College Student Demographics in the 1960s
Although many other Christian organizations started campus ministries before The Navigators, we officially did not become identified with collegiate ministry until the late 1950s. This may have been the result of Dawson Trotman’s devotion to his axiom: “Never do anything that someone else can or will do, when there is so much to be done that others cannot or will not do.”
Our progressive entry into collegiate ministry also came with some trepidation on the part of some old-timers, because the atmosphere on campus was so different than in military service, which was the Navigator focus.
In the mid-1950s, the demographics of young people in American society began to change. There was the GI Bill providing funds for veterans of World War II to go to college. Student loans were becoming available for others. By 1959, there were more young people on campus than in the entire armed forces.
Dr. Clyde Taylor, the secretary of public affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, observed in 1961, “If you can concentrate on university students . . . you are perhaps doing the most strategic work that can be done.”
However, as the collegiate work spread, we paid more attention to cultural trends among young people. Lorne Sanny shared his personal opinions about that age group in 1964:
Physically, college students are not as strong as their parents. They don’t have to chop wood, walk anywhere or do much of anything that requires muscles. Mentally they have to work much harder than we did. . . . Morally, they are quieter, less likely to drink to excess, wiser about sex. But they are at sea about standards and ideals. They are suspicious of absolutes and many do not believe in a standard of morality. As to attitude, they are serious, almost to the point of being neurotic. They have been spoiled by their parents, who have given them too much in material things and too little firm leadership and discipline. . . . What do they need? What people have always needed—an authority that we find in Christ. A set of standards and moral values. . . . We believe the abundant answer to this is Christ and his commission.
By Donald McGilchrist
Aritlce adapted from “Collegiate Ministries”