Cled E. Wallace
In recent years everywhere I go, I hear about a young people’s problem, but I have never felt that we had a young people’s problem at all. I think it is somewhere else. I know in nearly every congregation where I have stayed any length of time, somebody who doesn’t know too much about it, becomes suddenly concerned about our young people, and they begin to plan and they begin to talk and they begin to agitate, that something must be done for our young people; and they finally manage to stir up something to be done for our young people that the young people themselves never did think of and never did want, and won’t support by their attendance when the thing is started. Well, what about young people? They are members of the church. What about them, don’t they need training? Certainly they need training; they need the kind of Christian education that the church offers, and anything, whether it is a meeting, regular or otherwise for them, or for them and somebody else, that will contribute to their increased knowledge and their increase of ability to work, is well and good. But to create in a church a young people’s consciousness, that something special has to be done for them; and if we are going to hold the young people we must do this, and we must do that, is nothing in the world but just pure bunk.
You know I have resented it on behalf of the young people, and I think they have resented too, being made the goat for somebody else’s subversive schemes. Way back yonder when somebody wanted to put an organ in the church, wanted to have societies, and wanted to imitate and ape everything that the sectarians did, they made the young people the goat, used them for an excuse, and said: “We’ve got to have an organ to hold the young people.” Well that wasn’t so; it wasn’t the young people who were crying for it, unless somebody else had put them up to it, and they never would have thought about it. Now our sectarian neighbors have got this, and they’ve got that, and if we hold our young people, we must have something like it.
I’ve got enough confidence in the integrity and the honesty and the good sense of my young people to believe that it doesn‘t take anything but the gospel and its spiritual program to hold them. You know, the gospel won’t hold some people. There is something wrong with people when you’ve got to offer something besides the gospel to get them, keep offering them something besides the gospel to keep them. The church may fail to give its young people the spiritual help they need, and seeing their young people losing interest in church activities, determine to provide a social or recreational program that is planned to attract and hold young people. Picture shows, parties, ball teams, banquets and numerous other devices may be used. These activities may all be good in their place, for Christian parents who feel responsible for the recreation of their children, but they have no place in the program or work of the church. In other words, a lot of parents want to turn their responsibilities over to the church.
Now, you know, we have raised a good many children at our house. Brother W. A. Schultz went out into the country for dinner over in Arkansas, looked around and saw the yard full of children, and he said to the woman, “Sister, how many children have you got anyhow?” She said “eleven.” He said, ‘Well, that’s better than having so many ain’t it?” We haven’t had quite that many, but we have a pretty good bunch of children at my house, and I’ve never felt it the duty of the church to provide recreation for them. If I did, I wouldn’t confess it. I’ve never felt that I had to turn them over to the church to he entertained. I have a responsibility as a parent, and you have a responsibility as a parent. They are activities that pertain to the home, and you can’t turn your children over to the church, or anybody else, to furnish the entertainment and things like that, that they need.
The church has its mission to perform, and has its teaching to do, but a man, even in his youth, has spiritual needs. The church is uniquely designed to satisfy these special needs. If the church does not have a program, a worship and service program, a spiritual program, that satisfies its youth, let it never deceive itself in thinking it can hold them with entertainment and pleasure. You know that spiritual service consists in preaching and worship and work, but the church cannot compete with other organizations of a community on a social entertainment basis. Modern youth is starved spiritually. That hunger will not be satisfied with socials, camping trips, or athletic activities, as wholesome as all these things are in their proper place; the church must give the bread of life, and when it does it will draw young and old. Now that is so.
Take our young people’s meetings. Well, they are creating a class consciousness, you know, that idea of doing something for “our young people” as a special class in the church. In sectarian churches they have a young people’s church—the junior church—they have their own organization, their own elders, and when they get through with their work, they go home or somewhere else. Young people’s consciousness—we don’t need that in the church. There is one of our problems, and it is a problem that has arisen because of a false emphasis.