Our youngest son Jimmy, always the adventurous type, decided to leave the safety and comfort of the Lone Star State (Texas) to continue his education after high school at Babson College—a private, but well-known business college founded in 1919 in Wellesley, Massachusetts, a town west of Boston.
So, it did not surprise his father or me that as an adult, he decided to collect the antique book versions written by the founder of his college—Roger W. Babson.
As most parents would be, we were grateful he did not want to start a collection of weird things like banana stickers, toenail clippings, or super-soakers! So, books were a great choice since I could find and give these rare books for birthday and Christmas gifts—if I could find them.
Babson was an American entrepreneur, economist, and business theorist. He predicted the Wall Street Crash of 1929, was the Prohibition Party’s candidate for President of the United States in 1940 although the election was won by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was also a religious man.
Babson authored over 40+ books on various topics—mainly business-related topics, but one book that he wrote, with the help of others, is titled How to Increase Church Attendance. It is this rare book that I found for Jimmy’s recent birthday present from a source I will not disclose to anyone.
Before wrapping Jimmy’s birthday gift, I read the book and took notes. Being a book published in 1936, it was fascinating to see how religious men from over 80 years ago perceived church attendance.
I desire that the following quotes from Babson’s book will make you laugh, ponder, and/or possibly change how you do church today!
Ministers, Leaders, and the Church
The personality and the pastoral work of the minister [is] very important. [It] is fundamental to a successful church.
If a church [cannot] afford a decent plant, it should consider consolidating with another church. In such cases, the churches with the poorer plants should sell their property and use the funds for renovating and extending [with] some other church in the community.
Trained teachers who are willing to give their services in the Sunday School should be exempt from making contributions.
All in the community, whether or not they attend church, should contribute to some church.
A Sunday should never go by without the minister making a public appeal for those who wish to give their hearts to Jesus.
The church is like a muscle—the more we use it, the stronger it becomes, while the less we use it, the weaker it becomes.
There are twice as many churches as there should be.
It is an outworn custom to count only those at the Sunday morning preaching service. We should also count the number who come to the church each week for any service of worship.
We should attend church . . . to show our colors—to show the community and our family where we stand.
Every layman should go to church, irrespective of [the] preacher, music, ventilation, or cushions.
“Here [are] my suggestions for a church membership pledge,” exclaimed Roger Babson.
To the ………………………………. Church,
I desire to develop my spiritual life and the spiritual life of others. As one means of doing this, I desire to join the ………………………………. Church.
I shall endeavor to bring my family or friends to your church, or to some other church if I am away, every Sunday.
I ask that you get in touch with me any week that you do not see or hear from me. I have checked the two lists on the reverse of this sheet showing the specific help which I most need, and also the line of work in which I may perhaps be most helpful to you.
Date ………………………………. (S) ………………………………..
I FEEL THE MOST NEED OF:
Learning to pray
Courage and Faith
Help with my family
CAN BE THE MOST HELPFUL TO OTHERS IN:
Service of Worship
Teaching in Sunday School
Helping on the music
Leading young people
Caring for little children
Adult educational work
Boys’ Club Projects
Calling on the sick
Causes for the Decline in Church Attendance
- Many seem to fear neither God nor man.
- Secondary motives for attending church, i.e. to help a man’s business or better his political prospects.
- Competing calls—competition; movies, reading newspapers.
- “The Waiting Mood”—People have ceased to seek. They wait to be sought.
- Indifference—church people are tremendously interested in many things. We must present the advantages of church attendance.
- Dissatisfaction with the tenets and teachings of the church. [Basically, the church does not seem to meet their needs and the needs of the age.]
The church should work for the well-being of the people.
Vitalizing the Sermon and Worship
- [There] must be an essential truth to the sermon. People want spiritual food they can understand.
- Holy zeal is necessary.
- Better craftsmanship is needed.
- Use other materials when necessary.
- Use the Bible.
- Sermons should be practical.
- Add news value to sermons. The use of such living materials … imparts a new freshness and impressiveness to the church service.
- Select “pulling subjects”—good topics and titles.
- Personal character—the personal life of the preacher must be a living example of Christianity.
Improving the Church Structure
- Ugly, badly arranged churches, if continued in use, will become more detrimental to church attendance.
- The equipment is very important.
- What, essentially, is required in order that a room be made effective as a place of worship? When one enters the room from the majestic out-of-doors, does he feel, upon coming within the building, a sense of uplifting and enlargement, even though the building may be small? Proportions [matter].
- Remove distractions—old chandeliers; Pleasant lanterns suspended from the ceiling will add much to the appearance and churchliness.
- Remove bad art glass.
- Good acoustics.
- Little things count for much.
- Eliminate all ugliness, barrenness, and things that divert attention from the holy exercise of divine worship.
- Cloakrooms will enable people to enter the sanctuary unencumbered without wraps, hats, and overshoes.
The Home and Church Attendance
- Regarding birth control, we do not have enough children in our church homes today to replenish our ranks in the next generation.
- The key individual to interest boys and girls in attending church is, of course, the minister. In the first place, he must be fond of children.
- The minister’s wife sets the example with herself and 5 children, and oftentimes four or five other children, [by] all sitting together in the fourth pew from the front.
Public Records on Church Attendance
Finance and attendance are both matters about which is the duty of all members to be informed.
Church Attendance and Theological Education
- A divinity school is a place for study. Its chief purpose is to train men in the major disciplines of theological education, not to equip students with a bag of tricks for drawing crowds.
Making the Community Church-Minded
- To have a great church, there must be two very essential factors; first-numbers; and second-loyalty.
- Two things impress the visitor—the height and central location of the pulpit.
Week-Day Religious Education
- For children and youth, religious education teachers should mostly be college or university graduates who have specialized in Bible and education.
- There is no need, however, for a church [to] lower its dignity by using the competitive methods of secular institutions, to draw people to its programs.
- [There needs to be] a firm belief that the church has something to offer.
- The finest kind of advertising for any community, industry, merchandise, or even a church is the personal words [in] which one customer passes on to another.
- The great reason for non-church attendance among so-called Christians is the unregenerate conditions of their hearts.
Church Attendance and Prayer
- The heart of the church is prayer. If there is no place of prayer, or if the place of prayer is inadequate and weak, then no matter how enormous the church building might be, no matter how large the church membership, the church is a dying church.
- We cannot return to the old-fashioned testimonial meeting. It is as defunct as the old one-horse shay. (I had to look up the definition of a one-horse shay. It is a light, covered, two-wheeled carriage for two persons, drawn by a single horse.)
- But when we discarded the old shay, we did not leave our barn empty, we then filled it with a new automobile.
Six classes of people who attend church
- Those present every Sunday
- Others attending generally
- Others frequently
- Others occasionally
- Others rarely, and
- Others annually (on Easter)
Church Loyalty Projects
- Have a project.
- These works because they present specific achievements and friendly contests.
What about the Future?
- While the movies, the radio, comic supplements, and the automobile…have great power for good, they today are to too great an extent, undermining the character, health, and success of our children. Yet, we tacitly show our approval of these inroads by attending questionable movies and listening to everything on the radio.
- Before the development of modern advertising, motion pictures, and radio, many more of us spent our Sundays attending church services and reading good books.
- Today we are reading the sports and stock market pages, attending the movies, and listening to cheap radio patter.
- Hence, it behooves us to withhold a proper proportion of our time and money from these less important things and to devote the same to personally attending and financially supporting the churches.
- [To] help our children recognize the importance of character and the spiritual life, we must have them know that we put church attendance above the Sunday newspaper, the movie, and listening to the radio.
- [The most] efficient and inexpensive method of developing character among children and the community, in general, is to have them see us and their neighbors attend church.
- In conclusion, our studies would seem to indicate that the Protestant churches of America are today suffering from inertia, from lack of sufficient interest. Hence it would be time well spent if our clergymen and laymen would seriously consider an “over-hauling” and thorough examination.
- Statistics show that all institutions go downhill, which [does] not keep abreast or ahead of the times.
- Go through the list of church members with the thoroughness that a business organization would apply and prepare a list of those who do not go to church.
- Some may need to be dropped from the church roll.
- Others can be transplanted to other churches.
- But some will be quickened to resume their interest in the local church.
I hope you liked these quotes as much as I did. And, after reading this book, I am glad Jimmy no longer collects baseball cards, sneakers, or sunglasses! Books are good. And rare books are even better!
I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. Matthew 16:18
Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31
For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 1 Timothy 6:10
Jesus, let me love my church as You did. Let me honor and respect the holy place You have provided for me to worship in. Give me a love for the people in the church—no matter our differences, personalities, or Bible knowledge. May all I do within the church body be pleasing and acceptable to You. In the precious name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.
Central Houston Inspirational Writers Alive! Associate Member; BibleGateway Blogger, Member; SBC, Church Member
Babson, Roger. How to Increase Church Attendance: The Commission on Church Attendance. New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1936.
[Roger W. Babson, Rev. Edwin H. Byington, Rev. Hudson E. Fiebiger, Winslow L. Webber, Rev. Gail Cleland, Elbert M. Conover, Rev. Clement F. Hahn, Rev. George L. Thurlow, Rev. Edwin B. Robinson, Rev. Vaughan Dabney, Rev. John L. Keedy, Rev. Robert W. Gammon, James B. McKendry, Rev. Daniel Bliss, Rev. Arthur L. Kingsolving; and Rev. Herbert D. Rugg.]
Bible verses are from the New American Standard Bible.