During these days of war, governments are searching for trained mechanics and for men and women with special skills. An apparent shortage in some particular trade may be due to low wages or unusual hardships in the professsion. We are growing conscious of such terms as "emergencies," "trends," "cycles," etc. War needs call for a production that did not need to be considered in times of peace. This is equally true of God's work, where the present needs demand many more well-trained evangelistic teachers than we now have.
There is a deplorable dearth of well-trained Bible workers, and it is vital that we begin to build up this important branch of service. How can we do it? Let us suggest three ways. We should be looking (1) to our established Bible workers to win promising youth to their profession; (2) to our colleges to provide a Bible workers' course to train these youth thoroughly ; and (3) to our conferences, where the prospect will be further developed to meet the practical needs of the field. As we ponder the present dearth of professional Bible workers, we may well assume that all three of these agencies have in a measure failed in the past to produce the kind of Bible workers that the field is needing. But what has happened cannot be changed. In discovering our needs, we must begin to remedy the situation.
As Bible workers we must not be sensitive when certain things are laid before us for study. Observing conference officials, evangelists, and pastors feel that our sisterhood of Bible workers has failed to some extent in helping the young beginning worker. Are we good trainers ? Do we employ skillful supervisory technique with our beginners? Perhaps we find ourselves saying, "You should do so and so," instead of, "Suppose we try it together." How will we react if some kindly but daring soul passes on the constructive criticism that too many of our experienced Bible workers have become "set in their ways" ? This characteristic may have tended to discourage some who might have become good Bible workers. Even if this does not apply to each one personally, it will help the whole group to weigh the criticism.
Bible workers of experience regret that they could not do more to guide beginners, who were too often thrown upon their own. They feel that, had their own experience been brought to the rescue of these new workers, more of them might have been anchored in the profession. On this very point we recognize that it takes a broad-minded, unselfish person to really help a beginner. Bible workers are not only teachers ; they are also leaders in their churches. Because of this, their influence counts widely. They must remember that this leadership on their part had to be developed first. The beginner stands in decided contrast to the capable Bible worker of long standing.
The spirit of John the Baptist, who said, "He must increase, but I must decrease," is what we all need. With such a spirit we can do much to prevent eclipsing the beginner with our forceful personality. Especially is this true when the beginner is plunged into the midst of an intensive campaign where experience is at a premium, and there is very little time for special guidance. The young worker too often feels her inexperience, and doubts if she will ever attain to the position of Sister —, who is so efficient in the Bible work.
We have never had too many Bible workers. The profession has never been overrun. This situation has tended to develop a group who were strong workers when alone, but where teamwork was required, things did not work out so well. With the growing needs of evangelism, and the need for our Bible workers to be placed where intensive teamwork is needed, it is tragic when an intolerant attitude on the part of an otherwise efficient worker tends to drive a promising young woman out of the profession.
Now for another point. Some have frequently met this response on the part of a young woman they tried to interest in the Bible work: "Oh, I just couldn't think of being a Bible worker. I couldn't work as hard as Sister —. I couldn't bear being under such a constant strain, coming home at all hours of the night. I couldn't stand working from early morning till late at night. Sister____________ has such a hard life. Etc., etc," Perhaps, unconsciously, we are in danger of giving those who are watching us wrong impressions of our work.
As a matter of fact, Bible workers are not breaking in health nearly so often as those from other ranks of service. Perhaps they have learned to guard the laws of health. But perhaps also it is due in some cases to the fact that after the worker has completed a confining, nerve-straining program in an effort, our conference officials, at the suggestion of the evangelists, will allow a few days of rest, or even longer vacations.
Many of our Bible workers have concessions and favors bestowed on them that materially improve their living conditions above the average worker's. Bible workers are not subjected to that pressure of supervision experienced in the field of education, for instance. Their salaries cover fifty-two weeks in the year, and there is real security and stability in financial matters. They can often work out their daily program without deadly routine and a constant watching of the clock. They meet scores of people who thrill them with their encouragement, commending their ability. Their success is widely discussed, while the work of other groups is too often taken for granted.
Bible workers should be happy ; and they are happy. If their seriousness has at times impressed onlookers with their "hard program," it may be because some have not altogether mastered the knack of enjoying their work. This point could well be emphasized while seeking to draw youth into the profession.
There are other good reasons why, during the past decade, relatively few women have entered the Bible work—reasons such as the desire to marry and establish a home, the tremendous pressure involved in the evangelistic program, the modern trend toward "doorbell ringing" instead of Bible teaching, and the lack of provision by our colleges for a well-planned course to stimulate a deep burden for this evangelistic calling. In spite of the present problems, however, let us be of good courage in the Bible work. Consecration and vision will draw scores of promising young people into this noble profession. This discussion will be continued in the next issue.
L. C. K.