Material History of American Religion Project

The Cokesbury Party Book

The late 1880s saw the rise of what historian E. Brooks Holifield calls the social congregation. These congregations sought to meet the needs of urbanizing America by creating social events and organizations. These events provided wholesome entertainment for young people and adults, aimed at competing with the temptations of the city. Women's societies, founded to support missionary work, often became social groups as well. Men's groups, perhaps inspired by the rise of the Young Men's Christian Association, also served a mixture of missionary and social purposes. Perhaps most important were groups for young people, like the interdenominational Christian Endeavor Society, founded in 1881, and the Methodist Epworth League, founded in 1889. Alongside Bible study, social service, and evangelism, these organizations sponsored co-ed social events for their high school-aged members.


Leaders of these groups, however, asked for help in planning the social events. In response, denominational presses produced fun books, full of themes, games, and stunts for parties. While some of these parties had a Biblical or theological theme, most were strictly for fun. Here's the introduction from the 1932 edition of a popular fun book, The Cokesbury Party Book. The introduction is by Cynthia Pearl Maus, Pioneer Young People's Superintendent, United Christian Missionary Society, Disciples of Christ. Dan Sack came across the book in his research into church food-centered social events.

This volume is not a treatise on the psychology of plan and recreation, not does it contain a detailed discussion of the principles of program building. In this field there are books without number. It does contain fifty-two full evening parties, meeting in a splendid way the demand for parties with which to entertain smaller and larger groups.

The Cokesbury Party Book is distinctive in that it contains four or five complete and carefully planned parties for each month in the year. The instructions for the games and events in each party are given in full, so that there can be no failures, providing the leader and Social Life Committee thoroughly acquaint themselves with the plan of each party and prepare, in advance, any and all materials suggested for games and events.

Jane Addams says that vice is the love of pleasure gone wrong. That it is the illicit expression of what might otherwise be a normal, recreational amusement. If this statement is true, and I believe all leaders of youth of wide experience will concur in it, one of the most important contributions which any leader of youth can make is in the field of helping young people to plan their social life programs in such a rich and varied way as to produce character development as one, at least, of the real values and good times of all sorts and kinds. . . .

It is not the intention of the author of this book to cripple the initiative of young people, but rather to guide them in planning worth-while and stimulating parties for the entertainment of groups and young people. This book will serve as a continual source of information and guidance to leaders of young people and adults, if they will follow the suggestions of the author, in enlisting the co-operation of others in building social life programs, and in using young people in the largest possible way in the direction and leadership of the various games and activities suggested for each party.

Arthur M. Depew, The Cokesbury Party Book (Nashville: Cokesbury Press, 1932), 7-8.

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Cokesbury is a U.S. nationwide leader of discount Christian resources, Cokesbury displayes 1000s of ministry products and services in these main fields: Books and Bibles, Sermon resources, Bible Study, Sunday School Curriculum, Music, Software, Church Supplies, Christian Education resources, downloadable products, online reference subscriptions available, Vestments, and Close-out sale items.

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