Local Church Lectureships
Morris D. Norman
More and more churches are learning the worth of the lecture type program as a part of local effectiveness. The Lord's church that meets at 640 Thayer Street in Akron, Ohio has been using this as a part of its work since 1970 and it has proven to be profitable for many reasons. Prior to 1970, the traditional gospel meeting was not serving local needs as it had in the past and the elders decided to try the lecture program as an alternate. This article will set forth the program and its advantages to us.
Although those attending "college lectureships" have enjoyed, and obtained great good from them, there is some difference in a lecture series put on by a local church and a school. The situation on a school campus is not always conducive to the atmosphere of worship and edification as is possible in a local church at work. If a church is contemplating such a program, the final decision should not be made on what is sometimes observed at a "college lectureship."
Since this program is a local church at work, it is prepared with the needs of Thayer Street in mind. The elders design the program for the local situation and then invite others to share in it much like the gospel meeting. But the very nature of it can extend its effectiveness beyond the local level like the gospel meeting.
There can be several variations to this type program. There can be week-long sessions with either evening services, morning and evening services, or morning, afternoon and evening services. Some have had weekend programs with the sessions beginning on Friday nights and continuing all day Saturday and Sunday. Thayer Street Lectures begin on Monday night with morning, afternoon and evening sessions through Thursday night. There is a total of 19 lessons with two speakers at each session with the exception of Wednesday evening. We leave that night for one speaker, a guest to the lecture series from out of town. This permits those from other churches in Akron to attend their own services without missing any of the scheduled speakers, and also to let out-of-town visitors visit other churches locally.
The selection of subjects can vary. Some carry a theme throughout. We prefer to deal with a variety of subjects. The elders prepare the program, covering areas of doctrine, faith building, character studies and devotion. One of the features of the past few years has been the study of the lives of Biblical persons, ranging from women, patriarchs, prophets, apostles to general people of faith who have merited a place in the divine record. We have also used the first part of the afternoon session to emphasize worshiping in song with audience participation. In 1976, attention was given to a study of the psalms that had been set to music. We have highlighted the other areas of worship as well. All subjects are chosen according to local need and interest.
After selecting the subjects for a given program, the elders then seek the men whom they feel will best be able to deal with the subject. They strive to have a balanced program each year in both subjects and speakers. We use young men to encourage them, local men who are new to the area to acquaint them with local brethren, and then more seasoned men for the more mature subjects. We urge the speakers to prepare their presentations with the "man in the pew" in mind. Most of those attending are average members (housewives, working :people, young couples, etc.) and we ask that the material be directed to such, rather than "scholarly" material that may be apparent at school lectureships.
Outlines are printed of each speech, put in book form and available to all attending. We also mail out a number each year to some who are unable to attend but desire the material, thus extending the good accomplished. We have printed up to 700 outline books for any one program. This will likely be our limit. Since the outlines are in demand from year to year, there would hardly be a limit otherwise. Some speakers make brief outlines, others as many as 15 pages. We are considering limiting each speaker to about five typewritten pages because of the expense involved. We request the outlines be in our hands 4 to 6 weeks prior to the program to give our volunteer help time to prepare the books.
The over-all response in attendance and enthusiasm has grown over the years. We broke previous records this year with the day services about double the first years. Those attending from other local churches have grown appreciably as have those from out of town. We have had visitors from over a dozen states and Canada. More young preachers attended this year than ever before. Their over-all response and attitude show that the cause of the Lord is in good hands in the years to come. The assistance that these lectures give them is alone worth the cost and effort. But let it be emphasized that the program is designed for Thayer Street, not those attending from elsewhere. The good done beyond Thayer Street is secondary; this is not a "brotherhood" work. We maintain a mailing list of churches and individuals who have shown an interest in the program and we begin notifying them of that year's program in early Spring, with two more mailings by late August. The periodicals published by our brethren have been kind in printing notices for us.
An advantage on the local level, in addition to the edification, is the involvement of our members in the program. In a gospel meeting, the usual involvement is an occasional invitation to a friend or neighbor, the attending of all the services and having the visiting preacher in for a meal. In our program there is much more involvement. The printing of the outlines alone involves a number of people. The stencils must be cut (as many as 50 or 60), then printed (700 copies of each), then collated (imagine 20 or 30 people marching around a couple of tables gathering 700 fifty-page outlines) and finally stapled into book form. So far no out of town guests have had to depend on commercial housing; Christians have opened their homes with good old fashioned hospitality. Our people are learning the joy of sharing. More and more are scheduling their vacations so as to attend all sessions and get the full benefits of the program, and this is spreading to other churches in the area. This type of involvement is invaluable in the continued development of the saints.
This type program can be recommended for any of the above reasons. It can be effective most anywhere, but particularly where there are a number of congregations. The cost may vary. We pay travel expenses to each speaker plus a small amount for his effort. The cost has been approximately $1,000 per year. That is about the cost of two gospel meetings, but we feel that the benefit is more than that which would be obtained from two annual meetings. If you are interested in such a program and would like to have more information than obtained here, we would be glad to give it.
Truth Magazine XXI: 29, pp. 450-451