The camp meeting event forever shaped the prairie Methodist experience.

This entry is part 49 of 118 in the series Diagnosis, Dialogue, Decision: A DMin Project

The camp meeting event forever shaped the prairie Methodist experience. The great “two a day” checkerboard church planting that began after the Civil War replicated these small “come structure” churches every five to seven miles apart in the rural countryside.[1] Prairie DNA was phenomenally successful in its time; from 1860-1920 the Methodist Episcopal Church grew from one million to well over four million members,[2] far outperforming Wesley’s societies. This membership increase coincides with the end of the requirement that all Methodists participate in class meeting as a condition of membership.[3] After vigorous employment in the 1870s, “after 1880 there is no mention of camp meetings being encouraged officially by the Southern Illinois conference.”[4] This expedient tool shaped the prairie Methodist experience and that historical influence is active and visible today.





[1] The quote is a selection from David O. Kueker’s Fuller Seminary Doctor of Ministry project submitted in September, 2007, entitled Diagnosis, Dialogue, and Decision: A Threefold Process of Revitalization For the Illinois Great Rivers Conference.
It is shared here in recognition of its 12th Anniversary along with comments to update and provide perspective on the material. The original project was a Training Manual/Study Guide of three Seminars supported by three chapters of research and an Introduction. The material is available for download at In 2009 it was provided for purchase as a softcover book entitled Designing Discipleship Systems: Christian Disciple Making For Any Size Church, Any Theology through

[2][3] [4][5] [6][7] [8]

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please review the page How and Why We Use Quotes.

[1]Evers, History of the Southern Illinois Conference, 148. Southern Baptists averaged four hundred missions a year in the 1890s and thirteen hundred in the 1990s, a daily average of 3.6 a day. Lyle Schaller, The Interventionist (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997), 195-196.

[2]Charles Yrigoyen, Jr., “Part Two: The Nineteenth Century,” in John G. McEllhenney, ed., United Methodism In America: A Compact History (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1992), 91.

[3]White, “Rise and Decline of the Class Meeting,” 6. The requirement was ended in the Methodist Episcopal South in 1866 and the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1872.

[4]Evers, History of the Southern Illinois Conference, 145. The holiness movement was well received in Southern Illinois but suspect within the Methodist Episcopal denomination. While the conference remained officially distanced, participation continued unofficially; six Holiness Camp Meeting Associations were founded in the first half of the twentieth century in Southern Illinois, with Methodists providing the major support in five of them. Evers, History of the Southern Illinois Conference, 153-155, 171-172. Cf. Ferguson, Organizing to Beat the Devil, 280-285.

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