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Ask the Patriarch 275
Organizing a local meeting

from: Kristen K

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It may or may not be a random question. I'm interested in establishing a location in my area, if that's acceptable, but would need guidance.

Thank you.

The Patriarch replies:


You do have my support for anything you establish, but as to advice on how to proceed - I'm afraid this is an area in which I have no experience. It's just a personal quirk - I'm not all that comfortable in meetings and tend to avoid them if possible.

Perhaps by posting your question here, we can get some ideas from others on setting up a local group. Pending that I'll just ramble on a bit.

I did answer a similar question a while back in Ask the Patriarch 264: How do I start my own church? and this is really just an expansion on that.

Focus: My thinking is that you would stand a better chance of getting a group going if you take a broad focus rather than narrow, particularly in a small city. Rather than just Apathetic Agnostics, be open to agnostics, atheists, skeptics, freethinkers, humanists, and non-religious. Provided you include at least some of these additional classifications, there are national and state skeptic, freethinker, and humanist organizations which can probably provide you with better organizational advice than I can.

Style of meeting: Options are from unstructured (coffee shop / drinking spot gatherings) to highly organized (formal meetings with agendas and guest speakers.)  In part, the level of interest you find in the community will probably dictate meeting style.

Purpose: Why are you having these meetings? Perhaps a discussion group to discuss a book or article once a week or once a month. Perhaps to agitate about local breaches of church-state separation or other local issues. Perhaps to provide mutual support for non-believers who have thought themselves alone in a religious society.

Audience: I think you have a local community college and about half an hour away, there is a university campus. If they don't already have groups, then this is a good target audience - young people with (hopefully) enquiring minds.

Outreach: How are you going to make people aware of your group? Put notices in the local college papers, your local newspaper, coffee shop news. I'd suggest you set up an email account strictly for this purpose and invite people to contact you who are interested in being part of such a group. Once you get a reasonable level of interest, you can hold your first meeting - perhaps a "get acquainted" session.

Those are just some considerations which come to my mind - but again, I've had no experience in this. Perhaps we can get some suggestions from others.

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