Survey of Surveys

There is one thing which I do not think I will ever forget no matter how old I get. That one thing is a part of my youth and something which is a vital part of every Protestant Reformed young person. That something is the place at which I met many young people I never knew existed and was then able to make friends with many of them. A year later, at that same occasion I could re-meet these same people, a year older and changed a bit and then had the opportunity to increase the ties of our friendship. That something was also the occasion of many, many enjoyable times. At these occasions I, along with all the other young people attending, could participate in a wide variety of activities, ranging from swimming to discussing and from banqueting to debating. Yes, I KNOW I will never forget these occasions nor will any of those who had the privilege of enjoying them with me.
Many of you have probably already guessed of what I am speaking. Yes, that something goes by the name of “The Protestant Reformed Young People’s Convention”.
As I now have the great privilege of doing a little part in the planning for our next convention to be held, D.V., in Redlands, California, August 13-20, I did a little recollecting about the past conventions. I am looking forward to this coming convention in eager anticipation and from the plans already made by the host society, I believe that my anticipation will not be let down. To aid me in my recollecting and to get some ideas from the past conventions I decided that it might be a good idea to look up a few of the surveys of past conventions in the Beacon Lights. As I read those surveys dealing with the conventions which I had attended, I re-hashed them over in my mind. What a lot of fun and good enjoyment they were.
After I read these surveys I started thinking, “What is the purpose of the Young People’s Convention? What is their true reason for existence?” At first I could not put my finger on what it was. I tried to recall the agenda of these conventions as given in the surveys in the Beacon Lights to see if I could draw the purpose from these agendas. Let me see, first there were 3 large paragraphs dealing with the trip, registration and the activities of the following day. Next, there was a small two-sentence paragraph dealing with the speech at the mass meeting. Following this, there were four more large paragraphs dealing with the outing. Oh, yes, there was a sentence in the second paragraph dealing with the second speech of the convention given at the outing. Then came a four-sentence paragraph dealing with the activities of Sunday. Next came three more good-sized paragraphs pertaining to the East-West softball game, the election of officers on the Board and the banquet held that night. This time there were two whole, complete sentences stating briefly the contents of the last speech of the convention. Closing the article came a short paragraph saying what fun the convention had been.
Well, according to the surveys it appears to me that the purpose of the conventions was to have fun. But now is that really the true purpose of a Y.P. convention: to have fun? I rather doubt it. I do not think that year after year Y. P. conventions were sponsored and much money spent just for the purpose of having fun. Rather, I believe that the purpose is, very simply, Christian fellowship and spiritual edification. Now, do not get me wrong, I am not putting a ban on “fun” at conventions. “Fun” is a vital part, I will guarantee that, but I also think that it should not be on the foreground, nor do I think it ever was. Yes, I know that the picture I painted above in my synopsis of the convention surveys was in very dark colors, but it is not true. It was tinted in such a way to prove a point, for I believe that slowly but surely the conventions are losing their real purpose.
I can just imagine the question popping into your heads: “How can we have fun at conventions when their purpose is Christian fellowship and spiritual edification?” To that I can simply answer, “Brother, they go hand in hand.” Now do not fall off your rocker in unbelief. It is true. I believe, and I know this only from my own experience, that you and I just have not tried to mix the two together enough. We will find a different kind of fun; one which we will enjoy much more and one which is not so dangerously close to the “fun” of the world.
I know for a fact that there is a better kind of fun, so to speak, and there are about 50 other young people who will agree with me. We 50 had the privilege of attending the first retreat the Federation Board sponsored approximately a year ago this spring. At this retreat a variety of topics were discussed, most of which dealt with the theme of the antithesis between the Church and the world in the areas of entertainment, education, etc. These discussions went on one entire day among small groups of young people. Later a survey revealed that we who had attended had experienced a new and different kind of fun, which is hard to describe. I guess it could best be called “spiritual edification,” in the true sense of the word.
Why do I tell you about this retreat? Because I think that our conventions should be run more along this line. The argument that too many discussions or debates will ruin the whole convention is invalid. This argument has now been proven false by the fact that the retreat was such a success.
The Lord willing, the next convention will be held in Redlands, California. The fact that the convention is planning to be held in California does not mean that the young people will not be spiritually edified. I know that just the word “California” carries connotations with it for many people and that they think that the young people are going there just to have fun. Let me erase that idea from your mind immediately. This convention, as all conventions, will attempt to mix spiritual fellowship and physical fun and I am sure it will succeed.

Originally Published in:
Vol. 29 No. 1 March 1969