Remember getting a buzz at the club?
By Darlene Warren
BIG SANDY, Texas--Some time back, in the late '50s or early '60s, Spokesman Club was formed, sponsored by the Worldwide Church of God. It was patterned after Toastmaster's International, an organization designed for men and women who share the goal of excelling in public speaking and leadership. As stated in its manual, Spokesman Club had three purposes: to develop the whole personality, to provide opportunities for true Christian fellowship and to show God's government in action.
I can't recall ever hearing that being a member of a Spokesman Club was something you did just for fun. To give up one night a week for an entire year was a great sacrifice for the men who diligently attended.
This story is true
I recall an incident that happened in a local club meeting. The director of the club was evaluating a speaker for not using enough gestures. He ranted and raved about what a poor job the man had done. Couldn't he follow the directions in the manual concerning the use of gestures?
Well, actually he couldn't. The man had no arms. He had lost both of them in an oil-rig accident. From his shoulders hung metal contraptions that worked as his arms with pincherlike hooks at the end that served as fingers. I remember he rattled when he walked.
Do you think he may have been just a little self-conscious? Do you think he enjoyed drawing attention to himself?
I know that one of the purposes of club was to help you develop "the whole personality," but I believe people's life experiences form their personalities to a large degree. That director should have known that it must have taken a great deal of courage on the man's part even to stand up and address an audience. The man never came back. I guess he didn't want to be a part of "God's government in action."
Someone to listen
Then you have those individuals you couldn't beat off with a stick. My husband joined Spokesman Club when he was 17 years old. He wasn't quite old enough, but the minister made an exception for men who had applied for college. Coming from a family of 10, he found it quite refreshing to have someone actually listen to him for a full six minutes without interruption.
One of his first speeches was "How to Throw a Successful Cocktail Party." He wasn't old enough to drink. He had never been to a cocktail party, never known of anyone who had and certainly had never thrown one himself. He said he was hoping to stir up some interest in the subject and maybe receive an invitation or two. I'm sure he was trying to instruct people in "true Christian fellowship."
Ladies' nights were an important event on a congregation's social calendar: a special evening when wives and dates were allowed to see exactly how the club was organized and how it worked during an evening of dressing up and enjoying a nice meal.
Besides speeches, there was a short session where topics, especially tailored for the evening, were opened up for discussion. It was a segment of time when you learned about the evils of television, how women should exercise femininity or, even more important, how you would cope if stranded on a desert island with nothing to eat but unclean creatures.
No nonsense brooked
I find it interesting that the club meetings were conducted in such a no-nonsense manner. There was an official timer at every meeting. If a speaker went over his allotted time, lights began to flash, a buzzer sounded, and he must at that time sit down, whether he was finished with his speech or not. Not finishing on time showed a lack of organizational skills and must be pointed out as such.
Friendship and more
Why has this procedure never been instituted for church services? I know someone has got to have one of those little buzzers lying around somewhere.
Spokesman Club wasn't just about giving speeches. The clubs performed many worthwhile service projects. There were many occasions where widows' houses were reroofed or repainted; needy young people were sponsored to attend summer camp; and members took turns volunteering to stay overnight with terminally ill men in order to give their wives a desperately needed decent night's sleep--all compliments of the local Spokesman Club.
Not everyone found his niche at club. Not everyone graduated a powerful, dynamic speaker. Not everyone enjoyed God's government in action. But many friendships were formed and much camaraderie enjoyed through the years.
Speaking is only one form of communication. There are other ways and other means, but Spokesman Club filled the spot for many.
I was just recently leafing through the old Spokesman Club manual. I must confess I was somewhat surprised at what I found in there. I can't say I agree with all of its stated purposes and goals, but the men who were a part of those clubs gave of themselves in ways most of the congregation were never aware. That's what true leadership is all about.
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God