Recently the undersigned was asked to serve as advisor to a study committee of the Federation Board. This committee’s mandate was to determine ways in which the annual conventions of our young people might be improved. After the report was adopted by the Federation Board, the Board asked that it be published in Beacon Lights and the editor was requested to give his “opinion” of this report. However, since he is one of the authors of the report his opinions are embodied in the report itself. Therefore we would submit to our readers the following questions as a guide to reading the report. It is hoped that the questions will provoke some thought on the material contained in it.
1. Do you agree that there is a problem? Is the problem correctly stated by committee (cf. first paragraph of report)?
2. Do you think that the objectives as stated by the report are proper? Should there be more? Less? If you think there should be more or less, state why.
3. Are the committee’s observations concerning the business meetings correct?
4. Does what the committee terms “edification through active discussion and participation” need improvement? Why or why not?
5. What part does the “social objective” play in our conventions?
The readers are invited to comment on the above or other questions. Beacon Lights has plenty of space in the column, Open Forum. Write and perhaps a beneficial discussion for all of our people, parents as well as young people, will result. All contributions will be published as soon as possible. All of our readers, of all ages are urged to send in their comments. Certainly the conventions of the young people are worth our attention.
REPORT OF THE STUDY COMMITTEE ON HOW TO IMPROVE FUTURE CONVENTIONS
During the past six or seven conventions, a trend has begun to make itself evident. There seems to be a movement away from edifying activities and toward an increased interest on the social activities. This trend became especially apparent during the 1964 convention at Hope Church when of the more than one hundred and fifty conventioneers, only thirty-six felt the need to discuss matters pertinent to the kingdom of God in the discussion groups that had been set up. A further illustration of this trend is that in the last seven conventions, the committee could remember only two in which any group activities such as panel discussions, debates, etc., were a part of the program. Finally, this writer remembers of a time when his society offered as its special number to the convention, a panel discussion which was turned down by the host society; the reason given was that they could not fit it into the program. This, therefore, is the problem which your committee has attempted to center upon and we feel that it is the duty of the Federation Board to provide guidance in this matter. However, we do not favor a program which will take away the responsibilities and the initiative of the individual societies and their members. Therefore, we as a committee feel that in order to correct this problem, the Federation Board and the federation as a whole should co-operate in adopting and distributing among its members certain objectives for the conventions.
The committee suggests three basic objectives, the first dealing with the business meeting, the second dealing with edification (this pertains in particular to activities other than the convention speeches) and the third deals with the social aspect of conventions. Now each will be looked into more thoroughly and an objective should be stated for each.
First of all, then, the Business Meeting drew the committee’s attention because this aspect of the convention concerns the welfare of the Federation. Here, all members of the federation are given the opportunity to decide, according to the rules of democracy, those things that pertain to the federation in the future. In the past, we had experienced the problem of poor attendance; but, with the threat of withholding travel expenses, this problem has been somewhat alleviated, at least in regard to the delegates. However, though we have attained a more proper attendance, we now experience the problem of poor participation; this is true both of the delegates and of the visitors. Although a visitor has no right to vote, he does have the basic right to express his opinion on any given matter. And though much of the business may not be considered earthshaking, certainly all business is important, especially, the choice of which Bible Book to study for the next year, the matter concerning assessments and the election of the new officers. These may not be, at all times, major issues, but surely they are always important enough to demand discussion. For instance, in regard to the proposed Bible Book that the federation decides to study, surely all members of the federation should be prepared to study this book; and, if a society does not intend to do so, they should in all honesty give their reasons why not. In regard to nominations, do we offer a proper choice? Finally, as to assessments, should they remain the same, should they be lowered, should they be raised? Why? Certainly these matters demand discussion. As an objective regarding business meetings toward which all conventions should strive, let your committee offer you this: All business matters should be considered serious enough to demand and encourage discussion by the delegates and by the visitors. This implies that every conventioneer must know what is on the agenda and be prepared to give his reaction to any of the proposals, and then give it! In order to meet this requirement, the societies are urged to spend at least one after recess program on the proposed agenda in discussion and comment. Furthermore, the Board feels that to help meet this requirement, it is essential that parents encourage their children in regard to these matters by showing interest and by attempting some sort of conversation and discussion. Parental concern and encouragement is essential if this and the following objectives are to succeed.
The second objective is also important, especially since this is the one that has been neglected in recent conventions; this one deals with edification. The importance of a second objective dealing with edification really need not be argued; surely its importance at a Protestant Reformed Young People’s Convention is apparent to all. But, before getting too deeply involved at the moment in illustrating the problem, it is necessary to point out that we do, be means of our convention addresses, attain the possibility of some edification. However, your committee feels that we should distinguish between edification that is gained passively through listening to a speech and edification attained through active discussion and participation. It is the latter that especially needs to be improved. Surely, directed discussions by the young people concerning topics relevant to the kingdom of God should be a must at our conventions. Without such activities, conventions will indeed become nothing more than a form of entertainment that we could take or leave. Only when edifying and enlightening activities concerning that most interesting of all topics, our own glorious salvation, can a conventioneer return home truly satisfied. This is not to say that social activities should be abolished—not at all—but only that we should have a correct amount of each.
The question might then be asked “but do we have time enough to include these extra activities”? In the first place, if we did not have time, it’s about time we set aside some time. In the second place, your committee can provide a schedule which would permit at least eight hours of time in which such activities could be carried on—time that has not been utilized in the past.
Hopefully, the need of an objective dealing with edification is clearly seen by all. Now then, how can this objective be promoted, by what means? In answer to the above question, there are many ways in which to do this, i.e. debates, panel discussions, speech contests, extemporaneous speeches, impromptu speeches and reports, are but a few that could be used. We, as committee, also discussed the possibility of assigning topics to volunteers a year ahead of time in which they cooperate with other young people in our churches, even with those outside their own society, in order to cross society boundaries. We feel that this has definite possibilities, but we are also aware of possible difficulties. Planning would be essential. As a definite objective, consider the following: All conventions should attempt to promote, by means of debates, speeches, reports, etc., edifying activities and experiences among our Protestant Reformed Young People.
In order for this to be brought to a successful conclusion, a necessary prerequisite has to be the cooperation and enthusiasm of the young people. Here, also, the parents and societies are urged to lend a guiding hand.
Our final objective has to do with social activities. We as committee feel that the third important aspect of our conventions is to promote the making of new friends and acquaintances and to renew those made in past years. It is especially important to become familiar with those in our own denomination and to seek from these our future wives and husbands. Conventions do have a social objective, no one is about to deny it; but this objective must be promoted along with, not over and above the other objectives. The convention outing, the pancake breakfast and the banquet are important social activities and the committee concedes this most heartily; nevertheless, they must be kept in their proper place. These must not become the primary goals of the conventions, as the committee fears has been the case in recent conventions. As an objective, therefore, consider this proposal: All conventions should provide social activities such as a banquet, an outing, a breakfast, etc., in order to promote the making of new friends and acquaintances and further, to promote true Christian fellowship and enjoyment. If we keep in mind that this aspect is only one-third of the convention as a whole, then we will not be tempted to put too much emphasis on it.
Therefore, in conclusion, we have three objectives that should, if followed closely, help to improve our conventions. But these objectives in themselves are not enough; more important is the cooperation of all our societies and all the young people. All of us must support these objectives and promote them at all times in whatever way possible. Only by following these objectives will our conventions begin to reach their potential.
John Kalsbeek, Jr. Chairman