Losses in Membership

Losses in Membership—No. 2

Part two of series continues where we left of.

By H. T. ELLIOTT, Associate Secretary of the General Conference

Delinguencies of Church Leaders.—Another cause of undue loss of membership may be found in the experience of the workers or church officers. Unfortu­nate delinquencies on the part of ministers are made the excuse on the part of weak church members and young people for de­linquencies on their own part or for abandon­ment of the church. A minister who borrows money, does not meet his obligations, and fails to respond to letters of inquiry regarding his debts, is a source of annoyance, and a discour­agement, not only to the one from whom the money is borrowed, but to the weaker members of the church as well. Other delinquencies of various kinds might be cited. Sometimes the attitude of a worker or a church officer toward members is felt by an individual mem­ber in such a way as to cause him to leave the fold.

Undue Emphasis on Financial Goals.— A wrong emphasis on the monetary program of the church sometimes leads members to request their names to be dropped because they feel that they cannot keep up with the goals. If the money matters of the church are pre­sented on a goal basis and in the spirit of a drive or a campaign, the effect is not good. The mission program of the church must be presented on a spiritual basis. I have known of cases where mothers refused to allow their children to join the church, when they desired to become members, because they felt that the emphasis given to each individual's bearing his part of the financial goals was so strong they did not feel able to meet it.

In this connection let me suggest that church members who are regular subscribers to the Review and Herald receive such an enlarged vision of the world's need and our work that the appeals for funds do not come to them as being for invisible, unknown projects. If they are readers of the Review, they are made familiar with the needs of the work and the opportunities for progress, and their hearts warm to every appeal for funds.

Employment Problems.--The problem Of employment is a serious one for Sabbathkeep­ers in this industrial age. A lack of proper employment, or a lack of careful guidance in Sabbathkeeping in their employment, some­times leaves members where they must choose between a livelihood and their faith. It is in such situations as this that they need the care­ful help of experienced church members and ministers to keep them from feeling that they are unable to meet the situation.

Negative Recreational Guidance.—Lack of efficient guidance in recreational and social activities of youth is a source of loss in mem­bership. Young people, and sometimes older church members, left without guidance, find their association and pleasures with friends of mammon, and before we know it they adopt worldly standards and practices. One leading worker for youth has said that we lose more through lack of proper guidance in these lines than we do through lack of indoctrination before people become church members.

Failure to give young people full informa­tion and sound reasons in dealing with the negative phases of religion always contributes to weakness in some of these things. To de­nounce card playing, dancing, and theater at­tendance without making clear to youth the dangers of engaging in such amusements, leaves them unprepared to meet the appeals of their worldly friends, and unprepared in their own minds to defend the church position. Sometimes too much is made of the negative side of religion. If the church lays its empha­sis on the things it forbids, and not on the things it commends, the youth will pass the church by.

Decreased Attendance in Our Schools.—There should be a stronger emphasis upon get­ting our young people under the influence of Christian training. The facts revealed by the statistics given at the recent Educational Con­vention should cause serious thinking on the part of every worker and church officer. The fact that in the past fourteen years there has been a grave decrease in the proportionate at­tendance of our children and youth in our church schools and academies ought at once to create a new and energetic program in be­half of Christian education. Have we lost sight of the instruction in the Spirit of proph­ecy that wherever there are as many as six children there should be a church school? Are our church members in the stress and strain of modern conditions being permitted to excuse themselves too easily for not having their children under Christian training? Do we as workers and executives give up with little ef­fort our work for our own children and youth, while endeavoring at the same time to carry on a strong evangelistic program for people outside the church?

As Professor Weaver pointed out at Blue Ridge, we made a gain of 45 per cent during the ten-year period from 1925-26 to 1935-36 in church membership, but there was a gain of only 8 per cent in church-school enrollment during that same period. In other words, we enrolled 5,834 less children in our church schools in 1935-36 than we would have en­rolled had we maintained the ratio of school attendance to church membership that ob­tained in 1925-26. Similar conditions exist with regard to students of academic age,

According to statistics gathered a few years ago by the young people's department, only 34 per cent of our young people over fourteen years of age are in any school. More than 77 per cent of our youth over fifteen are not in our own schools, and less than 45 per cent of the children of fourteen and under are in church school. In other words, over half of our children are receiving other ideals than those of the church as the basis and spirit of their education.

Lack of Masculine Leadership.—Other causes of loss in membership might be given, but I will suggest only one more: A lack in most of our churches of masculine leadership for the men. In some places the missionary activities, Sabbath school work, and young people's work are not given a leadership that will appeal to the men, especially young men, as virile and red-blooded, and in too many places nonessentials are permitted to obscure the larger issues. Our young men seeking solid, positive leadership that is unafraid to venture for God, are sometimes led to feel that they will find it elsewhere than in the church.

A review of the causes of our losses in church membership should lead us to a re­newed consecration to the task of holding those whom the Lord has entrusted to our care. It is not from insufficient plans and recommendations that we suffer. Our weak­ness is rather through failure to carry the plans and recommendations into effect. Shall we not here rededicate ourselves to the task of building the spiritual life of our churches, so that these losses may be effectively stopped ?

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By H. T. ELLIOTT, Associate Secretary of the General Conference

February 1938

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