Any force which tends to unite the membership of our churches is valuable. Hard work for a common cause that succeeds is such a force. I know of few other plans which can be carried out —and none of them year after year—which can do the job any better than the annual Ingathering campaign. With this in mind, I offer the following suggestions as to successful methods in In-gathering.
With several evangelistic campaigns to conduct each year in addition to the usual district work to be done, the evangelistic worker usually has little time to spend on special campaigns. With this condition to meet in my own case I have been endeavoring to devise methods which would render the Ingathering effort short and successful. Last year's campaign, putting three churches over their goals, occupied three weeks.
I. Compiling Reserve Lists.—There is need for careful organization before the campaign begins. I do not talk Ingathering to my churches before time for the campaign to start, but I make plans. One week before the official opening of the campaign I announce to the congregation that the following week is the date to begin work. I do not make Ingathering materials available on this date, but I ask each member of the congregation to hand in a reserve list. This reserve list will contain the names of all business and professional men with whom the church member has a favorable contact. I have found it helpful to suggest that each member write down the name of his grocer, banker, service-station manager, etc. In case of duplication the one having the most favorable contact will be given preference.
During the week these reserve lists will be compiled into a master list, and the master list will be mimeographed so that every Ingathering worker will have one to carry with him as he solicits. Thus there will be, ideally speaking, no duplication of territory, although in actual practice some duplication nearly always occurs. These reserve lists are most valuable to the pastor in further organizing the work and checking the territory.
2. Preliminary Selected Solicitation.—The second step of organization during this week is actual solicitation to be carried on by the pastor and the assistant pastor, if there is one. The people solicited are picked prospects—former liberal donors. Perhaps no more than a dozen are visited, but these will give some of the largest amounts to be hoped for during the campaign, and their names will form the beginning of every list of donors on every solicitor's card used during the campaign. These names are transferred in writing to all solicitor's cards to be passed out to the church members on the opening Sabbath of the campaign. Thus every solicitor who goes out in the work will start with a card on which a goodly number of large donations are listed. The value of this will be immediately appreciated by every campaign worker of experience.
3. Division into working groups.—The third step in this week of organization is the division of the church membership into working groups. Personally, in our larger churches I have found that the Sabbath school class plan works perfectly. It makes use of divisions already in existence and adds no additional organization to the manifold societies, associations, etc., already in our churches. Each class is given a financial goal to reach, and the total of these combined goals should more than equal the amount of the Ingathering goal set by the conference, so that when each class has reached its goal, the entire church goal will have been passed. I like to prepare a simple graph chart which will show the standings of the classes from week to week. Competition is not promoted in this respect. I have even had one class donate a part of its receipts to help another class over its goal. The aim of this plan of organization is to place the responsibility upon each individual, and not upon the whole church collectively. The Sabbath school class teacher is the captain of the unit, and every class is included, right down to the kindergarten.
Opening Sabbath of the Campaign
On the opening Sabbath of the campaign a brief promotional talk is given by the pastor during the home missionary period, at which time it is announced that an organization session will be held immediately following the church service. At this meeting reserve lists, Ingathering papers, and the already partially filled solicitor's cards are passed out. A brief talk is given by the pastor, demonstrating the use of the Ingathering paper, and in particular the use of the solicitor's card.
I consider the proper use of the solicitor's card one of the most important parts of a good Ingathering canvass. In several districts in which I have served, I have especially instructed women in the church who were going into country territory as to proper use of the cards, and their receipts have increased as much as four times. The important part of this instruction is to have the solicitor present the list of donors at the right time, just before closing the canvass, and to present only a list of donors of large amounts.
Let us suppose, now, that the first week of the campaign is past, and time for the Sabbath service has come. During the Sabbath school each teacher has been handed a simple record card on which he has recorded the name of the class, the number present, the number who participated in the campaign during the week, and the total amount in hand to turn in to the treasurer. Sabbath school teachers are asked to fill these out at the beginning of the missionary meeting., The pastor or an assistant collects these cards, totals the figures, and fills out the goal charts.
The entire goal for the church has been divided into weekly goals, so that everyone will know each week whether the campaign is on schedule or not. As the figures are totaled at the end of the first week there should be a good overflow toward next week's goal, for the first week is generally one of the best of the campaign. It is when the charts are presented to the congregation with this result apparent, that most churches really become fired with enthusiasm to finish the campaign victoriously.
Following each church service, there will be an instruction meeting every Sabbath until the campaign is over. This will serve to iron out allocations and duplications of territory. Territory may need to be redivided to meet the demands of the moment. Questions will need to be answered, and new solicitors may have to be secured.
There is one special factor in this sort of campaign, and that is that it requires not only organization by the pastor but participation by him as well. There are, I am told, geniuses among us who are able to conduct such campaigns from a swivel chair, but few possess such ability—and it may be a good thing. Our people will respond better in any campaign if they know that the pastor is doing exactly the same kind of work he asks them to do.
During the campaign it is well, I believe, to go right ahead with the regular services of the church in the usual way. I have not found it necessary in recent years to preach an Ingathering sermon. Promotion can be taken care of in the weekly church missionary service, and the regular preaching service can be devoted to other matters. It is my conviction that overpromotion is as detrimental as underpromotion.
As the last step in the campaign for the past three years, we have held a big Victory Day Rally in the central church of our district. The date of this rally is announced at the beginning of the campaign. What church would wish to see the date arrive without having its goal raised? We invite the union conference home missionary secretary, the local conference president, the local conference home missionary secretary, and other conference officials to this rally. All the churches in the district are represented at the rally, and the Ingathering chart for each, filled out, with an overflow above the goal, is added to a display for the whole district. These rallies are all-day meetings, with an intermission for a midday meal in a near-by park. They are among the happiest gatherings of our people that I have witnessed.