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10. Help establish a village or social center where there may be a library or reading room, or at least a literature table, and proper facilities for entertainments, addresses, clubs, classes, etc.
11. Develop means for the special training of the minister of the country church.
12. Set everyone at work in some helpful enterprise.
13. Co-operate with the work of the Young Men's Christian Association as an ally of the church in reaching boys and young men.
14. Carry on a campaign of Sabbath observance.
15. Assist, and lead if necessary, in the work of establishing "federations for rural (or town) progress.”
Such a program will demand trained efficient leadership. The minister can do his work only by living among his people, and remaining long enough on the field to become really a part of the community. The minister who takes a rural church "until he can get something better” is doomed to failure from the very first. The rural field is a field by itself and must not be made a mere stepping-stone for a "good city church.” Our seminaries must co-operate in this matter and the specialization that is now being carried on must be made more efficient and more appealing. With this higher degree of specialization in the training of ministers a man will go into the rural field equipped to map out a program and carry it through successfully. With trained leaders, a vision and love for the country, appreciation of its needs, and common sense enough to know how to get a program into operation, there is a great chance for a more efficient aggressive rural church.
To make the program effective the leader must have the necessary equipment and financial support for his work. It is unfair to demand of our ministers in the open country that they “make bricks without straw." If the church is to be a social center, shaping the life of the community and inspiring all of its activities, it must have equipment adequate to its task. In the matter of the support of its ministers the rural church is badly at fault. The people in many a well-to-do rural community, who are proud of their independence in other matters, must come to see that their church and its ministers should not be pensioners, dependent upon an uncertain pittance, but that they should be supported adequately and generously.
With a program, trained leaders and adequate financial support the rural church can come to its own and will become a mighty factor in the reconstruction of the rural life of our nation.
The church has always cared for her own poor.
The first form of church organization grew out of the demand for more efficiency in the administration of charity. Suffering and misery always make their appeal, but it is easier to help obvious need than to seek out the causes of the need, and thus charity has often proved to be an endless chain, for by the giving of help the recipients of the aid have become more deeply and hopelessly enmeshed in the conditions which have brought them to their want. The best help that can be given is that which seeks out the causes of misery and by eradicating them cures the need.
As society has become more complex it has become more difficult to find the reasons that make for misery. The average church lacks the facilities and the ability to administer charity properly. Therefore, generally speaking, it is much better for the church to co-operate with the organized charity agencies of the community than to do the work itself. The Charity Organization Society acts as an agent for the churches. It is a clearing house for all charitable effort. Its services are offered to all. It keeps a record of all cases. Its experts make a study of the individual situation and the churches must be depended upon to supply workers and the means for doing the work. This society can prevent the overlapping of effort.
The modern church cannot fail to study the important features of the new philanthropic activities. Nor can it fail to co-operate and help by training its members and leading them into sound thinking on their relation to their unfortunate neighbors, thus bringing them to know the difference between a selfish indulgent sympathy which expresses itself in alms giving and that Christlike love which is controlled by conscience and good sense, and seeks not only to remove present needs but to destroy the causes of poverty.
Lay leadership is still the church's greatest undeveloped asset. Other forces have come to their place of power and efficiency in church progress; the layman is still in the process of making. When he comes to his rightful place the church will find in him its strongest ally, for in the world of commerce, art and politics the layman is a giant. Great enterprises wait upon his command. Mighty forces move at his bidding. In the fields of industry, finance, government, education, philanthropy, men have achieved wonders. When the powers, talents and possibilities of all such men are brought to the service of the church and the keen intellects and excellent leadership are capitalized for the interests of the Kingdom of God, then there will be a new day for the church.
There are many reasons why the men have not taken more interest. Chief among them is the fact that the churches themselves have not undertaken the task of developing an efficient leadership. We have depended upon the few laymen who were capable of doing things well and have not tried to find those in the various congregations who might not do their work so well at the beginning, but could be developed. Another reason is that we have allowed the Church's task to become limited when it ought to have been as great as the needs of humanity. These things are being changed. Men are taking a new place in the Church and a new day of leadership is dawning. One thousand five hundred and twentyseven of the 6,093 Congregational
Congregational churches in the United States have their men organized. The total membership of these organizations is 85,811. At the National Council meeting in Kansas City in 1913 it was reported that there were 1,380 churches in which the men were organized with a total membership of 75,518. Thus it will be seen that during the last two years 147 additional churches have organized their men and the gain in the membership in these organizations in two years is 10,293. There can be no doubt that this gain is due to the impetus given men's work by the Brotherhood organization, and at the same time it is encouraging to know that the interest and enthusiasm were not lost when the national organization was discontinued. These organizations are not of one type. There are Brotherhoods, Men's Clubs, Bible Classes, Community Leagues, but they are all a unit when it comes to a program and an ideal. Their program embraces the whole need of society and the individual, and their ideal is to build the Kingdom of God upon the earth.
The effect of the work of the men in the churches is showing itself in the increase in the number of men admitted to the Congregational churches. The number admitted in 1914 as compared with the women during the same period is as follows: Gain in men to the membership of our churches during this period, 6,511; gain in women for this period 6,478. If the increase in the number of men were at the expense of a fewer number of women being received this gain would mean nothing, but the gain in women is greater than it has been in any other year in a decade of our church history. Gains in church membership do not necessarily mean progress, but in this instance with the new enthusiasm of our churches in their work the gain is real.
The variety of activities which enlist lay leadership is of interest. In addition to the large number who carry the financial and other burdens of the churches the men have undertaken many specialized forms of work. The men in some churches have an extensive program, while many, as might be expected, have a program that is limited and undertake but one or two pieces of work during the year.
The men have served as follows:
Teaching boy's Bible classes.
Leadership in men's Bible classes.
Bible study in offices, homes, stores, factories, car barns, fire departments, and police stations.
Bible training groups.
Meetings outside the church on the streets, in parks, in country schoolhouses and in neighboring towns.
Men's meetings in the church Sunday evenings.
Teaching English to foreigners, illustrated lectures and personal talks.
Helping foreigners to secure naturalization papers.
Co-operation in the organization and teaching of summer daily Bible schools.
Superintending and teaching mission study classes.
Keeping open house for the community in connection with the church.
Providing club rooms as substitutes for saloons.
Co-operating with other churches for community betterment.
Leadership in the community in those things that make for social righteousness.
We recommend that pastors be urged to fuller co-operation in the matter of developing lay leadership, and that the men of the denomination be called upon to help enlist others for the upbuilding of the community and the establishment of the Kingdom of God upon earth.