Margaret Ann Paxton
Lexington VA USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 38 No. 6, December 2002 - January 2003, pp. 132-33.
The Leader's Handbook gives us some guidelines based on the attendance at our meetings, Group resources, and Leaders. If meetings have more than 15 to 20 in attendance, it is often difficult for mothers to hear, much less contribute to the meetings. So, for some Groups, the first step is to start another set of Series Meetings to spread out attendees among two or more meetings, if the Group's Leaders are sufficient in energy and number. Sometimes, that's as far as it gets. The structure is still only one Group, but it holds several regular Series Meetings, and possibly a few "specialty" meetings every month.
Although this arrangement can work for some, the benefits of making the split official often outweigh the costs. Many of the issues under discussion here apply to any Group thinking of splitting, but to make the discussion easier, the term "superGroup" refers to a very large Group with lots of Leaders, Leader Applicants, and members holding two or more Series Meetings per month.
Areas, Divisions, and Affiliates have their own guidelines for how and when to split. Here in Virginia/West Virginia, USA we tend to encourage Groups to split officially because it benefits the organization and, often, the Leaders. That being said, if things are working well, we let it go with just a suggestion to split and a discussion of the pros and cons.
First of all, an official split will mean more Listed Leaders. Although a Group is running several meetings, only one Leader among them is sent the Listed Leader correspondence (invoices, New Beginnings for the Group, etc.). The Listed Leader must share that correspondence with many more Leaders than usual, some of whom she may not see regularly.
Splitting helps to keep an Area's support team from being overworked. SuperGroups camouflage the true number of Groups being supported. For example, one superGroup running three sets of regular Series Meetings, and perhaps an occasional Toddler or Couples Meeting, often needs the support of three Groups. If every District had only one of these superGroups, and there are 12 Districts in the Area, that could translate into 24 additional "normal" sized Groups than are represented.
By not being a separate Group, these superGroups do not pay dues to the Area, Division, Affiliate, or LLLI. This appears to be a benefit to both splitting and staying together, so it bears investigating. The main or original Group pays one set of dues. But, paying less also means getting less. Taking the above hypothetically, that could be 24 sets of Group dues that the the Area, Division, Affiliate or LLLI won't get, meaning that your Area and LLLI or Affiliate have fewer funds with which to support Leaders. Admittedly, these issues can be worked out so that the Area and LLLI or Affiliate get the input they should to support such a large number of Leaders. Additional subscriptions to New Beginnings can be bought for the extra meetings and adjustments to District sizes can be made.
Money and resource issues don't stop there, however. By splitting, each former meeting/Group could carry its own account balance with LLLI. In ordering, each Group has a credit limit of $250 (US) upon start-up. If a superGroup with two extra meeting/Groups splits into three Groups, the new Groups could each have their own line of credit as well as additional start-up funds and other benefits. In our Area, we give a dollar amount to each new Group to open its Treasury and get some basic supplies. If split, each "new" Group would get this benefit from us, as well as its own subscription to New Beginnings, and in the Group starter kit from LLLI.
Splitting may ease accounting and inventory issues while keeping Group jobs more mother-sized. It can be difficult enough to keep the Treasury for one Group having only to oversee the transactions at one meeting a month. Consider having to handle or record and report on transactions for two or three meetings a month. What happens when the "Groups" compete, as in World Walk promotions or at Conferences? Does each meeting/Group function as a separate Group at that time, or do they pool their efforts? How is a reward (a book, a free registration at a Conference) divided among them? Depending on how this is done, it could be unfair to the more "normal" sized Groups or create friction among the different meeting/Groups. On the other hand, with one large Treasury it is easier to share income and spread out costs through bulk buying.
If there is one, huge, central Library then it must be shuttled between meetings. Some superGroups have separate Libraries for each meeting/Group with emphasis on its participants' particular concerns. For example, an evening subGroup's Library might be more working-mother oriented. That way the books could be distributed among the subGroups by subject—to a certain extent. However, if a Library is divided, which subGroup actually owns the books—the "original" Group? Does a central Treasury absorb the loss when materials go missing? Are the lending policies the same for all the subGroups? The potential for conflicting interests exists. Is there one Librarian who goes to every meeting, or several Librarians—one per meeting/Group?
Very large superGroups could have Leader rosters that make Leader and/or Planning Meetings too large to be manageable. With fewer Leaders it is more likely each of the Leaders will be present and have her views count. Also, with fewer Leaders, there may be more agreement on how the Group should be run and how resources are allocated—resulting in greater ease in achieving consensus in decision-making. However, differences among a large group of Leaders allow them to respect differences among themselves and gives Leaders opportunities to learn from others who don't think (or act) just as they do. The down side is less Leader-to-Leader support and camaraderie. However, becoming part of a Chapter could provide this along with the opportunity to buy in bulk.
Communication between Leaders isn't the only thing that might be easier. How does one refer to these entities when they are only part of one official Group? For this article, the terms superGroup and meeting/Group or subGroup have been used, although that wouldn't work when writing for the general public. Certainly this isn't a major problem, but it's confusing. On the other hand, all meetings and Leaders can be publicized on one brochure for the superGroup.
Another benefit to splitting is autonomy. Each meeting/Group's mothers and Leaders have more input and control over how their Group would work. Mothers and their needs can vary quite significantly depending on the area of town and the day and time of the meeting. Being the Leader of an independent Group provides the autonomy and ability to cater to the needs of their Group.
On a more personal level, providing support to individual mothers may be easier in a smaller Group. While of course, Leaders take calls from mothers who are strangers, the point of having meetings is that mothers have the opportunity to support each other and Leaders get to know mothers. If a Leader in a superGroup leads only one of its meeting/Groups, she is not functioning as a Group Leader for the mothers who attend the other meeting/Groups. She is only a name and number on a flyer to them and they may hesitate to call.
All in all, the question remains, "If a Group is large enough and has the resources to split, why not make it official and enjoy the benefits of being separate ‘official' Groups?" Only the Leaders involved can answer that question. It is hoped that they will consider the benefits to themselves, the mothers, their District, Area, Division, Affiliate and LLLI when making their decision.
Margaret Ann Paxton has been a Leader for 13 years. She is currently the Area Coordinator of Leaders for LLL of Virginia/West Virginia, USA and has been a District Advisor for five years. : "She and her husband, Matt, have two daughters: Ann Courtney, 20; and Sarah, 14. Brandel Falk is the Contributing Editor for this column. Send articles or ideas to Brandel at Pal-Yam 34, Tsameret Ha-Bira, Jerusalem, ISRAEL or ImaBDF at inter.net.il (email).