To the Editor of the Standard Bearer,
Dear Mr. Editor:
Your challenge in the recent issues of the Standard Bearer can hardly pass unheeded. The very thought that the Standard Bearer might lose its influence through becoming a church paper makes one’s heart melt within him. While, on the other hand, a change which would mean a more systematic arrangement and a greater variety of material, without changing its present status, appeals to me very much. In fact, I believe that the time has come that a frank and open discussion on how our Standard Bearer might be improved can only tend toward its welfare.
May I, then, offer a few suggestions as to possible changes?
First of all, I would favor a change in the present editorial staff. We all know that this staff is, to a great extent at least, a product of circumstances. Almost from the very beginning by far the biggest share of the work and responsibility rested on the shoulders of two men, partly, too, because others turned deserter and left them to carry on alone. As soon as possible two of our older ministers were called upon to help shoulder the burden by becoming associate editors. Somewhat later these men were made co-editors, and ever since all four have kept their noses quite steadily to the grindstone. Though at the same time a host of associate editors were appointed, these did little more than adorn the title page.
All of which means that a change might well be in order. To my mind, it would be a step in the right direction to make the present editor-in-chief the sole editor of the paper. No one cares to deny that his articles have proven to be of greatest influence both here and in the Netherlands. Besides, he is by far the most capable writer we have and has had years of experience in the work of editing a paper. And although the objection might be raised that this would tend to increase rather than lighten his burden, I do not believe that this is an objection. The other editors could be given one or more departments as associate editors, and the present associate editors could become contributors. One or two of the present editors might even be released for a period of six months in order to prepare for some definite department which he will then take upon himself for a given length of time. In the meantime one of the younger ministers who is capable and not otherwise engaged, could be appointed to take over a certain department for a time. Or even our Missionary-minister could very well take upon himself the responsibility of writing for a department on Missions. In either case the allotted space need not be more than a few columns for each issue, especially if sufficient departments are introduced.
Something could also be done to warrant the faithful cooperation of the contributors. There is no reason why some definite arrangement cannot be made that the work be systematically divided among the various contributors and each do his part. For example, one particular department could be given into the hands of three or four contributors, each taking his turn to fill the department. Or a committee might be appointed to serve the editor in preparing a list of subjects to be discussed by some of the contributors. Each could have his subject appointed to him, know when his article is due, and make it his business to have the material ready within the allotted time. Nor would it be difficult to put so many to work that the editor always has an abundant supply of material on hand. That would ease his burden by sparing him some very unnecessary grief and midnight oil.
If some such plan could be worked out, it would certainly have the wholesome effect of creating more variety in the Standard Bearer, and thereby make it more interesting, if not more effective.
But a change in the administration of the paper is fully as essential for its welfare.
Small wonder if the R.F.P.A. begins to complain of weariness after all these years. That it has produced many and lasting results, we all agree, for it has not only put away sixteen volumes of the Standard Bearer, but has also published from time to time many pamphlets and other literature for propaganda purposes. But we also agree that it has never had the cooperation it might have had. Not so many years ago an attempt was made to enlarge the society by organizing various divisions throughout our denomination. To the best of my knowledge no division has ever come into existence in California, nor in the southern part of Iowa, but divisions were organized in Sioux County and Illinois, but after a struggling existence the Illinois division died, either from anemia or amnesia; no autopsy was ever held. That leaves the Michigan division to carry on practically alone.
Can nothing be done?
It seems to me that it has always been a mistake to have the membership fee so high without offering the members any other advantages than the satisfaction of supporting a noble cause. I do not know how many paid members the society boasts today, but suppose that we could rally five hundred members at three dollars per year, would that not produce as much as, or more than the present amount at five dollars per year? Suppose, again, that these members were scattered all through our churches, would that not be a power for good for our Standard Bearer? Or if the membership fee were set at three dollars and fifty cents, and each member were promised besides a free subscription to the Standard Bearer, also all the literature published by the society during the year, wouldn’t that be an added incentive for those five hundred to sign their names on the dotted line in short order? Instead of allowing the pamphlets of the R.F.P.A. to collect dust in some dark closet for years to come, they could be given a wide distribution, and all would profit. Of course, if the Board objects that hive hundred members at that price would not be sufficient we might be forced to look for still more.
But at the same time a strenuous effort could well be put forth to gain more subscribers, even within our own churches. Every family should be a subscriber to the Standard Bearer or know the reason why. This would soon cut the subscription rate down to the attractive sum of one-fifty or two dollars.
But we can never hope to reduce the subscription rate unless an effort is made to remove delinquent subscribers from the list. Most of us still buy a daily paper and cigars and numerous non-essentials, which total annually to far more than the price of our subscription. If anyone is absolutely unable to pay, let a special arrangement be made between him and the board. But, certainly, it should be one man’s business to keep a record of the subscribers and notify them as soon as their subscription is due, even continuing to notify until he knows whether they care to keep the paper or prefer to have it discontinued. A task which we cannot lay upon our present treasurer. As it is, he has the responsibility of the subscriptions, receipts and expenditures, bookkeeping, making arrangements with the printer, et cetera. The man may have an undying zeal for the cause, but why overtax it? We have sufficient trained bookkeepers and accountants who would be readily available to assist him.
All of which brings me to a final remark. How soon can a drive be under way throughout all our churches for membership at a reduced rate and with an attractive offer? Then either by proxy or by a representative body in Grand Rapids a Board can be chosen sufficiently large and capable of handling all the angels of the administration. A well-organized society means much toward maintaining the general interest and the welfare of the paper.
For many years the mountain stream rushed aimlessly toward the ravine before any effort was put forth to harness its power to a water wheel. The steam from the spout of a tea kettle cannot move a locomotive unless it is put under pressure. A small effort toward conservation and better application of energy in our own midst must prove of lasting benefit.