Health and Religion

Making the Five-Day Plan Evangelistic. Don't abandon your graduates! Use a follow-up plan to win them to Christ.

 Hollis W. Wolcott is pastor of the Williamsburg, Virginia, Seventh-day Adventist church.


After much prayer and study, I found myself a few years ago asking the Potomac Conference to relieve me of my pastorate. No, I wasn't at odds with my church, nor was I leaving the ministry. I wanted to go to an area of the conference where no Adventist church existed and try to begin a new congregation by using the Five-Day Plan to Stop Smoking as a means of evangelism.

For years I had conducted Five-Day Plans, and for some time I had felt that it was a shame to see the graduates, so receptive at the end of the course, "abandoned" when the five days were over. It seemed a tragic waste to build such a favorable relationship with these people and then fail to make continuing, well-planned efforts to introduce them to other service areas offered by the Adventist Church, including its spiritual message.

A few weeks after my request, the conference committee gave me the go-ahead, suggesting that I go to Williamsburg, Virginia, where there were four Adventist couples but no church within thirty-five miles. I outlined my plans to this small group, and they agreed to help. We discovered that the local hospital administrator, who had stopped smoking through the Five-Day Plan in another city five years earlier, would be willing to support a program in Williamsburg. November 15, 1976, we launched our first session in the hospital dining room.

I had developed extensive plans for continued follow-up of those attending. However, I soon discovered a deep-rooted suspicion of any attempt to lead into spiritual themes or study. This situation had to be met before any progress could be made. Now, after several years of monthly Five-Day Plans and numerous adjustments, God has led me into a program that works for me and that has resulted in baptisms.

Two weeks before the Five-Day Plan is to open I submit a news story to all newspapers and radio and TV stations in the area announcing the program. I mention in it that much of the success of this plan is due to an extensive follow-up program that includes phone calls, specially prepared cassette tapes, films, and personal visitation. Thus those participating expect follow-up as an integral part of the program. The news release states that people can call my home for advance reservations or they may come fifteen minutes early on opening night and register. About half of those attending will call for reservations, so we can estimate the size of the crowd. The advertising clearly identifies the program as being presented by the local Seventh-day Adventist church in cooperation with the local hospital, the Virginia Lung Association, the American Cancer Society, and the American Heart Association. These organizations have given us permission to list them as cosponsors.

We operate the sessions themselves much in the standard manner, with some innovations to smooth the transition to a follow-up program. We are open and frank in all that we do; nothing is imposed on anyone, nor do we try to minimize the spiritual implications of the program.

First session

At the first session each participant receives a name tag on which he or she is to put only his or her first name. I stand at the door and am the first to greet each individual. I hand them my calling card with the comment, "You may need this later." After the usual preliminaries I explain that we will be using first names only, to make the sessions informal. I make sure I remember four or five names so I can specifically call on them for responses that very night. Before the second night I list all first names from the registration blanks and will use every name before the five sessions are over. This gives me a rapport with each individual.

Next I introduce what is to be my theme throughout the series—concern for them. I tell them, "Virtually all smoking cessation programs are motivated by the dollar sign, someone trying to make a quick buck from your addiction to cigarettes. You will notice there is no charge for this program. This plan is not dollar oriented, but springs from a deep concern for, and desire to help, our fellow men."

A large poster of a cigarette with four arrows, two on each side, illustrates our fourfold attack—psychological, physical, habitual, and spiritual. As a minister, I make no apology for the spiritual, assuring the group that much of their success must come from a power outside of themselves.

We use two gimmicks and explain the reasons for them. The first is the large "I Choose Not to Smoke" button. We ask them to wear this button whenever they leave the house. "When people see you wearing this button," I remind the group, "it's hard for you to have a cigarette between your fingers too!" Second, a printed message on the back of my calling card reads, "Friend, you can stop smoking in just five days—FREE! For information call the number on the other side of this card." I ask each participant to take at least ten of these cards and give them, message side up, to other smokers they meet. They readily see that it's difficult to smoke while crusading against smoking. The card helps them and also encourages others to stop smoking.

At the close of the first session I quote a Bible promise of strength to overcome and then say, "As a minister, I believe in the power of prayer. No doubt some here tonight share this belief. We are through for this evening, but if you would like to remain for a closing prayer, which will follow immediately, just stay in your seat. The rest may go now." I have yet to see anyone leave before prayer. Once the group has indicated this desire, I automatically close the other four nights with prayer.

We have revised the registration form to include each person's home and work phone number. Besides the call from their partner, I, too, call each one daily.

Second session

The second night, along with other literature, Your Friends the Adventists is made available. I call attention to it by saying, "Perhaps some of you are unfamiliar with Adventists. In case you are curious I have this booklet for you to night." They rush to get them!

This night I use the "concern section" to talk about Luke 4:16-18, observing that Jesus spent more time ministering to people's physical needs than to their spiritual well-being. I add, "We Seventh-day Adventists try to follow this example." As I mention Adventist worldwide medical and welfare work, I pass out an Ingathering paper. (Last year I sent all the year's graduates a current Ingathering paper and suggested they might like to help. The response was good.)

Third session

The third evening's "concern section" deals with Matthew 25:34-36. I say, "Apparently God takes notice of man's interest in the physical needs of others because our future reward or punishment is based, at least partially, on the concern we have shown in this life. Of course, this concern must be a loving response to God's love for us, and not a means of trying to earn salvation."

While the control book fillers are being distributed at the close of this session, I call attention to a small brown coin envelope included with the filler. "On the last night of the plan, we will be receiving a freewill donation to purchase literature and films and to meet other expenses. The program you have been enjoying has been made possible by the gifts of those who have preceded you. The program is free, but if you can help us to help others we will be grateful. Also the last night we will be serving refreshments, including a substitute coffee, home-baked bread, and some vegetarian entrees. Bring your spouse and family. The film that night will show the effect of smoking on nonsmokers. So if we can have some of your nonsmokers see this film, they will help keep the pressure on you to stay off cigarettes. You see our motive behind refreshments."

Fourth session

The fourth night our "concern" item looks at love. I use John 3:16 to show that love is really God's deep concern for our total well-being and John 13:35 to show that we, too, must manifest this concern for each other.

Now comes the important moment. "We have been talking to you nightly about our concern for you. But if our interest lasts only five nights and we then drop you like a hot potato you would have every right to believe that our concern is not genuine, wouldn't you?" They nod, and I continue, "To show our genuine concern we will be staying by you for the next several weeks. We want to help you stay off, now that you are getting off smoking. I have prepared three cassette tapes—six short talks—based on the book Psycho-Cybernetics, by Dr. Maxwell Maltz, who believes that before we can change our habits we must develop a new self-image. I have adapted his concepts to smoking to help you as you begin standing alone in your new freedom. Tomorrow night you will take the first tape home with you, and I will be calling you daily next week. When you are ready for the next tape, I will deliver it and pickup the first tape. I am not interested in seeing where you live, but I am very interested in seeing how you are doing and, if possible, help you in your battle against smoking. The same goes for the third tape. You see, we really are glad to go the second mile to help you and to show we really care about you."

Besides providing help in the struggle against smoking, these tapes allow me to visit in the home; where the individual often tells me of problems and I can have prayer personally for his needs.

Fifth session

The last night's "concern" item is based on Galatians 6:2—"Bear ye one another's burdens"—and how we have been trying to carry this out. At the close we give each person a card listing other health-related features we offer and ask them to check any items they are interested in. The last entry says, "Include my name on your prayer list."

We use the buffet plan for our dinner the closing night rather than a more formal meal. This arrangement allows me to move from table to table getting their reaction to the food as well as the pro gram in general. I do not eat at that time. I have far more important business.

In the follow-up program, before going to pick up the last tape, I call for an appointment, telling them of a film service to help them stay off cigarettes and asking for a few minutes to show it. I take a Dukane projector and lesson six (on healthful living) of the Encounter series. At its close I show them the gift Bible and Encounter lessons and say, "We have found that very few who fol low this plan of film-cassette study go back to smoking. You would be interested in this added help, wouldn't you?" About half agree that they want to participate in this study. As a result of the genuine concern shown them, many are eager to receive spiritual, as well as physical, help. We have more people wanting to study than we are able to care for. Some are attending church and preparing for baptism.


Here are a few suggestions for maintaining attendance at continuing Five- Day Plans:

1. Contact and get the cooperation of the local lung, cancer, and heart groups so they will send referrals.

2. Write a letter to all area physicians and dentists informing them of the Plan, with follow-up records. Tell them it is a free program to which they can refer their patients.

3. On the last night of the Plan ask the graduates to give advertising cards to neighbors and friends.

4. Continue to submit news stories to the media.

How can this program work in the usual church situation where the pastor obviously cannot devote large amounts of time to his Five-Day Plan graduates? Church members can be used effectively as "counselors." These volunteers can participate in the Five-Day Plan, calling those in their group daily during the pro gram and in the follow-up period. These volunteers can deliver and pick up the cassette tapes. They, or other church members, can give the Bible studies with the Dukane projector and Encounter lessons. Assigning counselors to a specific group for a one-year period following Five-Day Plan participation would pay rich dividends. As these church volunteers associate with those in their group, visit in their homes, invite them to their own homes, and support them in their effort to stop smoking, they are expressing the continuing concern that we have talked about. They are working as the Saviour worked for the physical and spiritual well-being of others. Meanwhile, another group of counselors can be trained for the next Five-Day Plan. Prayer groups can pray specifically for these individuals. Souls can be won, the church can come alive.

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

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 Hollis W. Wolcott is pastor of the Williamsburg, Virginia, Seventh-day Adventist church.

October 1979

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