If you have an existing group that would like to become a chapter, or if you would like to form a new group that will be a chapter of the Society from the start, both are welcome! Benefits to your group include recognition and search linking by use of the SNS name, and possible financial support for growth and development (to be determined). In addition, you get all of the support we offer all local groups and become a part of supporting our shared mission!
Before using the SNS name, logos, imagery, or calling your group a chapter, it is necessary to agree to a few extra provisions and to get our permission. All of the advice and ideas for forming a local group apply for starting a chapter as well. In addition, all prospective leaders of Society Chapters should read:
- All pages related to our Local Group Center
- About the Society
- What is Spiritual Naturalism?
- Vision Statement
- and several articles
This way you will be familiar with the flavor and overall direction the Society. For your own sake (so as not to waste your time) as well as ours, please be sure that you are in agreement with our outlook, our purposes, and our approach.
Are we what you are looking for?
If you are looking for a group focused on atheism or religious criticism, or a debate club, or even a group that talks about naturalistic spirituality, but also includes debate and/or religious criticism of other groups, then we are not likely what you are looking for. Our groups do not exist to criticize other religions or the beliefs of others. For these kinds of groups, we recommend the American Humanist Association, the Council for Secular Humanism, or various atheist organizations. If you already have a group of this nature, but would like to associate with us, please consider becoming a partner-organization. These are not local chapters of the Society, but require only compatibility, mutual moral support and link exchanges. But if you have, or are interested in, a group that focuses on compassion, practical spiritual wisdom, and practices for naturalists, then please read on!
Format, Content, and Purposes
Chapters of the Society should have at least one local, face-to-face (offline) event that takes place at least monthly at a regular day and time. It can be any of the types of events listed above, but should be consistent. It should also be one where the overall feel and aim is one of compassionate interaction and friendly fellowship in support of spiritual naturalist practice.
This event should be considered the ‘backbone’ of the local chapter. This may, indeed, be the only activity of a local chapter. Or, should the leadership so choose, additional kinds of gatherings can be added to the schedule, as demand for them appears. These could include completely informal social activities, or they could include services and rituals, community practices such as meditations, and so on.
At some point during all local chapter events we would like you to have some materials about the Spiritual Naturalist Society and its website present, and gently encourage attendees to consider visiting the site and subscribing, maybe even consider membership (though paid membership in the Society should never be required of local chapter attendees, nor any other dues/payments required). Here are links to PDF files you can print out and bring to the group’s events:
- SNS Signup Sheet (please present info given on this sheet to the Society after each event)
- SNS Local Chapter Intro (to be read to the group before beginning the monthly discourse)
- “What is Spiritual Naturalism?” Handout (several copies should be available for attendees to take
We expect all representatives of the Society and all chapter leaders to conduct themselves according to the principles of our organization, which are as follows:
(1) We believe all human beings are equal in their worth and should be given equal opportunity and rights, regardless of their race, sex, gender, ethnicity, nationality, religion, disability, or their sexual orientation or identity. Each individual is deserving of treatment as an individual, based on his or her character and choices, rather than any of these group identities or characteristics.
(2) We believe in treating others as we would be treated. We believe in practicing loving-kindness toward even those who do not return it. We believe universal compassion for all beings and unconditional love is the best answer to our conflicts.
(3) We try not to criticize the beliefs of others, be it in a respectful academic sense or in a bashing or flippant manner. We instead try hard to focus on what we believe and hope that it will help others find happiness, whatever their tradition. We believe being a living example of our values is a better way to spread them than criticism and conflict.
(4) We believe in acting ethically in both our personal lives and organizationally. This includes great care with the private information we handle on behalf of our members and subscribers, ethically handling all money and funds of the organization for the purposes they were given, and being honest in all things to our volunteers, members, and the public.
(5) We believe in the compassionate use of reason for solving our problems. This includes a humble approach to knowledge and the claims we make. It also includes respect for the scientific method, used responsibly and ethically for the betterment of all.
(6) While we are not a political or activist organization, we support a more peaceful, charitable, tolerant, just, and democratic world. We also support greater access to education, the necessities of life, and environmental responsibility. We encourage our members and subscribers to take up worthy causes with activist organizations as a part of their personal practice. Ultimately, we believe that change in the world begins with change in our heart, which is where the mission of our Society is focused.
We often use Facebook groups as an organizing tool for the local chapters. Once approved by the Society and given the ‘green light’ the Society can establish the page for you. Any other online tools you wish to use to gain exposure are fine as well. The name of all local chapters of this type should be “Spiritual Naturalist Society – (city or area name) Chapter” – for example, “Spiritual Naturalist Society – Houston Chapter”. When creating online pages for the group, you should use the logo and match our color and other style schemes (a stand-alone logo can be found at the bottom of this page – right click on it and select “save image as”).
Attendees should never be asked or required to pay in order to be a part of the local chapters or to attend any local gathering or event. If the organizer wishes to be reimbursed for the costs related to an event and will be taking and handling money from attendees, they should clear this with the Society beforehand. It’s also acceptable (and simpler) to ask attendees to pay their own way when events have other costs (movies, bowling, etc). Organizers should never accept money from attendees or anyone else on behalf of the Society. If attendees wish to contribute to the Society financially, they should be directed by the organizer to go to www.spiritualnaturalistsociety.org and use the donate page to make a one-time donation, or become members using the Join page. The Society is sometimes able to pay for advertising or website costs for local chapters, but this will depend on the Society’ budget constraints, the population/potential reach in your area, and several other factors related to feasibility. Any funds to help chapter growth are always the final decision of the leadership in the Society.
Organizers of local chapters of the society are unpaid volunteers who wish to do this because of their passion for Spiritual Naturalism and sharing helpful ideas with others, because they want to also learn what others have to say, and because they would find such a thing enjoyable and fulfilling. While we don’t normally micromanage and allow broad flexibility, you agree to follow the direction of the Society with regard to official group policies. Organizers are not required to be paying members of the Society, but it is appreciated and encouraged, if only to set an example for other attendees. Please note that even official membership in the Society does not, on its own, imply an automatic approval to act on behalf of the Society in this manner or to be an organizer of a local chapter. Please note too, that while you (the organizer) may appoint any number of assistant organizers as needed, you are responsible for their actions, and they should be made aware of all of these materials and agree to the same things which we ask the organizer to agree. As organizer you recognize that volunteering in this capacity does not give you ownership, partnership, or a director role in the Spiritual Naturalist Society; and that you are not authorized to speak to the media or in public on behalf of the Spiritual Naturalist Society without prior approval from us. Lastly, you recognize that, in the case of groups it forms, the Spiritual Naturalist Society has the right to remove you as organizer, or close the group, should it see fit, at which point control of all accounts, files, data, and information related to the local chapter should be given exclusively to the Society. In the case of existing groups that become local chapters, the Society has the right to disassociate and remove it’s consent for your group to use the SNS name and other branding. Lastly, you agree to have your contact information shared between the Executive Director, the other local chapter organizers, and any other staff which is necessary to communicate and work well together. This may include occasional communications and exchanges of ideas, tips, etc. All chapter leaders should be signed up to the SNS Local Group Leader Network.
So, if you’re interested we would love to work with you on this exciting opportunity to help grow local chapters of the Society! If you’ve read and agree to these items, let us know and we’ll create the group page and send you access. Thanks so much!