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For over 5 years I have been involved in a book club. Eight women in my church meet to discuss eat a yummy meal and discuss a book. We have chosen to make this a closed group so that each of us have a "safe place" to share our thoughts and feelings that books often bring about. We are very frank with our discussions and in all these years, feelings among the group have not been hurt. (Unusual in a group of women, I think.)


Although we attempt not to openly discuss this our meetings at church or coop, some other ladies not in the group have inevitably become aware of this group are feeling "left out." This makes me very sad of course. It was never our intent. We have three choices. We can open the group, shut down the group, or continue on. Do any of you have any experience with this?


We meet this evening to discuss A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I'd love any seeds of wisdom to pass on.


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I think this is a terrific idea!


Our book club went through a really rough year a while back. Another member invited a friend, and it turned out that *every other member* didn't care for the friend. It was so strange because we had an amazing dynamic previous to that, and just one person completely threw us off. By the end of the year, we were attending only because we felt we had to, but each of us dreaded meeting and were looking for excuses not to go. It was awful and devastating to me, as it used to be my most favorite monthly activity!!


The choice came down to ending book club completely or 'paring down' to the original members because the group had gotten 'to big' for intimate discussion. It was particularly hard because we are all Christian women, but it is not an open church group (we attend various churches). We were given some grief for not being a true Christian witness by accepting and ministering to this woman, and all of us have felt some guilt over the situation.


I completely agree with Julie's idea to limit the size before you get into a situation like that, particularly since you all attend the same church, and offering to help others start their own small book club.

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I agree with everyone who mentions limiting the numbers. I was a coordinator for a book club several years ago. It was open to anyone in our MOMS group which before sistering had over 100 members. We (book club) grew very quickly from about 6 to over 20 members and it was just too big. I am now part of a book club that is not open. It isn't that way because we don't like making new friends, but because it is much easier to discuss a book when there are a handful of people instead of a mass. How about offering up a list of previously discussed books and a website to where they can find discussion questions like Reading Group Guides so they can begin another group?

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I remember feeling very hurt when a church lady I respected a lot mentioned her book club. It was just the sort of thing that I would have really enjoyed being a part of right them. And the circumstance was probably very similar to yours (plus some issues of the women being in leadership positions and probably needing a place where they could be open without feeling like it would become gossip fodder).


About a year later, I was part of a group that started up another book club. It was one of the best groups that I've ever been a part of. One of the really special things was that it spanned an incredible age and experience spectrum. I was in my late 20s and the oldest member was in her 70s. We talked babies (mine and other ladies grandchildren), marriage (ours and those of some ladies children) and crisis (as some families had started down the road of medical issues). What a great time we had. I developed such a great feeling about growing older without becoming irrelevant.

I think you are entitled to keep the group small. But I think that you can bless the other ladies if you not only suggest they start another group, but really help them get one off the ground.

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The best one organized around a specific area of interest, and has lasted for about 15 years. I don't enjoy it nearly as much as I used to, and that is primarily because of some changes in the people who attend. The addition of one person sent us down a path of denouncing political rivals and very strong political expressions, and I just really hate that. I don't mind talking about this stuff, but hate to be ranted at, especially when the topic has nothing to do with the book. Also, we had developed a great deal of shared discussion of prior books to draw on, and it started to get uncomfortable to refer to this once the group opened to more people.


I took a year off from the group, which was a great relief, but went back when I found out that one of the members, someone I care about a great deal, is dying (literally). I pray for gentle restraint before every meeting, and I hope to support her as much as possible as long as she needs it.


But really, the groundrules are hard to convey, and I think that there is really something to be said for preserving a good thing if you have it already, as well as for enabling others to develop their own.

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