On the Lookout (Committee)

Last week’s free story “A Christian Endeavor Picnic” ended with this interesting sentence:

When the merry party from the city completed their six weeks’ vacation and went home, they left a Christian Endeavor Society in the quiet seaside village fully organized and Henry Myers and Katrine Hempel are both on the lookout committee.

What, exactly, was a “lookout committee”?

As the name suggests, the Lookout Committee was responsible for bringing new members into a Christian Endeavor Society, but the committee members did so much more!

They were also responsible for educating potential members about their responsibilities. Joining a C.E. society was a major commitment, and it was the members of the Lookout Committee who ensured applicants understood everything membership entailed.

The most important requirement for a member was signing the C. E. covenant, which read:

Trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ for strength, I promise Him that I will strive to do whatever He would like to have me do; that I will pray and read the Bible every day; and that, just as far as I know how, I will try to lead a Christian life. I will be present at every meeting of the Society when I can, and will take some part in every meeting.

The Lookout Committee’s job wasn’t over once a new member joined. They called on members who missed even one prayer-meeting to encourage them to honor their commitment. They counseled members who were unfaithful to the covenant, and sometimes they had to make crucial decisions about when and how to drop members from their society.

At times, Lookout Committee members must have had a very difficult job!

But, as Rev. Clark summed it up, it was the Lookout Committee’s duty to keep the society active, earnest, efficient, and spiritually minded. A difficult task? Yes, but he regularly reminded Lookout Committee members that . . .

“You can do it through Him who strengtheneth you.”

Did you know Christian Endeavor Societies had such strict requirements for joining?

What do you think of the pledge new Christian Endeavor members were required to sign?

You can read more about Isabella’s involvement with Christian Endeavor in these previous posts:

Chrissy’s Endeavor Pin

A Chorus of Four-thousand Voices

Free Read: Mine

Free Read: Her Opportunity

Isabella and the Young People’s Society

Isabella often received invitations to speak to Christian organizations and she accepted as many as she could. Sometimes she would speak to the group on a topic that was dear to her heart, but often she would read one of her not yet published short stories.

Logo Young Peoples Society of Christian EndeavorOne day she received an invitation to go to a small town and read one of her stories to the “Y.P.S.C.E.”

“It was the first time I had seen those five letters of the alphabet so grouped,” she said, “and I could not decide what they meant.”

She puzzled over those letters for some time and finally decided that the first three initials stood for “Young People’s Society.” But what about the C and E? Why hadn’t the writer explained what the letters meant? How was she supposed to select the right story for her audience when she had no idea of the purpose of the organization?

At last she went to her husband for help and found him reading a newspaper.

“I was just coming to consult you,” Reverend Alden said. He pointed to an article in the newspaper. “I found a splendid name for our young people! This name suggests the very thought we have been struggling for. ‘Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor.’”

Suddenly Isabella realized the meaning of the initials on that invitation.

An artist's illustration of Reverend Francis E. Clark, 1897.
An 1897 artist’s illustration of Reverend Francis E. Clark, founder and president of Christian Endeavor.

The very next day she set out to learn everything she possibly could about the Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor. She wrote to the Society’s founder, Dr. Francis Clark, or “Father Endeavor Clark,” as he was affectionately called by the young people in the organization. He immediately wrote back with information about the Society, and he invited Isabella attended a Christian Endeavor Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. There she met Dr. Clark in person.

Her first thought as he cordially shook her hand was, “Why, he is just a young man!”

A Christian Endeavor Convention, 1921
A Christian Endeavor Convention, 1921

But she soon realized, after watching Dr. Clark interact with the young people at the convention, that he was an earnest and deeply spiritual leader who had a special gift for inspiring young people in Christian work.

A 1914 postcard depicting Williston Church, where the first Y.P.S.C.E. meeting was organized on February 2, 1881.
A 1914 postcard depicting Williston Church, where the first Y.P.S.C.E. meeting was organized on February 2, 1881.

Isabella used her own experiences with the Y.P.S.C.E as the inspiration for her book, Chrissy’s Endeavor. She even incorporated into the story her first encounter with those baffling initials, “Y.P.S.C.E.”

After the book was published, Isabella received an astonishing number of letters praising her book. One such letter read:

“We want to say that we think here that the book ‘Chrissy’s Endeavor’ is doing a work in the world which will be to its author one of the surprises of heaven.”

Isabella remained actively involved in the Y.P.S.C.E, as did her husband and other members of her family. Over the course of many years, she saw the results of the Society’s good works, and she was thankful for having had the chance to know Dr. Clark in person.

San Francisco Call article banner

In 1897 The San Francisco Call published a full-page article about the Society of Christian Endeavor, with details about how it came to be organized, and it’s growth world wide to over two million members. Click on this link to read the article.

Cover_Chrissys Endeavor v3You can find out more about Isabella’s book, Chrissy’s Endeavor. Click on the cover to read reviews and sample chapters.