By Milton Hook
Milton Hook, Ed.D. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, the United States). Hook retired in 1997 as a minister in the Greater Sydney Conference, Australia. An Australian by birth Hook has served the Church as a teacher at the elementary, academy and college levels, a missionary in Papua New Guinea, and as a local church pastor. In retirement he is a conjoint senior lecturer at Avondale College of Higher Education. He has authored Flames Over Battle Creek, Avondale: Experiment on the Dora, Desmond Ford: Reformist Theologian, Gospel Revivalist, the Seventh-day Adventist Heritage Series, and many magazine articles. He is married to Noeleen and has two sons and three grandchildren.
First Published: January 29, 2020
The Penny-a-Day Plan was a system introduced in the Australasian Union Conference in 1911 to encourage members to support the distribution of church publications.
At the Eighth Biennial Session of the Australasian Union Conference (AUC) in October 1910 at Warburton, Victoria, a recommendation was made to appoint a man responsible for the promotion of tracts and periodicals printed by the Signs Publishing Company.1 Alfred George Miller was chosen to coordinate a scheme with the dual intention of raising the level of donations for home and foreign missions and widely distributing denominational literature. Miller was a printer at the Signs Publishing Company who had spent several years broadening his experience at Pacific Press Publishing Association in California, United States of America, returning to Australia in 1904.2 His new role at the AUC level was designated as field mission secretary.3
Miller adapted a system already in place, the Fourth Sabbath Offering, which was collected in the churches at the end of each month for homeland and overseas missions. It was proposed that each day at morning worship time, every church member place a penny into a cash box at home.4 The accumulated funds were to be handed in on the fourth Sabbath of each month. One shilling of each member’s donation went toward the regular mission offering for that day. The remainder was placed in an envelope and passed to the local tract society secretary, who, in return, supplied a small number of church periodicals.5 Generally, the supply consisted of three Signs of the Times each week and three copies of Life and Health when they were issued bimonthly.6 Participating members of this scheme were encouraged to sell their supply of literature to the general public in order to recoup a significant portion of their donation and, at the same time, spread the Advent message.
In 1911 the Penny-a-Day Plan, as it was called, was frequently promoted in the Australasian Record, at camp meetings, and in the local churches throughout Australia and New Zealand.7 Initially, the names of those who signed up for the plan were published in the Australasian Record, but that practice ceased in 1912.8 In fact, the first flush of enthusiasm for the plan rapidly dissipated. Statistics for the quadrennium 1911 through 1914 reveal a rise in Sabbath School offerings given during the first three Sabbaths of each month but a drop in totals for the fourth Sabbaths of each month. Over the same period, the Island Mission offerings plummeted.9
When Miller gave his report to the AUC Session at Wahroonga in September 1914, he made no mention of the Penny-a-Day Plan. He was not reelected as field mission secretary. Instead, he returned to the Signs Publishing Company, working as coeditor of the periodicals.10 Furthermore, the Australasian Record carried a plea in 1914 that members hand in any surplus literature for free distribution, possibly by the colporteurs.11
The plan failed. It seems that the weak link in the scheme was the reluctance of the church members to sell the literature to the public or the difficulty of doing so. It accumulated in their homes, and the goal of the plan was thus defeated. It seems that church members were generally liberal donors but not accomplished at salesmanship.
Anderson, A. W. “Life Sketch of Brother A. G. Miller.” Australasian Record, May 9, 1932.
“Brother A. G. Miller and family. . . .” Union Conference Record, September 15, 1904.
“Comparative Statement of Receipts.” Special No. 1, Australasian Record, September 28, 1914.
Fulton, J. E. “Plans for Missionary Work.” Australasian Record, April 17, 1911.
———. “The New Zealand Camp-Meeting.” Australasian Record, March 6, 1911.
Miller, A. G. “Our Penny a Day Plan.” Australasian Record, June 12, 1911.
———. “Our Penny a Day Plan.” Australasian Record, July 17, 1911.
———. “Our Penny a Day Plan.” Australasian Record, August 21, 1911.
———. “Our ‘Penny-a Day’ Plan.” Australasian Record, September 11, 1911.
———. “Our Periodicals.” Australasian Record, September 28, 1914.
———. “The Penny-a-Day Plan.” Australasian Record, April 10, 1911.
Mitchell, Harry. “Our Missionary Campaign Work in the Victorian-Tasmanian Conference.” Australasian Record, June 12, 1911.
“Our ‘Penny-a-Day’ Plan.” Australasian Record, March 11, 1912.
Parker, C. H. “Victoria-Tasmanian Conference.” Australasian Record, March 13, 1911.
“Plans and Recommendations.” Special No. 2, Union Conference Record, November 7, 1910.
“Plans and Recommendations.” Australasian Record, October 12, 1914.
Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Washington, D.C..: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1911–1914.
“Plans and Recommendations,” Special No. 2, Union Conference Record, November 7, 1910, 61.↩
“Brother A. G. Miller and family . . . ,” Union Conference Record, September 15, 1904, 7.↩
“Australasian Union Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1911), 89.↩
J. E. Fulton, “Plans for Missionary Work,” Australasian Record, April 17, 1911, 6.↩
A. G Miller, “Our ‘Penny a Day’ Plan,” Australasian Record, September 11, 1911, 7.↩
J. E Fulton, “Plans for Missionary Work,” Australasian Record, April 17, 1911, 6.↩
J. E Fulton, “The New Zealand Camp-Meeting,” Australasian Record, March 6, 1911, 5–6.↩
A. G Miller, “The Penny-a-Day Plan,” Australasian Record, April 10, 1911, 4.↩
“Comparative Statement of Receipts,” Special No. 1, Australasian Record, September 28, 1914, 6.↩
“Signs Publishing Company, Limited,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1914), 183.↩
“Plans and Recommendations,” Australasian Record, October 12, 1914, 14–15.↩