Young People's Society of Christian Endeavour

Young People's Society of Christian Endeavour

The Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor was a nondenominational evangelical society founded in Portland, Maine, in 1881 by Francis Edward Clark. Its professed object was "to promote an earnest Christian life among its members, to increase their mutual acquaintanceship, and to make them more useful in the service of God."


Organizational history


Francis Edward Clark, founder of the Society

The first Christian Endeavor Society was formed in 1881 in Portland, Maine, under the direction of Francis E. Clark. The society was formed in order to bring youth to accept Christ and work for Him. The youth were shown that the church cared for young people. The Society enabled youth to express themselves while participating in useful tasks. It stressed a devoted, evangelistic spirit that was expressed in the Christian Endeavor pledge. Christian Endeavor created publications for youth, devised youth programs, and sponsored events. Christian Endeavor was maintained through private donations that often came from youth.

Christian Endeavor began as a small group of eager youth that met at the house of their minister. Within a year, six societies had formed. After two years, the number of societies had grown to fifty-six. The organization expanded rapidly as it grew from a single church society into a world movement. By the end of the 19th century, Christian Endeavor was in the headlines of many major American newspapers. Christian Endeavor took up many causes without apology; it was influential in supporting the temperance movement in the 1920s, as CE stood for family values. Christian Endeavor began extensive publications in 1886. World conventions were held to address major issues. In 1887, Francis E. Clark was elected president of the United Society, and in 1895 he was chosen as the World President of the Christian Endeavor Union. The admirable Clark held this position until his death in 1927. Daniel A. Poling then assumed the presidency. Christian Endeavor societies met at the state level for local control and met in World Conventions at intervals of three to six years. (World Conventions were held in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1937 and 1951.) The organization's world headquarters moved from Boston, Massachusetts, to Columbus, Ohio, in 1952. Christian Endeavor is still operating today throughout the world; their activities are widely reported on international and state Christian Endeavor Websites. ( ( (

Williston Church in Portland Maine

Clark virtually created the concept of "youth ministry" by asking young people in his Williston Congregational Church to sign a two-page commitment. Previously youth had been classified with children and not considered capable of active Christian involvement.


By 1906, 67,000 youth-led Christian Endeavor societies had been organized worldwide, with four million members.

The organization is considered the father of modern day youth ministry. Its original office, the International Society of Christian Endeavor, is know today is simply, Endeavor, and is headquartered in Michigan. As a fresh brand of the movement, Endeavor is directing their efforts toward youth as being the owners of youth ministry. Since 2006, it has returned to its foundational roots of promoting youth taking action. The original pledge, principles, and approach to ministry are the standard for youth in ministry once again. Congregations are recognizing the need to equip, train, and mobilize a generation to lead. Endeavor holds to the premise that unless youth learn to lead in the church, they leave the church, and many are agreeing to be part of this re-emerging movement.[1]

A.A. Writer and Historian Dick B. of Kihei, Maui, Hawaii was recently invited to speak at the 125th Anniversary of United Christian Endeavor, held at the Cannon Office Building in Washington, D.C. His address was devoted to the unique and little-known or utilized link between the Christian Endeavor Society between 1881 and 1900 and the founding and development of Alcoholics Anonymous in Akron, Ohio on June 10, 1935 and extending through the summer of 1938. As the Christian Endeavor movement swept through New England Churches, it reached St. Johnsbury, Vermont and its North St. Johnsbury Congregational Church.

The family of Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith (Co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous) were deeply involved in the church's activities. The parents Judge Walter Perrin Smith and Susan Holbrook Smith served the church in many capacities. The Judge as a life-time deacon and Sunday School teacher for 40 years; and Mrs. Smith in a host of church activities, along with her graduation from St. Johnsbury Academy (which her son Bob attended) and her service there as a teacher and executive of the alumni committee.

Holbrook belonged to the St. Johnsbury Congregational North Church, attended its Sunday School, and specifically mentioned his activity in Christian Endeavor as producing "excellent training' in the Bible for him as a youngster. Through coordination of Christian Endeavor and Young Men's Christian Association, Holbrook also gained a goodly amount of Christian training, prayer, and Bible study at St. Johnsbury Academy. This also was the time of a great awakening in the Congregational Churches of Vermont, and many were brought to Christ by church members themselves, by youth prayer groups working in Christian Endeavor and the YMCA, by visiting evangelists, and by revival meetings. The upshot was that Holbrook took from his youth education some fundamental principles that came from St. Johnsbury and its Christian Endeavor to the Pioneer A.A. Christian Fellowship which Holbrok led in Akron. These principles were abstinence, reliance on the Creator, conversion to Christ, Obedience to God's will, Growth in Fellowship through Bible study, prayer, and the Christian Endeavor's "Quiet Hour."

The Christian Endeavor motto was "love and service." And this became the characterization by Dr.Bob of the essence of the early A.A. program. Recent titles authored by Dick B. (published by Paradise Research Publications, Inc., Kihei, Hawaii) describe these items in some detail. These are: The Conversion of Bill W. 2006; "A New Way Out: New Path - Familiar Road Signs - Our Creator's Guidance," 2006; "A New Way In: Reaching the Heart of a Child of God in Recovery with His Own, Powerful Historical Roots," ; and "The James Club and The Original A.A. Program's Absolute Essentials." 4th ed., 2005.


  1. ^ More information can be found at, which is led today by Timothy Eldred.

External links

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