasurer allocates group funds (voluntary donations by AA members) to ensure various essential costs are covered such as rent, AA literature, refreshments, and local meeting lists. In addition to covering the bills, they must maintain records of group funds to determine what to do in the case of excess.
Who Decides Who Holds A Position?
The individuals who uptake these responsibilities are regarded as the ‘Trusted Servants’ or officers of the group. The multiple positions are chosen democratically by the group attendees. The eligibility criteria and term lengths are similarly determined by each individual group. Most leader positions involve individuals who have been sober for at least a year and/or have been a member of that group for a while.
These officers are also a great point of contact for prospective AA members and can answer important questions as to the structure of how group meetings are run and what a new attendee can expect. Curious about Alcoholics Anonymous or 12 Step groups in general? Learn more about what they are and how they work, here.