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A Handbook for Churchmen Engaged in Boys' Work


Associate Professor of Practical Theology, The University of Chicago
Field Secretary of the Chicago Juvenile Protective Association



The aim of this book is to call the attention of ministers to the
important place which boys' work may have in furthering the Kingdom of
God. To this end an endeavor is made to quicken the minister's
appreciation of boys, to stimulate his study of them, and to suggest a
few practical ways in which church work with boys may be conducted.

The author is indebted to the Union Church of Waupun, Wis., and to the
First Baptist Church of Detroit, Mich., for the opportunity of working
out in actual practice most of the suggestions incorporated in this
book. He is also indebted to many authors, especially to President G.
Stanley Hall, for a point of view which throws considerable light upon
boy nature. The Boy-Scout pictures have been provided by Mr. H.H.
Simmons, the others by Mr. D.B. Stewart, Mrs. Joseph T. Bowen, and the
author. The greatest contribution is from the boys of both village and
city with whom the author has had the privilege of comradeship and from
whom he has learned most of what is here recorded.

The material has been used in talks to teachers and clubs of various
sorts, and in the Men and Religion Forward Movement. The requests
following upon such talks and arising also from publication of most of
the material in the _Biblical World_ have encouraged this attempt to
present a brief handbook for ministers and laymen who engage in church
work for boys.


CHICAGO, August 19, 1912





The Christian apologetic for today depends less upon the arguments of
speculative theology and the findings of biblical science than upon
sociological considerations. The church is dealing with a pragmatic
public which insists upon knowing what this or that institution
accomplishes for the common good. The deep and growing interest in
social science, the crying needs that it lays bare, together with
socialistic dreams of human welfare, compel Christian workers to pay
more heed to the life that now is, since individualistic views of
salvation in the world to come do not fully satisfy the modern

Hence the ministry is compelled more and more to address itself to the
salvation of the community and the nation after the fashion of the
Hebrew prophets. Lines of distinction also between what is religious and
what is secular in education and in all human intercourse have become
irregular or dim; and the task of bringing mankind to fullness and
perfection of life has become the task alike of the educator, the
minister, the legislator, and the social worker. In fact, all who in any
capacity put their hands to this noble undertaking are co-workers with
Him whose divine ideal was to be consummated in the Kingdom of God on

The ministry, therefore, is taking on a great variety of forms of
service, and the pastor is overtaxed. The church, moreover, is slow to
recognize the principle of the division of labor and to employ a
sufficient number of paid officers. Only the pressing importance of work
for boys can excuse one for suggesting another duty to the conscientious
and overworked pastor. Already too much has been delegated to him alone.
Every day his acknowledged obligations outrun his time and strength, and
he must choose but a few of the many duties ever pressing to be done.
Yet there is no phase of that larger social and educational conception
of the pastor's work that has in it more of promise than his ministry to
boys. Whatever must be neglected, the boy should not be overlooked.

To answer this complex demand and the call of boyhood in particular the
pastor must be a leader and an organizer. Otherwise, troubles and
vicissitudes await him. In every field unused possibilities hasten the
day of his departure. Idle persons who should have been led into worthy
achievement for Christ and the church fall into critical gossip, and
there soon follows another siege perilous for the minister's
freight-wracked furniture, another flitting experience for his homeless
children, another proof of his wife's heroic love, and another scar on
his own bewildered heart.

It is, indeed, difficult for the pastor to adopt a policy commensurate
with modern demands. He should lead, but on the other hand a very
legitimate fear of being discredited through failure deters him;
traditional methods hold the field; peace at any price and pleasurable
satisfaction play a large part in church affairs; the adult, whose
character is already formed, receives disproportionate attention; money
for purposes of experimentation in church work is hard to get;
everything points to moderation and the beaten path; and the way of the
church is too often the way of least resistance. Small wonder if the
minister sometimes capitulates to things as they are and resigns himself
to the ecclesiastical treadmill.

It requires no small amount of courage to be governed by the facts as
they confront the intelligent pastor, to direct one's effort where it is
most needed and where it will, in the long run, produce the greatest
and best results. To be sure, the adult needs the ministry of teaching,
inspiration, correction, and comfort to fit him for daily living; but,
as matters now stand, the chief significance of the adult lies in the
use that can be made of him in winning the next generation for Christ.
In so far as the adult membership may contribute to this it may lay
claim to the best that the minister has. In so far as it regards his
ministry as a means of personal pleasure, gratification, and religious
luxury, it is both an insult to him and an offense to his Master.

A successful ministry to boys, whether by the pastor himself or by those
whom he shall inspire and guide, is fundamental in good pastoral work.
Boys now at the age of twelve or fifteen will, in a score of years,
manage the affairs of the world. All that has been accomplished - the
inventions, the wealth, the experience in education and government, the
vast industrial and commercial systems, the administration of justice,
the concerns of religion - all will pass into their control; and they
who, with the help of the girls of today, must administer the world's
affairs, are, or may be, in our hands now when their ideals are nascent
and their whole natures in flux.

Boys' work, then, is not providing harmless amusement for a few
troublesome youngsters; it is the natural way of capturing the modern
world for Jesus Christ. It lays hold of life in the making, it creates
the masters of tomorrow; and may pre-empt for the Kingdom of God the
varied activities and startling conquests of our titanic age. Think of
the great relay of untamed and unharnessed vigor, a new nation exultant
in hope, undaunted as yet by the experiences that have halted the
passing generation: what may they not accomplish? As significant as the
awakening of China should the awakening of this new nation be to us. In
each case the call for leadership is imperative, and the best ability is
none too good. Dabblers and incompetent persons will work only havoc,
whether in the Celestial Empire or in the equally potent Kingdom of
Boyhood. The bookworm, of course, is unfit even if he could hear the
call, and the nervous wreck is doomed even if he should hear it; but the
fit man who hears and heeds may prevent no small amount of delinquency
and misery, and may deliver many from moral and social insolvency.

If a minister can do this work even indirectly he is happy, but if he
can do it directly by virtue of his wholesome character, his genuine
knowledge and love of boys, his athletic skill, and his unabated zest
for life, his lot is above that of kings and his reward above all
earthly riches.

Then, too, it is not alone the potential value of boys for the Kingdom
of God, and what the minister may do for them; but what may they not do
for him? How fatal is the boy collective to all artificiality,
sanctimony, weakness, make-believe, and jointless dignity; and how prone
is the ministry to these psychological and semi-physical pests! For,
owing to the demands of the pulpit and of private and social
intercourse, the minister finds it necessary to talk more than most men.
He must also theorize extensively because of the very nature of
theological discipline. Moreover, he is occupied particularly with those
affairs of the inner life which are as intangible as they are important.
His relation with people is largely a Sunday relation, or at any rate a
religious one, and he meets them on the pacific side. Very naturally
they reveal to him their best selves, and, true to Christian charity and
training, he sees the best in everyone. If the women of his parish
receive more than their proper share of attention the situation is
proportionately worse. It follows that the minister needs the most
wholesome contact with stern reality in order to offset the subtle drift
toward a remote, theoretical, or sentimental world. In this respect
commercial life is more favorable to naturalness and virility; while a
fair amount of manual labor is conducive to sanity, mental poise, and
sound judgment as to the facts of life. The minister must have an
elemental knowledge of and respect for objective reality; and he must
know human nature.

Now among all the broad and rich human contacts that can put the
minister in touch with vital realities there is none so electric, so
near to revelation as the boy. Collectively he is frank to the point of
cruelty and as elemental as a savage. Confronted alone and by the
minister, who is not as yet his chum, he reveals chiefly the minister's
helplessness. Taken in company with his companions and in his play he is
a veritable searchlight laying bare those manly and ante-professional
qualities which must underlie an efficient ministry. Later life, indeed,
wears the mask, praises dry sermons, smiles when bored, and takes
careful precautions against spontaneity and the indiscretions of
unvarnished truth; but the boy among his fellows and on his own ground
represents the normal and unfettered reaction of the human heart to a
given personality. The minister may be profoundly benefited by knowing
and heeding the frank estimate of a "bunch" of boys. They are the
advance agents of the final judgment; they will find the essential man.
May it not be with him as with Kipling's Tomlinson, who, under the
examination of both "Peter" and the "little devils," was unable to
qualify for admission either to heaven or hell:

And back they came with the tattered Thing, as
children after play,
And they said: "The soul that he got from God he has
bartered clean away.
We have threshed a stook of print and book, and
winnowed a chattering wind
And many a soul wherefrom he stole, but his we
cannot find:
We have handled him, we have dandled him, we have
seared him to the bone,
And sure if tooth and nail show truth he has no soul
of his own."

Fortunately, however, ministerial professionalism is on the wane.
Protestantism, in its more democratic forms, rates the man more and the
office less, and present-day tests of practical efficiency are adverse
to empty titles and pious assumption. To be "Reverend" means such
character and deeds as compel _reverence_ and not the mere "laying on
of hands." Work with boys discovers this basis, for there is no place
for the holy tone in such work, nor for the strained and vapid quotation
of Scripture, no place for excessively feminine virtues, nor for the
professional hand-shake and the habitual inquiry after the family's
health. In a very real sense many a minister can be saved by the boys;
he can be saved from that invidious classification of adult society into
"men, women, and ministers," which is credited to the sharp insight of
George Eliot.

The minister is also in need of a touch of humor in his work. The
sadness of human failure and loss, the insuperable difficulties of his
task, the combined woes of his parish, the decorum and seriousness of
pulpit work - all operate to dry up the healthy spring of humor that
bubbled up and overran in his boyhood days. What health there is in a
laugh, what good-natured endurance in the man whose humor enables him to
"side-step" disastrous and unnecessary encounters and to love people
none the less, even when they provoke inward merriment. The boys' pastor
will certainly take life seriously, but he cannot take it somberly.
Somewhere in his kind, honest eye there is a glimmer, a blessed survival
of his own boyhood.

So, being ministered to by the comradeship of boys, he retains his
sense of fun, fights on in good humor, detects and saves himself on the
verge of pious caricature and solemn bathos; knows how to meet important
committees on microscopic reforms as well as self-appointed theological
inquisitors and all the insistent cranks that waylay a busy pastor. Life
cannot grow stale; and by letting the boys lead him forth by the streams
of living water and into the whispering woods he catches again the wild
charm of that all-possible past: the smell of the campfire, the joyous
freedom and good health of God's great out-of-doors. Genius and success
in life depend largely upon retaining the boyish quality of enthusiastic
abandon to one's cause, the hearty release of one's entire energy in a
given pursuit, and the conviction that the world is ever new and all
things possible. The thing in men that defies failure is the original
boy, and "no man is really a man who has lost out of him all the boy."

The boy may also be a very practical helper in the pastor's work. In
every community there are some homes in which the pastor finds it almost
impossible to create a welcome for himself. Misconceptions of long
standing, anti-church sentiments, old grievances block the way. But if
in such a home there is a boy whose loyalty the pastor has won through
association in the boys' club, at play, in camp - anywhere and
anyhow - his eager hand will open both home and parental hearts to the
wholesome friendship and kindly counsel of the minister of Christ. When
the boy's welfare is at stake how many prejudices fade away! The
reliable sentiment of fathers and mothers dictates that he who takes
time to know and help their boy is of all persons a guest to be welcomed
and honored, and withal, a practical interpreter of Christianity. The
pastor whose advance agent is a boy has gracious passport into the homes
where he is most needed. He has a friend at court. His cause is almost
won before he has uttered one syllable of a formal plea.

Further, it must be apparent to all intelligent observers that the
churches in most communities are in need of a more visible social
sanction for their existence. In the thought of many they are expensive
and over-numerous institutions detached from the actual community life
and needs. Boys' work constitutes one visible strand of connection with
the live needs of the neighborhood; and, human nature being what it is,
this tangible service is essential to the formation of a just, popular
estimate of the church and the ministry. Talk is easy and the market is
always overstocked. The shortage is in deeds, and the doubtful community
is saying to the minister, "What do you do?" It is well if among other
things of almost equal importance he can reply, "We are saving your boys
from vice and low ideals, from broken health and ruined or useless
lives, by providing for wholesome self-expression under clean and
inspiring auspices. The Corban of false sanctity has been removed; our
plant and our men are here to promote human welfare in every legitimate
way." Boys' work affords a concrete social sanction that has in it a
wealth of sentiment and far-reaching implications.

Closely allied with this is the help that the boy renders as an
advertiser. The boy is a tremendous promoter of his uppermost interest;
and, while boys' work must not be exploited for cheap and unworthy
advertising purposes but solely for the good of the boy himself, the
fact remains that the boy is an enterprising publicity bureau. The
minister who gives the boy his due of love, service, and friendship will
unwittingly secure more and better publicity than his more scholastic
and less human brother. In the home and at school, here, there, and
everywhere, these unrivaled enthusiasts sound the praises of the
institution and the man. Others of their own kind are interested, and
reluctant adults are finally drawn into the current. The man or church
that is doing a real work for boys is as a city set on a hill.

The pastor needs the boys because his task is to enlist and train the
Christians and churchmen of the future. These should be more efficient
and devoted than those of the present, and should reckon among their
dearest memories the early joyous associations formed within the church.
Many thoughtful ministers are perplexed by the alienation of
wage-earners from the church; but what could not be accomplished in the
betterment of this condition if for one generation the churches would
bend their utmost devotion and wisdom to maintaining institutions that
would be worth while for all the boys of the community? A boy genuinely
interested and properly treated is not going to turn his back upon the
institution or the man that has given him the most wholesome enjoyment
and the deepest impressions of his life. The reason why the church does
not get and hold the boy of the wage-earner, or any other boy, is
because it stupidly ignores him, his primary interests, and his
essential nature; or goes to the extreme bother of making itself an
insufferable bore.

The reflex influence of boys' work upon the church herself should not be
ignored. Here is a great plant moldering away in silence. Not to mention
the auditorium, even the Sunday-school quarters and lecture-room are
very little used, and this in communities trained to sharp economic
insight and insisting already that the public-school buildings be made
to serve the people both day and night and in social as well as
educational lines.

The basement is perhaps the most vulnerable point in the armor of
exclusive sanctity that encases the church. Here, if anywhere, organized
church work for boys may be tolerated. Whenever it is, lights begin to
shine from the basement windows several evenings a week, a noisy
enthusiasm echoes through the ghostly spaces above, in a literal and
figurative sense cobwebs are brushed away. The stir is soon felt by the
whole church. A sense of usefulness and self-confidence begins to
possess the minds of the members. Things are doing; and the dignity and
desirability of having some part in an institution where things are
doing inspires the members and attracts non-members.

It will be a sad day for the pastor and the church when they agree to
delegate to any other institution all organized work for boys and
especially those features which the boys themselves most enjoy. The
ideal ministry to boyhood must not be centralized away from the church
nor taken altogether out of the hands of the pastor. There is no place
where the work can be done in a more personal way, and with less danger
of subordinating the interests of the individual boy to mammoth
institutional machinery and ambition, than in the church. The numerous
small groups in the multitude of churches afford unequaled opportunity
for intimate friendship, which was pre-eminently the method of Jesus,
and for the full play of a man's influence upon boy character.

The pastor who abdicates, and whose church is but a foraging ground for
other institutions which present a magnificent exhibit of social
service, may, indeed, be a good man, but he is canceling the charter of
the church of tomorrow. It is at best a close question as to how the
church will emerge from her present probation, and the pastor should be
wise enough to reckon with the estimate in which the community and the
boy hold him and the organization that he serves. And if he wants
business men of the future who will respect and support the church,
laboring men who will love and attend the church, professional men who
will believe in and serve an efficient church, he must get the boys who
are to be business men, wage-earners, and professional men, and he must
hold them.

If he is concerned that there should be strong, capable men to take up
the burden of church leadership in the future let him create such
leadership in his own spiritual image from the plastic idealism of
boyhood. Let the hero-worship age, without a word of compulsion or
advice, make its choice with him present as a sample of what the
minister can be, and tomorrow there will be no lack of virile high-class
men in pulpit and parish. As a rule the ideals that carry men into the
ministry are born, not in later youth nor in maturity, but in the period
covered by the early high-school years; and the future leadership of the
church is secure if the right kind of ministers mingle with boys of that
age on terms of unaffected friendship and wholesome community of

Then too there are the riches of memory and gratitude that bulk so large
in a true pastor's reward. If in the years to come the minister wishes
to warm his heart in the glow of happy memories and undying gratitude,
let him invest his present energy in the service of boys. If the
minister could but realize the vast significance of such work, if he
could feel the lure of those untold values lying like continents on the
edge of the future awaiting discovery and development, if he could but
know that he is swinging incipient forces of commanding personality into
their orbits, directing destiny for the individual, predetermining for
righteousness great decisions of the future, laying hold of the very
kingdoms of this world for Christ, he surely would never again bemean
himself in his own thought nor discount his peerless calling.

To be sure, there are certain satisfactions that a minister may lose all
too quickly in these days. The spell of his eloquence may soon pass; the
undivided love of all the people is no permanent tenure of him who
speaks the truth even in love; speedy dissatisfaction and unbridled
criticism are, alas, too often the practice of church democracy; but
that man who has won the love of boys has thrown about himself a
bodyguard whose loyalty will outmatch every foe.

In the hour of reaction from intense and unrewarded toil the empty
chambers of the preacher's soul may echo in bitterness the harsh
misanthropy of a scheming world. Then it is that he needs the boys, the
undismayed defenders of his faith. Let him name their names until the
ague goes out of his heart and the warm compassion of the Man of Galilee
returns. To be a hero and an ideal in the estimate of anyone is indeed a
great call to the best that is in us; and when the minister, in the dark
day or the bright, hears the acclaim of his bodyguard let him believe
that it is the call of God to manhood that has the triple strength of
faith, hope, and love.

All of this and much more they surely can and will do for him, and if
the pastor who thinks that he has no field or who is getting a bit weary
or professional in the routine ministry to unromantic middle life could
but behold within his parish, however small, this very essence of vital
reality, this allurement of unbounded possibility, this challenge of a
lively paganism, and this greatest single opportunity to bring in the
Kingdom of God, he would, in the very discovery of the boy and his
significance, re-create himself into a more useful, happy, and genuine
man. Is it not better to find new values in the old field than to pursue

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