What are some of the factors involved in the ideal supervision of a district? I would place first of all a definite program, with one's work planned as far as a year in advance, even though future problems may necessitate alteration or even abandonment of part of the plans. This will require a careful survey of the needs of the district and of the resources with which one has to work. No campaign, financial or missionary, should be carried forward in a haphazard, inefficient way.
Next, I would place organization. No matter how carefully a leader may lay his plans, it is impossible for him to execute them himself. Responsibility must be placed upon dependable subordinates. This creates a need for organization. Differences may arise as to the most effective plan of organizing a church. But remember Jethro's plan, suggested to Moses for the organization of Israel. Rulers were placed over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, and only "great matters" were brought to Moses.
By way of illustration, a church of one hundred members may be organized as follows: The membership is divided into four equal parts of twenty-five each. Over each of these groups is placed a competent leader who is directly responsible to the pastor or district leader. Each band of twenty-five is subdivided into two bands, each with a leader who is in turn responsible to the main leaders. The bands would then have ten to twelve members, and only six or seven homes would need to be visited in order to contact the complete membership of the band. Through this medium, any financial or missionary program in which the whole church is expected to participate can be successfully and quickly carried out.
This organization becomes a permanent part of the church and is revised each year as the needs demand. It has been successfully used in the Ingathering campaign, in securing pledges for church budgets, in visiting missing members, etc. It must be recognized that merely setting this plan in motion does not ensure "perpetual motion." It must be supervised, and the leaders must be encouraged to discharge their tasks faithfully.
There are certain minimum requirements to be carried out in each district. A Sabbath service should be conducted in each church by the district leader at least once a month. This is of great encouragement to the churches, especially those that do not have a regular pastor. A board meeting should be held once a quarter, or more often if necessary, under the supervision of the district leader, in each outlying church, and once a month at his resident church. It is his duty to encourage faithfulness in the celebration of the communion service each quarter. In the absence of a local elder he should assume the full responsibility of conducting the communion service at the specified quarterly periods in each church.
Planning a definite program includes holding district meetings no less often than once a quarter at a central location. It is hard to estimate the great amount of good that can be done through this means for the upbuilding of the financial and missionary programs of the district.
Importance of Systematic Visitation
Proper supervision does not overlook the importance of systematic visitation. Unfortunately some of our laity have come to the conclusion that the visit of a minister implies an appeal for money. The membership should be visited at least twice a year. Such calls should not be strictly social. They should be principally to ascertain the spiritual condition of the members and to ask their assistance in definite soul-winning work suitable to individual ability. This will not result in a financial recession." On the contrary, there will be a more willing spirit of giving on the part of the members when they are approached for money. On the same basis, all isolated members should be visited at least annually.
At times it is possible for the district leader so to arrange the days for visiting members of outlying churches that he can be present to conduct the weekly prayer meeting in each church at least once a month. This will have a wholesome effect and will strengthen the proverbial "church pulse." The spiritual value of the midweek meeting should be constantly upheld. The duty of conducting this meeting should not be shifted upon others when the district leader can conduct it. Consideration should be given the annual Week of Prayer. When one is not in the midst of an evangelistic campaign, it is often possible to arrange this Week of Prayer program so that it extends over a period of two weeks. A schedule can then be planned that will permit the leader to spend several days with each church. This is much more effective than endeavoring to divide seven days among five or six churches.
Another very essential factor that should not be overlooked is the district leader's relationship to the work of the nominating committee. Although the district leader may not be a member of any of the nominating committees, it is his duty to instruct each committee in the essential qualifications for church leadership, to be accessible for counsel, and to review the report with them before it is presented to the church. It is wise to recommend that each church elect its nominating committee as early as the middle of October. Should the church refer the report back to the committee, adequate time still remains to deal with unforeseen difficulties. Excepting under extraordinary circumstances, this will ensure completion of the election by the first of December. A double advantage results. First, the names are forwarded to the conference office in ample time to make necessary changes in the mailing list and to communicate with the incoming officers. Second, the new officers have a month in which to plan their respective lines of activity, and the newly elected board can lay plans for the new year.
Efficiency in district-leadership plans are all for one purpose—to stimulate soul-winning activity in the district. Without this, ideal supervision remains an impossibility. The leader must at times curtail the foolishness of preaching for the wisdom of teaching. Repeatedly we hear stressed a statement to the effect that the gospel ministry cannot complete the work of God. The work will not be finished until the latent powers of the church members are harnessed for service. Says the Spirit of prophecy :
"The leaders in God's cause, as wise generals, are to lay plans for advance moves all along the line. In their planning they are to give special study to the work that can be done by the laity for their friends and neighbors. The work of God in this earth can never be finished until the men and women comprising our church membership rally to the work, and unite their efforts with those of ministers and church officers."—"Gospel Workers," pp. 351, 352.
Year-Round Missionary Program
Taking this counsel seriously will have the following results: A year-round missionary committee will be set in motion. The duty of this committee will be to carefully plan missionary activity and estimate the costs. Following the revision and the adoption of plans by the church board, it will be the responsibility of this committee to see that the plans are satisfactorily executed. This will eliminate the spasmodic, half-finished, and apparently fruitless results in missionary projects, which tend to discourage the soulsaving activities of a church. It will result in soul-winning .endeavors' being carried forward with a precision comparable to that of an evangelistic effort. Under these circumstances, the church has a right to expect the district leader to hold either a short or a long series of meetings to reap the results of the missionary project. The leader's duty here must not be overlooked. It sometimes happens that when the time arrives to hold the effort, the leader finds it impossible to fulfill his obligation, with resulting disappointment and discouragement.
Included in this phase of discussion is the conducting of laymen's Bible training classes. Through this medium, valuable talent is often discovered. With proper training, it is possible to find some who can go forth as lay Bible workers and do very acceptable work. With the crowded program which the district leader has, he may feel inclined to excuse himself from accepting this additional responsibility. But if he places first things first, he will find time to conduct these classes or see to it that proper persons are chosen to conduct them.
Perhaps it is needless to stress the necessity of seeking and training lay preachers. Doubtless in every district there are God-fearing men who love this message, who with encouragement and proper training can be the medium of bringing many souls to Christ. This matter should be given serious consideration by us as district leaders. At least one new lay preacher in the district for the year 1939 cannot be considered too great a task, and perhaps the goal should be higher.
A strong missionary program will assist in solving many church problems. It will cure the spiritual fossilization of many of our members. It will cause to vanish many imaginary or real grievances which have been pampered and nursed over a long period of time, and will restore a healthy tone to the congregation.
I would also mention the relationship of the district leader to the departments of the work and to the conference president. This includes cooperation with the departmental secretaries and the authorized plans for advancing this work. Every minister should take a personal interest in the work of the Sabbath school department, and not pass by any opportunity to give counsel and assist in the upbuilding of this important feature. Incidentally, more effective counsel can be given if the leader shows his interest by being regular and prompt in Sabbath school attendance. The work of the Missionary Volunteer department will also have a share of his interest. The knowledge that a large percentage of our young people are slipping out at an age when they can begin a service of usefulness for the Master, is a challenge to us to cut down this exodus and do all in our power to build up the work of this department. Likewise, the burdens of the field secretary will be lightened by sincere cooperation in finding suitable colporteurs for the work of carrying the gospel in print. Christian education will also receive proper emphasis.
Finally, in the effort to maintain ideal supervision of his district, the leader must maintain regular contact with the conference president. All of his work is done under the direction of the executive head. Contact with the district constituency must be linked with the conference administration. This should be done by periodic correspondence, at which times reports of the progress of the work in the district are made and counsel is solicited.