Many AA meetings are desolate places. The sharing can veer between confession, venting, and emotional exhibitionism. The atmosphere is gloomy, and there is little talk of hope, faith, progress, the victory or transcendence over problems, the all-powerfulness of God, and the promises of AA coming true. There is a grim resignation to "life on life's terms" and comfort and relief in discovering other people are miserable, too, as this alleviates guilt.
There are of course many exceptions, too, and many 'in-between' meetings, and individual groups can vary hugely in their atmosphere from week to week.
When I was struck sober in 1993, there were about 550 AA meetings in London. Now, there are 700 or so meetings. That's only a modest increase, and the meetings themselves are barely any larger.
It is rare to see someone with 18 years' or more sobriety in an AA meeting in London. Consequently, the people filling the rooms in 1993 are largely not attending AA any more. Some have died of old age, sober. Many did not follow the programme and got drunk and are now still drinking, dead, or institutionalised. Some now live elsewhere. Some have found other ways of successfully staying sober.
The remainder are those who were AA success stories (worked the Steps, were transformed, developed full, healthy lives) but who no longer attend AA or barely attend.
There should be leaders in AA, according to our Traditions. Our leaders, obviously, are not leaders in the sense of being directors but are, instead, trusted servants. Our role is to make a contribution and lead largely by example, acting also as the guardrails or early warning systems when a breach of the Traditions or Concepts threatens.
It is this element which is often sadly lacking.
AA provided me with a structure in which I built a big, successful life.
I owe a massive debt to AA, and it is my number one responsibility to ensure that everything that has been given to me is passed on constantly and as widely as possible.
I go to at least five AA meetings a week and have service assignments at two, currently. I am an active participant in each of these meetings, and see it as my primary purpose to carry the message that was carried to me, and to reach out constantly to people in trouble, whether they are new or have been around for a long time.
There is no merit in this: it is a simple moral requirement. There is no more merit in this than in paying taxes or refraining from stealing.
There is also a massive shortage of strong sponsors. There are many people with ten to thirty years' sobriety and plenty of experience with the Steps who do not sponsor or sponsor just a couple of people. Women, in particular, find it difficult to find sponsors. I sponsor a number of women who asked up to a dozen 'long-timer' women to sponsor them but were turned down by every one for various not entirely compelling reasons. The slack is mostly taken up by members with two to five years, many of whom have a large number of sponsees and are successfully trusting God to guide them in managing the workload while maintaining their own lives.
I can think of only two women with more than ten years' of sobriety who regularly attend ANY of the five groups I regularly attend, and some of these meetings are substantial.
There is no excuse here:
(1) A few hours a week does not detract from the rest of one's life, and the release of energy and inspiration which flow from this work typically make the remaining hours far more productive. God will always show you how to grow in understanding and effectiveness—artificially imposed limits on God's power are borne of a self-fulfilling fear. Say 'yes', and let God show you how to follow through.
(2) Yes, newer people need to be given responsibility, but not without leadership by example in situ.
(3) Yes, some groups are grim. But why would they not be if people who do have a strong programme stay away or nod off at the back? The non-attendance or non-participation of long-timers is the reason for this, not the consequence.
(4) Yes, you may no longer "need" meetings in the sense of needing to get something FROM them; but there is a need to give something TO them. If this shift in need is not observed and acted in accordance with, a great disservice is done to you as much as to AA.
(5) Yes, your ten-man early morning Big Book study may be cosy, but who are you reaching? Where is the firing line? Where are the trenches? We carry the message TO those who are suffering.
I'm going to be a little coarse here: get off your complacent butts and make AA the cheer-leading rally for the power of God that it was intended to be. WE are responsible for how AA is, and are equally responsible for seeing the vision of God's will for how it COULD be.