The Pastor's Yearly Program

The year's program should be divided into certain well-defined periods.

By R. A. SMITHWICK, Pastor, Chicago, Illinois

Like the weather, the pastor's duties are subjected to seasonable changes. The year's program should be divided into certain well-defined periods. The dates for annual campaigns are set by the General Con­ference, but local church activities, such as evangelistic efforts, cottage meetings, visiting, survey of church records, etc., are left for the pastor to work out to suit his own con­venience.

Evangelism.—Evangelism should receive first consideration in working out the church program for the year. The most common type of evangelism is the hall or church effort, but I do not wish to narrow the term to a mere public effort. The Sabbath morning service, the midweek prayer meeting, and the cottage meeting can also serve as mediums of evan­gelism. In fact, the results of costly hall efforts as compared to inexpensive cottage meetings is a serious question that will merit study as time goes on. Cottage meetings in­volve no expense and eliminate the transporta­tion element in our great cities. Also it is well to instruct the many strangers who at­tend our services on Sabbaths by giving a con­nected line of doctrinal, spiritual, and prac­tical sermons, and this, too, involves no extra expense.

Follow-Up.—Those who have taken the Bible training class are often in a position to follow up interested inquirers. A systematic follow-up of the work of the Harvest In-gathering singing bands is productive of much good. This is made possible by stamping the local church address on every paper which is handed out in the community. As a result of our campaign last fall, three or four families have started attending church, Some are al­ready keeping the Sabbath and paying tithe.

Campaigns.—Campaigns are obviously with us to stay. In order to organize a short, in­tensive Harvest Ingathering campaign, it is necessary that all other promotional activity for that period cease. We cannot have success if we try to promote two things at the same time. When we are promoting Ingathering, we should not be holding a public effort or an auction sale for the Dorcas Society. To sponsor two or more projects at the same time weakens all our promotion, has a tendency to discourage members, and accomplishes but little. The pastor, like the conference presi­dent, should be interested in the progress of every department of church activity, and be energetic in promoting it. Lack of interest on his part is keenly noticed and adversely affects the results of an officer whose duty it may be to lead out in a particular enterprise.

Church Records.—Taking a general sur­vey of church records and laboring for the erring ones should not be confined to the closing days of each year. The end of the year is not the only time people apostatize. Each quarterly business meeting is the logical time to consider the church membership. Systematic visiting among delinquent members should precede the business meeting, so that mere reports or hearsay will not be the basis on which people's names are stricken from the records. Deacons and elders should share this responsibility along with the pastor. Other church officers or members should not be asked to take part in this field service. A good home department secretary is a valuable asset to any church in keeping alive the in­terest of members who would otherwise grow cold and indifferent. It is better to be a little too lenient than too hasty in dealing with apostasy; but when it is apparent that ail our efforts to restore the erring ones have failed, then we must be prepared to act.

Church Budget.—The annual church budget to provide for all local needs and cost of operating should be considered at the first of each year. A systematic and equitable plan for church expense should be adopted, and current expenses paid from cash on hand. It is easier to raise money for current and future needs than for past obligations and old debts. Some prefer to pay by the week, others by the month, while still others prefer not to pay at all. It is well to avoid frequent public appeals for church expense, although it may be necessary at times. It is well for the church board to authorize the chairman of the board of deacons to see that minor repairs that must be made throughout the year—such as restor­ing broken windows, burned fire grates, cup­board locks, broken plaster, etc.—are attended to. Ample funds should be provided for in the annual budget estimate.

Church School,.—It may be necessary for special attention to be given to church finances when school starts in the fall, at the first of the calendar year, and again when school is out in the spring. If the teaching force and requirements are approximately the same each year, an estimate of these requirements might be included in the church budget. Teachers should be paid promptly. The school year should not be allowed to close without their receiving their salaries in full.

Nominating Committee.—For the annual appointment of officers in the church, young people's society, and Sabbath school, a nom­inating committee must be appointed. This committee has no small task in large churches, and it is necessary that ample time be allowed. It should be appointed by the church (not the church board) either at a business meeting or at a Sabbath service. One good method which is never subjected to criticism by mem­bers is to have a large committee appointed to select the nominating committee. This com­mittee should be appointed and ready to work not later than October 55 of each year.

Sermon Preparation.--It is well to vary the sermons throughout the year. Some should be doctrinal, some practical, some spiritual, and others educational. It is also well to vary one's style of presentation in order to avoid monotony. Our sermons should be of reason­able length. If we cannot say all we want to say in thirty or thirty-five minutes, then it is well to save the rest until the next Sabbath. Close the services on time. Do not incon­venience sisters who must be at home in time to prepare meals for unconverted husbands.

Monthly Socials.—In the wintertime, a social should be planned at least once a month for the young people. They like to have the pastor play games with them. If we play with them, they will work with us. We will find them present in the singing bands at Harvest Ingathering time, if we show an in­terest in them at other seasons of the year.

One thing that has -no place in the pastor's program is taking sides with any faction or group. If he becomes identified with one side in some issue, he ceases to be in a position to help the other side. Then he does not serve the church, but a portion of the church. The best compliment a church elder ever paid me was when he sharply criticized me for not being more committal on an issue which was sure to split the church. After justifying his position in the controversy, he said, "I do not know which side you are on." I replied, "When the time comes for me to leave this church, you will be just as uncertain which side I am on as you are now." When there is an open issue, it is usually not good di­plomacy to commit oneself. It is not always necessary to tell what one thinks, and this is not deception either. It is using good judg­ment. Time is often a great healer of petty ills and misunderstandings. A suggestive week in a pastor's program follows.

When holding Sunday night meetings, it is necessary to prepare for the evening lecture. Since this may be the only public meeting during the week, it requires careful planning and preparation. If one plans to give out books or papers or secure addresses, this should be given consideration long before time for the meeting to begin. The announcements and plans for the following Sunday night should also be worked out in time.

Monday is a good day to relax from the grind of the week. It might be well, in the forenoon, to write a news item for the local papers concerning the meeting, and write a letter to the conference president telling him of the progress of the work during the past week. There may be other correspondence to take care of, and postcards should be sent out to the church members who were absent the previous Sabbath. This is also a good time to attend to some of the requests of the self-sacrificing wife, such as gluing the rung of a kitchen, chair or repairing the iron cord. An hour or two each week is well spent in taking some kind of recreation such as volley­ball, swimming, handball, tennis, and hiking. We need a change from the routine of work.

I like to spend part of Tuesday morning in general reading at the library, and some time should be allowed during the week for reading our own denominational papers. In the after­noon there are always some interested people to visit. It is the custom in my church to have a board meeting the first Tuesday of each month, and the agenda for this meeting must be worked out.

Wednesday night is prayer meeting night, and since several not of our faith attend this service, the meeting should be prepared with this in mind. The rest of the time can be given to study, reading, visiting, and possibly the giving of a Bible study.

On Thursday morning I usually leave home for the entire day. There are calls to be made and other duties which will take up most of the day. Our semimonthly teachers' meeting is held at the church on Thursday evening, and I stop there to attend this meeting before re­turning home.

Friday is the day to prepare the Sabbath sermon, get the printed programs for the next Sunday night meeting into the hands of the church elders, prepare announcements, .etc.

Sabbath morning the rush starts early—the grand climax of a week of rushing. There may be a baptismal class before Sabbath school, a visitors' class to teach during Sab­bath school, the preaching service, and people to see after the service. Our people have been meeting the rebuffs and cold world all week, and on Sabbath they come to church to be fed spiritually. An atmosphere of rever­ence and happiness, with a friendly regard for one another, should be the spirit of the Sabbath service.

In large churches, unless some plan is adopted, it is hard to know who are absent from week to week. To become irregular in attendance is to grow indifferent, and such an attitude can often be avoided if a minister has a record of those who are not attending. The Sabbath school secretary can check the classes and find out who may be absent, but this is not always a safe guide. The records are not always properly made out, a member may be visiting another class, may have come late, or may attend the church service only. A check can often be made to good advantage by someone appointed to take the record from the choir loft. With the church-membership list in hand, absent members can easily be detected and the names given to the pastor at the close of the service. Where transportation and toll calls make it inadvisable to contact absent members personally each week, it is well to drop a card to those who were not in attendance and let them know they were missed. Visiting is an important part of a pastor's work.

Thus a week of a minister's life goes into history.

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By R. A. SMITHWICK, Pastor, Chicago, Illinois

December 1939

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