Laymen Look at Camp Meeting

Here's what they said.


Pardon me, Mr. Conference Presi­dent. I am your secretary. I know you are busy working on the camp meet­ing schedule, but I thought I should inter­rupt. You see, there are a group of laymen who would like to talk to you about camp meetings. They come from all parts of your field, and they have waited a long time for this opportunity. I know you have been praying earnestly about these camp meet­ing plans, and I thought you might like to hear what these laymen have to suggest.

Shall I bring them in? "Good morning, Pastor __________ . I just wanted to explain that we won't be able to attend the entire camp meeting this year. We would love to be there the whole time. But it is only once a year that we can get away from the pressures of city life and city work, and we feel that for the health of all the family we must spend some time in real relaxation at a beach or in the mountains. We wanted you to understand. And we hope you will plan to put as much real soul food as possible into the few days we can be there."

"Good morning, Pastor. I'm one of the old-timers in your conference. Never missed a camp meeting. I'll be right there at every meeting. But what I want to say is this: I suppose camp meeting in 1956 can't be just like the 'good old days.' But I hope you'll plan for some good testimony meet­ings like we used to have. I have a suspicion the young folks would like them, too. And please, couldn't you do something to en­courage folks to say Amen a little more often? Thanks for listening to an old-timer."

"Pastor________ , this will be my first camp meeting. Do remember me in your plan­ning. This meeting should help me to find a permanent place in the church I have chosen. I need confirming in these new doctrines—new to me. I need integration into the life of the church. I need to find new and lasting friends to replace those who no longer fit into my life. And please, my family will be there for a meeting or two. It will be their very first Adventist meeting. Remember them, won't you?"

"Good morning. I am a young Seventh-day Adventist stenographer. And my friend here works in a factory. Like me, she is the only Adventist in her family. We work and live constantly in a worldly environment. We have decided to come to camp meeting this year. We feel we need it. I know you will keep in mind the spiritual needs of young people like us. But I wonder whether you have realized that we also have a need for Christian fellowship, for an opportunity to get better acquainted with other young people whose faith will strengthen ours. Going home from camp meeting with right resolutions and right doctrines won't help much if we must go back to wrong friends."

"That's right, Pastor. I'd like to say some­thing along that line, too. I'm a little older than these two young women. I come from an isolated part of the conference, and I don't like to miss a meeting. But camp meeting is also the only time in the year I can fellowship with those who love the Lord as I do. I'm so glad you have planned an hour in the day's schedule when there aren't any meetings and we can just visit with these friends whose help we need, or who need ours."

"Now my problem, Pastor_______ , is this:

I'm an invalid. But I love camp meeting. My family brings me down every year. I get a tent right up close, and it's so good to be with God's people. But folks like me can't go roaming about the grounds to meet old friends. It would mean so much if some preacher, some worker, would visit us. I know there are always Bible instructors on the grounds. But I understand they are sometimes kept busy making beds. Pastor, couldn't somebody else make beds and let these women do the kind of work they are trained to do and love to do?"

"Good morning. I come to camp meeting every year. And it seems that every year I come with a number of problems to be solved. I look forward to this time when I can counsel with some consecrated minis­ter of the gospel. I need guidance. But when I find such a minister, almost always he is too busy. Too busy with a program, with a schedule, with something. Must they always be too busy for the work they are ordained to do?"

"And me. Some people call me a worrier. I know I take a lot of time. But I do need help. And there are many like me. I wonder if more group meetings or prayer bands, where we could bring our requests and pray about our problems, wouldn't be a help to us, and save time for the ministers?"

"Pastor __________ , these people are right.  I've noticed that there is wonderful plan­ning in the camp meeting program for the children and juniors and youth. Nothing is left undone. But these other special groups —the aged, the lonely, the ill, the isolated, the troubled—they need attention, too."

"I hope we haven't discouraged you, Pastor, with all our questions and sugges­tions. We really do want to be constructive. We want to help you make this year's camp meeting the best ever."

"That's right. Pastor ___________ . And we  thought you could do that best if you were more conscious of our needs. We know it is really for us that you are planning this meeting."

The Camp Meeting Schedule

"May I just say a word, Pastor. I realize that making out the camp meeting sched­ule must be worse than a crossword puzzle. I know you must try to distribute time equally among the departments for their promotion. And I know you try not to be partial in your selection of speakers from your conference working force. You try to spread them around in the morning meet­ings and the evening meetings. But I just want to ask which is more important—promotion or souls in the kingdom? Is equal distribution of speakers, the honor­ing of faithful workers with a spot in the schedule, more important than camp meet­ing conversions, than backsliders reclaimed? Could it be that sometimes one speaker on fire for God, carrying through all the early morning meetings, or all the evening meet­ings, could accomplish more in claiming and reclaiming souls than a dozen preachers with a less urgent message?"

"Pastor __________ , let me tell you how it seems to me. What all of us want most in camp meeting is not eloquent sermons or entertaining sermons. What we want most of all, what we will drive farthest to hear, what will bring us back again and again, is sermons that instruct us and tell us how to live the Christian life, how to meet our problems, how to know our Saviour."

"I'm not exactly an old-timer. But I remember a camp meeting years ago when we met in the young people's tent after the evening meeting for prayer bands. The dimmed light made it easy for all of us to take part. We were unhurried. And some of us took from that camp meeting, from those prayer bands, an experience that has stayed with us all these years. It's what we can take home with us, what we have left when camp meeting has long passed, that counts."

This is your secretary again. I see your friends have gone. I know that they have appreciated your listening to their sug­gestions. We will want to include them in our meditation and in our prayers. They are the ones for whom we plan this camp meeting. They are not critics. They love camp meeting, every one of them. That's why they plan to be there!

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May 1956

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