Church Recreation

C.A. Norred

Church recreation is growing in the public mind. Some of us may recall that when we were mere children quite a furor arose in some places as the denominations began to build kitchens into their church structures. Then billiard tables were placed in the recreation rooms in the basements and bridge tables in the ladies' parlors. In some places provision was made for dancing. But the particularly interesting thing is that we ourselves who profess the simple New Testament order have not remained entirely unaffected. It has already been stated that our young people's meetings may in some instances be looked on approvingly as literary societies. In many cases there runs parallel with the young people's meeting an unnamed, but well-defined auxiliary arrangement for social and recreational activities. In some of our encampments supervised recreation is advertised with equal emphasis with the preaching of the gospel. In serious discussions in religious gatherings recognized leaders have definitely declared that in the vital thing of recreation among our young people the church should assume leadership and direction.

That the matter of recreation may sustain a vital relationship to the development of character, I cheerfully admit; but from the view that the church should sponsor and supervise the recreation of the young people, I definitely dissent -- and I base my dissenting contention on the divine principle that the oversight of the young people is vested in the parents of the young people. The Scriptures teach that the parent is divinely held accountable for the spiritual development of the child. (Prov. 22: 6; Eph. 6:4.) Also, children are divinely required to honor and obey their parents. (Eph. 6: 1-3.) This leaves the supervision of the young people in the hands of the parents. This fundamental principle will enable us to understand why it is that in all the history of the New Testament there is not to be found one instance of a church's taking over the recreational and social activities of the young. The thing needed is, therefore, not an ecclesiastical totalitarianism which would take our young people from their parents and put them in the care of counselors and self-imagined specialists; our need is the order of home life outlined in the divine word.

This reference to home life will afford the signal for the opposition to open with the double-barreled slander that the home is failing and the young people going to Old Scratch. The home is failing? Not the Christian home! And I sincerely and positively deny that the young people are the nitwits and brigands they have been pictured. They naturally have intelligence and conscience. Furthermore, they have the word of God and the guidance of their parents. And, what is more, the young people are making no greater failure in their field than the adults are making in theirs. Think of the divorce evil, rampant political graft, the wholesale slaughter politely called war-and bear in mind that these are vices of adulthood. Shall the church take over the marital, political, and economic life of adulthood? You will probably reply that those things lie in the field of individual responsibility. Exactly so in the matter of the church', taking over the recreational and social life of the young; the Scriptures make the oversight of the young a matter between parent and child.

But naturally there arises the question as to what is to be said in regard to the young people who in these days are forced to reside away from their homes, or whose homes do not give them proper care. Have we completely forgotten that hospitality is a quality of the Christian home? "Forget not to show love unto strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." (Heb. 13: 2.) "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another." (John 13: 24.) The proper home will be careful to afford Christian entertainment to all who might need it. I know a man and his wife who in individual initiative fell on the plan of entertaining at Sunday dinner the young people who were members of the church and in attendance on the university in that city. Two and two they had them -- for twenty-two consecutive Sundays! In a certain school town the mothers in the church took on themselves the individual work of listing the young people in the school and entertaining them at dinner in their homes. Hospitality will work wonders. The pity is that we seem about to forget it.

But suppose that this hospitality is not extended! Such would be regrettable. However, the young person who can wriggle through the vocational and financial difficulties incident upon residence away from home ought to be able, should the need present itself, to overcome the discouragements and hardships encountered in spiritual life. I have read in the Bible of a young man by the name of Daniel who did so. And here I fall back again upon the hope and confidence I have in the young people themselves. I repeat that they have intelligence, conscience, and the word of God. If they have been brought up right, they will, with rare exceptions, find the way. To be sure, they may encounter hardships; but we all do, all along the way of life. In such emergencies our help will lie in the divine provisions.

No, we do not need a church-sponsored and church-supervised recreational and social program. Those matters lie within the individual sphere of parent and child, We do need, though, a greater awakening to our needs and possibilities in that field. But we need to bear in mind as we labor together in those matters, as we labor singly or in groups, we labor as individuals and not as a congregation. And if the time does ever come when we cast the individual responsibilities of parent and child upon something we call the church, one of the greatest agencies God ever created for good will have gone into eclipse. And in the darkness attendant upon such an event the tragedy which always follows after separation from God will reveal itself; worldliness and irreligion will run riot and imsery will prevail. God preserve us against such an eventuality. But if under God we maybe permitted to maintain the Christian home committed to the development of the young and the church of God devoted to breaking the bread of life, we can laugh at calamity and sing for the day ahead.

The article above is taken from the "Gospel Advocate," Nov. 21, 1940. We believe its words deserve attention in 1957.

Truth Magazine II:3, pp.18-19
December 1957