One of the most popular present-day evangelistic approaches is to be found in the field of youth evangelism. The Youth for Christ movement, with cooperating agencies in most of the principal cities of America, has brought this type of evangelism into prominence. Many leading religious journals and secular newspapers are devoting articles to a discussion of the Youth for Christ movement, and the attention of people generally is being focused upon this type of work. Usually the youth rallies conducted by this agency are held on Saturday nights in some prominent civic auditorium, and it is customary wherever possible to have a portion of the evening's program broadcast over a local station. It is amazing to see the size of the audiences that gather for these youth rallies and the enthusiastic spirit of praise for Christ on the part of the young people.
Recently in connection with our work here in New York City, we wondered whether we could not do something to bring our great message to the attention of the youth, and capitalize on this new and modern type of evangelism. In cooperation with the conference officials, we laid plans to conduct a series of Saturday night youth rallies as somewhat of an experiment for a few weeks in our church. We have been highly pleased with the outcome, and feel that the bit of pioneering that we did in this field for two months has made us look forward to something more permanent in the near future.
We were able to secure radio time for three quarters of an hour, from eight to eight-fortyfive on Saturday nights over one of the New York stations. We started our youth rallies at seven-thirty, and conducted them in the Washington Avenue church in Brooklyn. Our audiences quite regularly averaged nearly a thousand people, a large number of whom were youth, both Adventist and non-Adventist. We did not discourage our older members from attending, since we had room enough in the church for them. They lent financial and moral support to the venture.
For half an hour before we went on the air we conducted a song service, during which time the hymns that the congregation were to sing on the air were rehearsed and the plan in general was outlined. Toward the close of this song servite, at about five minutes to eight, we had the congregation unite in an earnest season of prayer that God would bless the broadcast that was about to be sent out to a great potential radio audience in the area.
When we received the signal from the engineer that we were on the air, the congregation, accompanied by the pipe organ and two grand pianos, began to sing that stirring gospel hymn which we used for our theme song, "He Lives." Blended right through the theme song, we announced that this program which we called "Truth for Youth," was coming directly from the main auditorium of the Washington Avenue Seventh-day Adventist church.
As soon as the theme song was finished, we began a rapid-fire program. We tried to keep the pace of the broadcast fast-moving by not having too much of any one thing and by seeing to it that there were no moments of "dead time" between numbers. The entire program was put on by our young people. We were very careful, of course, to pick only superior music that we would not be ashamed of in any way.
A typical night's program was made up of two solos from our two song leaders, Earl Robbins, of Ohio, and Walter Isenesee, who is now associated with us as our singing evangelist ; two numbers by a ladies trio ; two violin solos ; and three congregational hymns. On various occasions we were able to bring in other musical talent such as a trumpet trio and a marimba soloist.
For the first thirty minutes our program was made up quite exclusively of these musical numbers. In between them we made announcements in which we offered a book for the month to those who wrote in, and invited our radio listeners to meet with us on any Saturday night that they chose to come, giving them the name and address of the church.
Just before the song service was completed, each evening we introduced two of our young people, who gave their testimonies as to what Christ had done for them and their joy in Christ's service. These young people told how they had found the truth and freely described the joy that had come into their hearts through membership and baptism into the church. These testimonies were written out in advance, and the young people read them on the air. This prevented stage fright or "mike" fright from robbing the speakers of all their thoughts and most of their testimony. Then for the last ten or twelve minutes I brought a short youth message, and we went off the air with the congregation singing, "Have You Counted the Cost ?" Our meetings were very well received. The station was delighted with the programs.
After we went off the air we always had a guest preacher bring the message of the evening to our congregation in the church. These guest preachers were used of God in a marvelous way in bringing deep and lasting impressions to the hearts of our young people. We requested these preachers always to make an appeal at the end of their sermons in order to crystallize any decisions that might be made that night. It was a thrilling thing to see large numbers of youth gather around the rostrum in reconsecration, or in dedication of heart and life to Christ for the first time. Our Bible instructors were active in picking out strangers and arranging Bible studies with them. Several of these people at the present time are receiving studies, and a few are deciding favorably for our entire message. We have already baptized two young people whose decisions are directly traceable to these Saturday night services.
Financially the meetings did not cost us one penny, even though the radio time was expensive—$17o a night at an especially reduced rate. There were also other expenses incidental to advertising the program, but our Saturday night congregations were so thrilled over the meetings that they gave offerings every single night that more than met all expenses.
We are looking forward to beginning these services again at a later date and hope that more of our ministers, especially in the large metropolitan areas, will enter this new field of evangelism. The results will surprise you.