Numerous nineteenth-century juveniles included scenes where children "played minister" or "played church." This concept also appeared in non-fiction designed to encourage proper behavior on the Sabbath.

The following excerpt comes from a revised version of a book originally issued in 1893. The preface explains that Rev. Stall began using children's sermons with his congregation as a way of increasing children's attendance at and interest in church. The sermons were then republished in book form "to afford all parents a valuable aid in making Sunday . . . the brightest, happiest and best dayof the entire week for both parents and children [. . . .] The idea [is] to enable the parents to teach spiritual truths in the most effective manner [by using] on Sunday afternoons, . . . the fifty-two little sermons." In addition to the sermons, the volume's introductory material demonstrates yet another example of children "playing church," this time under parental guidance.

Excerpts from Sylvanius Stall, With the Children on Sundays: Through Eye-Gate and Ear-Gate into the City of Child-Soul (Philadelphia: Uplift Publishing Company, 1911?)

Dr. Stall with his daughter and grandchildren driving to church [seated in chairs in playroom]
The Little Preacher and his interested audience [child pretending to preach to an audience of adults and dolls]



The idea of "playing church" is by no means an innovation. What is shown in the pictures upon a preceding page has been actualized in many homes. Let me quote from a single letter which lies before me:

"The writer was one of a large family of children and well remembers the Sunday afternoons spent in his village home. 'Playing church,' was one of its features. The chairs were placed in regular fashion, imitating the seating arrangements of a church, every one of us took his or her turn as preacher, hymns were sung, a real collection was taken and one of us, as preacher, took his text and preached the sermon. There wasn't a dull moment in those good, old Sunday afternoons in our home. Occasionally, the preacher would provoke a smile by his original way of handling the text and of emphasizing some point in his discourse.

"We have all grown up since those happy days; some of us attained to a degree of efficiency as public speakers, and we attribute much of our efficiency and character in life to those profitable Sunday afternoon hours."

From the experiences of the children as narrated above, the suggestion occurs, why not use these object talks in like manner? "Play church" Sunday afternoons, read an "object sermon," show the illustrations, ask the questions at the end of each chapter and then follow it up with a discussion from the children, giving their ideas and experiences.

You will find that you will get as much benefit and entertainment from these Sunday afternoons "playing church" service as the children will. You will be surprised at their interest and the originality that they will display in these discussions. You will be quickening their faculty of observation and stirring their



imaginations, in a manner that will surely make observant, thoughtful and considerate men and women of the children, and consequently, affect their entire destinies in the years to come. Then, too, you yourself will be helped mentally and spiritually, because it is absolutely true that in the devotion that we exhibit and the time and attention that we give to our children in this companionship, -:."e will ourselves be receiving large blessings in the development of our own character and the finer characteristics that make for good people.


The following suggestions will be helpful, to which original ideas may always be added.

1. Make the "Afternoon Church" a real, not frivolous, occasion. The time it requires to make careful, pains-taking preparation on the part of the parent, is always profitably employed.

2. The afternoon church should always be a regular, fixed engagement. It adds to its importance.

3. Do not postpone nor omit it for any trivial reason. Treat it as any other important engagement.

4. When visitors are in the home, invite them to be present and to participate. It will help them as well as the juniors.

5. The fact that there is only one child in the family does not preclude the idea of playing church; for the dolls can be brought to church and even chairs can be converted into imaginary people.

6. Never permit the realness of the occasion to be questioned. Always avoid embarrassing the child and never ridicule. Refrain from laughing at any mistakes that may be made in speech, thought or conduct of the child, unless he first sees the mistake and invites you to join in his mirth.

7. Ask any additional questions pertinent to the subject besides those suggested at the end of each sermon. It will develop wider thought and increase the interest.

8. Encourage the child to ask questions, but always lead in directing the thought.

9. Adults present should always enter seriously and earnestly into the whole program or plan with the child's spirit. Where adults enter upon the execution of the plan with this spirit it adds much to the enjoyment of all. If they cannot do this, they should not participate.

10. A bell can be slowly rung as the time for church approaches.

11. Use the brightest and most cheerful room in the house for the afternoon church. Add to the furnishings on Sunday anything which may make the room even more than ordinarily attractive.


12. Chairs may be suitably arranged and a child can drive the others to and from church in an imaginary carriage, as shown in one of the pictures upon another page.

13. When the church is held in another room, an older child or person can receive the attendants and usher them to seats.

14. Open the church service with singing. Select several simple devotional hymns or songs, such as are used in the primary department of Sunday-schools. Have all the children learn the tunes and teach a verse of each song to any child that cannot read.

15. A collection can be lifted by one of the children. A toy bank may be used in which to save the money received at this child's service, and subsequently contributed through the Church or Sunday-school for missionary purposes.

16. Teach the children the importance of saving from their own spending money, or earning what they wish to give in the collection.

17. This money should always be regarded as sacred, and care should also be exercised lest this little fund might become a source of temptation to the children during the week.

18. At some time during the service a brief prayer should be offered. This may consist of a sentence prayer by each in rotation or by all uniting in the Lord's Prayer, or in some brief selection from the Prayer Book.

19. When a child is willing or wishes to do so, have him preach the sermon in his own way of expressing the thought, using the text or object of the day for his subject. Always give the same interested attention to him that is expected from him when another leads.

20. Some of the objects mentioned in the sermons can be easily and cheaply obtained for use at the church. When such an object is secured, it should not be shown to the children in advance of being used.

21. Do not prolong the service too greatly so as to weary the children. Effectiveness and pleasure usually terminate at the same time. Lend animation to the service and interest will not so soon flag. It is well also to impart interest by having the parent enter heartily into every part of the service.

22. A social period after "returning home" from the "children's church" should be introduced.. If the children have played driving to church before the service, the idea should be continued and completed by driving home in the same manner.


23. After the conclusion of the church service, additional exercises or games suited to the sacredness of the day may be appropriately used to enter-


tain the children and continue their happiness. By methods of this kind, Sunday may be made not only the most profitable, but the brightest and best day of the week.

24. Some light refreshment may be introduced, as fruit, cake or candy. This refreshment should be something very simple and inexpensive, and also something not calculated to spoil the appetite or injure the digestion of the child. In recognition of good conduct, close attention or special help at the church service, one of the children may choose what the refreshment is to be for the next Sunday. This choice should be kept a secret during the week.

25. Pictures and illustrations can be cut from magazines, and these can be pasted in a scrap book or on blank paper to represent Bible characters and scenes, or those used in the sermons.

26. Many acting games and tableaux can be arranged by the children from the sermons and Bible stories. Chairs can be arranged so as to represent a pit or tent, and the children within them may be "Joseph in the Pit" (Genesis xxxvii) or "Daniel in the Lion's Den" (Daniel vi). See illustrations on pages 80 and 91.


27. Let one child represent an idol. He must stand motionless and give no sign of life. The others are to ask him questions and for favors. If the "idol" laughs, moves or speaks, he loses and another takes his place. Idols are lifeless things that cannot move, see, hear or speak.

28. Children's blocks are useful in building a well, altar, castle, temple, chariot, etc. Have the children give a text or verse from the Bible referring to the objects builded. A Bible story may be told about the object, its history, use, etc.

29. One child, or more as may be needed, can pose to represent a character or scene. The others are to guess the character represented. For example: A child can sit with hands upheld. A child on each side of him hold up the extended arms. They represent Moses with Aaron and Hur during the battle (Ex. xvii: 12).

30. Charades, or words and scenes may be represented by the children in motion. The children may be divided into groups. One group will select a word and represent it in the presence of the others by motions. For example: Children come into the room and go through the motion of sowing ("Seeds"), reaping ("Harvest"), threshing with a flail ("Wheat and Chaff"), picking flowers ("Weeds and Flowers"), taking pictures ("Eye and Camera"). Many of the sermon subjects may be used in this manner. Cutting stone, measuring, eating husks, washing dirty face, etc. The other groups are to guess the word and have their turn.


31. Children are always fond of riddles; especially when they are able to guess the answer. The suggested review questions at the close of each object sermon for afternoon church, may often be effectively used with slight changes. For example: "What is it that cannot see nor hear, but always knows when danger is near?" The answer is-"The Oyster."

What is it which no boy or girl can see or hear, and the approach of which can not be made known by any of the natural senses? (Sin.) What is it which tells us when sin is near? (Conscience.) Have the children try to make up their own riddles from the objects shown and their uses, or lessons learned from the sermons.


32. Provide slates, or paper and pencils may be provided, and the children draw the object or something suggested by its use. Always have blank paper and pencils on hand for some of the games or exercises mentioned below.

33. Cheap colored crayons can often be used with added value.

34. Each Sunday appoint one child to take charge of the slates, papers and pencils, which ,\e to be kept in a safe place and not disturbed during the week, and then to distribute them on the following Sunday.


35. Word building games are always interesting. Cut small squares of cardboard and plainly mark each with a letter. Many more vowels than consonants will be required. (These little squares with printed letters can be purchased at any toy-store.) Mix up the squares on a table, and the child who spells the largest number of names of places or objects mentioned in the sermons, using the letters on the squares, wins the game.

36. This can be played in a variety of ways. For instance: Select the name of an object, person or place, and the one who first picks out the necessary letters to spell it, is declared the winner.

37. Each child is given the same number of assorted letters and all try to make up the largest list of names from his portion of letters in a given time.


38. Tell a Bible story, or review one of the object sermons, omitting the names of characters or objects. Without warning, the one reciting the story stops, and the next player carries on the story if he has been able to guess the omitted names, without mentioning them. If he has not discovered or guessed

Through Eye-Gate and Ear-Gate Into the City of Child-Soul



SUGGESTIONS TO PARENTS : -- It will awaken the curiosity and add greatly to the interest of the children if the parent will have them secure during the week preceding a couple of oyster shells. In most of cities and towns, these can he easily obtained. It is better for the children themselves to secure them, because it makes them participants and important factors in what is to be done. Do not tell them in advance what use is to be made of the oyster shells; simply say that they are for use in connection with Sunday afternoon.

Introduce the play idea from the beginning. Let the children arrange the chairs to "drive to church," as shown in the preceding pictures. If there are two children who both want to do the driving, suggest that one can drive to church and the other can drive when returning from church-and a third may drive from the house to the stable when the horses are to be put away.

At the church service let everything be done reverently, and make it a matter of real worship. One of the children can act as usher, and if there is but one child, this one can usher her dolls to seats; or imaginary people may be shown to seats. All of this will appeal very strongly to the child. Select hymns suited to the children's tastes and such as they can sing. Do not sing too many verses. Children like variety.

The service ought to be such as is in harmony with that regularly attended by the parents, and such as the children are familiar with. It may be as informal as the Salvation Army, or a greatly abridged form of the "Episcopal Service" can be used. The Lord's Prayer may be repeated in unison, or sentence prayers used, or a brief selection from; the Prayer Book. The .preaching by one of the children should precede the reading of the Object sermon.

After carrying out the idea of the church service, the other ideas presented may be introduced, and after the imaginary drive home some simple refreshments can be served, as also mentioned in the chapter of "Suggestions to Parents" on page 17.


MY DEAR YOUNG FRIENDS: I want to speak to you to-day about "Having a good conscience." (I Peter iii: \ 6.) This is rather a hard subject, but I desire to make it plain by the use of a familiar object. "What's this I have in my hand ?" I rather expected that you would say an oyster;

Oyster and Shell but, really it is nothing but an oyster shell. I suppose you have all eaten stewed oysters, or oyster broth. I remember, when a little boy, that one day when we had stewed oysters for supper, I found a little yellow something in my broth. I did not know whether my mother had put it in purposely, or whether it had fallen in by accident; whether I should push it aside of my plate, that it might be thrown with the crumbs to the chickens, or whether

Little Crab I should eat it to discover what it was.

I suppose you have all seen these little animals in your soup, and know that they are called crabs. Now, do you know how the crab comes to be in with the oyster? I will tell you how it is. The oyster lives in

the water at the bottom of the bay, and some bright day, when the sun is shining down genial and warm, just the same as in the summer, we open the doors, and sit out on the porch to enjoy the cool of the day; so the oyster opens his shells and lets the cool currents of water move gently through his house. But while

lying there with his shells wide open, along comes a great hungry fish. He sees the oyster, but the oyster cannot see him. The oyster cannot see, for he has no eyes. He cannot hear, for he has no ears. Of the five senses which each of us have, hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting and feeling, the oyster can only tell of the presence of his enemy when he feels himself being dragged out of

Fish Going to Eat the Oyster.

his house, and being quickly swallowed by the fish. But his knowledge of what is happening only comes when it is too late.

Now, with the little crab, who also lives in the same neighborhood with the oyster. It is quite different. The crab has eyes, and can see the hungry fish that comes to eat him up. He has legs, with which to try and run away; but the fish can swim so much faster than the little crab can run that he is sure to be devoured before the race is half over. So what do you think the little crab does? He crawls along quietly, and creeps into the shell with the oyster, and the oyster and the crab enter into a kind of partnership for mutual


protection. After this, when the oyster opens his shells, the little crab uses his eyes very diligently to look around, and watch for the approach of any fish. As soon as he spies any sly fish coming near, he pinches the oyster, and immediately the oyster closes his shells very tightly, and the oyster and the crab are both within, safely protected from the fish.

Now, boys and girls, we are something like the oyster. We are constantly exposed to the danger of being destroyed by sin. We cannot see sin, we cannot hear sin, we cannot perceive it by any of our senses. So God has given us a conscience, which means "to know with God." When you are tempted to do a sinful act, it is conscience that quickly whispers, "Now that is wicked," "If you do that, God will be displeased."

Let me illustrate this thought. One real pleasant day, when the birds are singing, and everything is attractive out of doors, Johnnie thinks how hard it is to be studying his lessons in what he calls a prison of a school-room. He knows that papa and mamma will not give him permission to stay at home; so a little before nine o'clock, as he saunters towards the school, Satan suggests to him to play "hookey," and when he comes to the corner of the street, looking back to be sure that no one sees him, he turns the comer to remain out of school. Intending to come home at the regular time for dinner and escape discovery. Just as soon as he turns the corner, and even before that, conscience has seen the danger, and whispers strong and clear, "Johnnie, this is wicked; you will surely get into trouble, and you will make papa and mamma sad, and also displease God." Now, if Johnnie does not turn right back when conscience warns him, he is sure to go on without having any pleasure all that forenoon, because his conscience continues to warn and reprove him.

Or suppose that Willie goes down the street and sees Mr.

Willie running down the street, broken window in background


Brown's dog a little ways off. He looks around quickly for a stone, and immediately conscience says, "Now, Willie, don't hit the poor dog, for the stone will cause him pain, just as it would if some one were to hit you with a stone." But Willie does not listen to conscience. He throws the stone with all his might. It strikes on the pavement, just by the side of the dog, glances and breaks in many pieces the large plate glass in the window of the drug store.

Willie is more frightened than the dog, and without a moment's forethought he runs around the corner, to get out of sight. And after concealing himself for a time in the alley, he steals quietly Into the house at the back door. How he dreads to meet his father and mother. Every time the door bell rings he thinks surely that it is the druggist or the policeman. Oh! how this sin pains him; just like the oyster would be hurt if he does not heed the little crab, when he warns him that the fish Is coming to destroy him. If Willie had only listened to conscience, what sin and trouble it would have saved him. So, boys and girls, God has given each of us a conscience, and if we want to be saved from sin and suffering, we should always be quick to obey our conscience. Let each of us try and "keep a good conscience."

QUESTIONS.-Can the oyster see or hear ? Can it feel ? What often destroys the oyster? What lives down under the water near the oyster? Can the little crab see ? Can he get away from the fish ? How does he assist the oyster ? How does he warn the oyster of danger? Can boys or girls see sin? What has God given each of us to warn us of danger when sin is near? Does every boy and girl have a conscience? Does conscience always give warning? Do boys and girls always obey their conscience? Should conscience always be obeyed? Will you always try to obey conscience in the future ? The parent may ask additional questions or make application in any other manner they deem best.

Next Sunday the sermon will be about the worm in the apple. Let one of the children get a nice, large, perfect apple, and also another apple which has been dwarfed and deformed because of a worm inside the apple. These will be the objects which we shall use next Sunday.

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