A Social Experiment in the Church Laboratory*
By Clifton L. Taylor
Last summer, on entering upon the pastorate of a city church, I found that the young people of the church were drifting out of touch with our people, forming friendships and seeking amusement and community interests with worldly associates, and that very few attended the young people's meetings or the Sabbath services. For years, my wife and I had talked of a plan which we felt would result in drawing together the younger and older members of the church, and uniting them in closer bonds of friendship; and it seemed that here was the opportune time and place to demonstrate the value of the plan.
We began by laying the matter before the officers of the church, and having enlisted their approval and cooperation, we announced a special meeting for all the young people. Out of this meeting developed the organization of a social club, to meet every two weeks at the home of one of the members on some week night. Not a great many young people attended that first meeting in the church, and all who came were girls. But the club began to function, and rapidly gained in popularity, as boys, young men, and older men and women of the church attended the bimonthly meetings. The name chosen was "Live Wires Club," and the motto, "God Gives the Power."
As many of the young people had long distances to come in order to attend the club meetings, it was decided that the meetings should begin promptly at 7:30 and close at 10 o'clock. This allows two and a half hours for each club meeting, for which we plan as follows:
The first half hour is devoted to an informative lecture. Usually this has been my part of the program, and I have covered the ground of our denominational history quite in detail, have given two lectures on the Spirit of prophecy, and also presented history, general science, et cetera. The second hour is given over to games, music, readings, and conversation. My wife takes charge of this hour, and exercises the greatest care to select all in accordance with Christian ideals. The music chosen is on the basis of its uplifting influence; games are designed to teach while they amuse; and in selecting appropriate readings, objectionable features are given due consideration from every angle. During the last half hour, simple refreshments are served, as provided by the hostess of the evening. Due precaution is taken to see that in providing refreshments the tendency does not creep in to increase the variety or to make the serving elaborate, and thus result in making the entertainment of the club a burden upon any hostess. A simple fruit drink and small, inexpensive cookies form the usual combination.
These club meetings enable young people to become acquainted—members of the same church who did not even know one another's names before. We vary the program each time by giving a lecture on a different subject, and testing out a large variety of educational games. Some of our new church members are attending these club meetings, and express themselves as greatly pleased with the spirit of kindness and fellowship which binds all together as one big family. The young people say they have a very pleasant time, and always go away feeling that they have learned a great deal. There is no lingering regret for time wasted.
We are hoping to see several of the young people enter our college as one result of this special interest in their behalf, and all the youth held close to the church throughout the years when, as a usual thing, it is the easiest to slip into the world. The apparent results in the lives of the young people, and the growing spirit of unity and cordiality among the church members, lead us to feel that the "experiment" demonstrates its value as time and effort well spent.
Attleboro, Mass. May, 1930
* I am glad to commend this article to our ministers as an example of what can be done to satisfy the social needs of our young people, and at the same time provide entertainment that is wholesome and educational. Our young people often say to us, "Our ministers are continually telling us that we must not do this and must not do that ; but what, pray tell us, can we do? What is proper?" While a certain amount of negation is necessary, it is surely the duty of the church to make some constructive effort to satisfy the social desires of our youth and to give them a proper training along this line. As well try to dam the Amazon with bulrushes as to suppress the social instincts of youth. Wholesome guidance is what is needed to save them from the disasters that come when left entirely to themselves to satisfy these new desires. The "social experiment" which Elder Taylor has been conducting appeals to me very favorably. I believe that If more of our pastors were doing this kind of work, more of our young people would be saved.
The real value of such work dependS, of course, on the leadership. We have encouraged our Missionary Volunteer officers, including a "social secretary" in large societies, to plan for occasional social gatherings, and make the same thorough and prayerful preparation for these appointments as they would for any other important meeting. Such meetings should always be arranged with the counsel and cooperation of the pastor or elder. When the pastor leads out in this, he should, of course, enlist the active co-operation of the Missionary Volunteer leaders. Hundreds of groups of young people would recognize such as is here described as a godsend.
M. E. Kern.
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