“I’m not really a joiner”

Except that, really, I sort of am.

I genuinely like the idea of organizations that promote pagan and polytheist religion, that provide resources and information and training and community and networking. I think it’s a good thing and I like to support it, and sometimes support means becoming a member.

In the past I’ve been more active in groups, taking on volunteer positions or participating in forums. Right now I don’t do a lot of that, due to personal stuff, but I still maintain my memberships because even if I can’t be an active member, I can be a supportive member.

You can absolutely have a rich and rewarding spiritual life all on your own, and you can certainly do so without ever joining anything. And there are plenty of places where you can find an informal community–again, without ever joining anything. You don’t have to affiliate with a faith group to practice your faith.

But if you do decide to join something, do a bit of research first–there are a lot of groups out there. Some are good and some are not so good, so pay attention to what you find.

Read the group’s website, even the boring bits.

Read the “About” page if they have one, and their FAQ.

Take note of any mission statement, vision statement, or list of principles or values.

Look over their bylaws. How is power handled within the organization? Look at things like member voting rules and officer positions, terms and responsibilities. Are there requirements for membership that you cannot comply with or that you disagree with?

Some groups will have incorporated as a non-profit organization, and if they have there may be financial statements available. This may or may not be important to you.

On a related note, most groups will tell you what membership fees (if any) are used for.

A group doesn’t have to be a perfect fit for you (or vice versa) but it shouldn’t promote ethical principles you are opposed to. Generally a group will have some statement defining its position on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity and orientation and so forth, and you’ll want to look at that.

Most groups with an online presence have online discussion forums of some sort, whether these are email lists or web forums. Some groups have regular chats. The option of online participation in the group may or may not be important to you, and if it is, take note of what is available.

Some groups have real-world gatherings and/or subgroups–if this is important to you, see if there are any in existence near you.

If you are hoping to learn, see if there are classes or other religious training offered and what form these may take.

If the group has a public forum or Facebook page (some do, some don’t), check it out to get a feel for the discourse there and what is considered acceptable behavior. Different groups will have different customs.

Finally, and if you have additional questions, there will almost always be a contact form or email address provided. Try not to be too impatient–these are volunteer-run organizations and an immediate response isn’t guaranteed. On the other hand, if you don’t hear anything for a very long time, it can be an indication that the group itself isn’t all that active, which is also good to know.

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