US Field Ministries 1960s
Summary: In large measure, the 1960s laid down the tracks on which our ministries would run for many years. It was a very fruitful period: Our US work saw many innovations accompanied by a relentless focus on spiritual laborers. We were organizing for expansion.
Dawson Trotman, Lorne Sanny, Expansion, Mike Treneer, Waldron Scott, Recruiting, Glen Eyrie, Training, Leroy Eims, Jerry White, Jack Mayhall
The Birth of US Regions
Lorne Sanny’s Approach to US Field Ministries
Concerns about Rapid Expansion
Sanny’s Questions about Recruiting
Experimenting and Training
There is a Navigator work today, not because of memory courses, principles, methods or training programs, but because a man claimed the promises of God.
Lorne Sanny, July 1965
The Birth of US Regions
One of the distinctives of the US field structure is its segmentation into regions. When did this idea first emerge?
While Lorne Sanny was driving to Minneapolis in 1955, accompanied by Ed Reis, they discussed some possible ways of strengthening our “areas,” which until then were basically cities or rather “manpower pools” led by Nav staff couples but not geographically grouped or linked.
The idea that attracted them, and which Dawson Trotman described in a subsequent letter to the staff,1 was to treat these separate city areas as “central points for entire regions, such as Northern California instead of the Bay area, or the Midwest rather than Minneapolis.”
This is an important expansionary concept and I reproduce Dawson’s words to his staff:
Cities within a radius of fifty, one hundred, or two hundred miles of an area headquarters could be picked and carefully selected young couples could be given permission to open cooperative Nav homes. These couples would be self-supporting and would open their homes to any who want to learn through classes and personal counsel. We could furnish the names of those within a radius of twenty or thirty miles who are on the TMS and they could be invited to area meetings. The work might start on a very small basis, sometimes a couple working with one or two others. A secretary would not be needed, nor a Nav bank account, but the home would be open, as Lila’s and mine was when the Nav work began. Couples could serve more or less under the leadership of area headquarters. These auxiliary homes would strengthen the work throughout the United States and increase the contacts and opportunities of passing things on to ministers and others, thereby speeding the work that is on our hearts.
Dawson drew attention to an existing example in Oregon where Doug Coe had opened three homes in Salem and was opening another in Corvallis. “Many wonderful things,” Dawson said, “could come out of this.” He continued:
One is that couples could, with God’s good hand upon them and with his promotion, prove themselves ready for further responsibility here at home or abroad. Area conferences could be strengthened through the work of the outlying homes. Lorne Sanny and I want to visit the areas at least once a year. In addition, we hope to send teams from the main headquarters. . . . After discussing this with LeRoy Eims and others, we feel it is a plan which could be owned and blessed of the Lord and all are enthusiastic to get under way. Will you kindly think through on the couples you know in your city or within a reasonable distance who would want to assume such responsibility? We will discuss this matter further at staff conference.
Dawson ends this seminal letter by quoting Isaiah 54:2.
What we have here, clearly, is a paradigm shift which would eventually mean that all of the US was within the area of responsibility of some particular region or division, however much the boundaries might change and however long occupying strategic sites might take.
In this, we see also the informal birth of what were later called contact points.
Furthermore, this was an early precursor of the step we took more than twenty years later to ensure that every country was the potential responsibility of one of our regional directors. For example, in the early 1980s in Africa, our regional leader Mike Treneer, urged on by George Sanchez, was led to see himself not only as the director responsible for the three countries where we then had resident leaders (Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria), but as the person responsible for assembling a team that would “think Africa” and pray into existence ministries in country after country and people after people. In each continent, we were calling for a “bloc strategy.”2 This paradigm shift was powerful enough to see us enter an average of one new African country per year for the next fifteen years!
Lorne Sanny’s Approach to US Field Ministries
When Lorne Sanny became president in 1956, there were three components to our overall Nav work: US field areas, Glen Eyrie, and overseas. After interacting with our field Reps in early 1957, he felt it necessary to clarify the functions of an area headquarters. It should be a recruiting and training center.3 Training, he observed, can be given in an area that cannot be duplicated at Glen Eyrie and vice versa. We should not assume, he added, that our Nav training program is based at the Glen. Nor do we need any miniature Glen Eyries. He urged that everything done in an area must be justified in light of our objective, which was then to recruit, build, and send men. Other activities should be eliminated.
Each area director should be training a top man, Sanny continued, so that he himself could be away from his area for around three months every year. Therefore, having more than six people in an area home would overload capacity unless there is a right-hand man to assume responsibility. Furthermore, lest we become parochial, area directors should be familiar with and able to present the total Navigator picture: namely, the three elements mentioned above.
Dawson Trotman had commented a year before he passed away that, “at one time, we thought that to move a director every two or three years might be profitable. Now, we are discovering that there are few cases where this might be good.” As we learned that lasting ministry often flowed out of close relationships, we adopted a less frequent “rotation” of staff.
Nevertheless, Sanny told the men that exchanging people among our area headquarters to stimulate them and expand their realm of experience should be encouraged, as long as it was approved from Glen Eyrie. He continued: “One cannot be married to an area. This is an attitude of heart. It will keep one on his toes and will result in more efficient strokes being put into the lives of his men if the possibility of moving is constantly before him. An advantage to moving is that it gives a variety of experience which may qualify one for a larger job ahead . . . becoming indebted renders an individual immobile.”4
Even though Daws had made it clear that Lorne was to succeed him, there was some understandable turbulence after Daws passed away. Several staff resigned. Looking back on this time years later, Lorne recalled for his staff5 in 1978:
During the first years after Daws died, The Navigators was going through what some called ‘perilous times.’ Some said the work was being run by high school kids. Some would ask, ‘Has The Navigators lost Daw’s vision?’ and others, ‘Has The Navigators lost that discipline they knew under Daws . . . and are they becoming soft and weak?’
Lorne went on to underline the importance of God’s promises in our history: “Remember that you don’t obey a promise, you believe it. God makes it happen, you don’t. Because of His promises, we obey His commands. We believe a promise, we obey a command.”
Concerns about Rapid Expansion
The first year of Sanny’s presidency was a whirlwind of activity. He continued his responsibilities on the Graham team and traveled to speak at several seminaries and churches. However, he gave most attention to clarifying and promoting our vision.
In 1957, toward the end of his first year as president, he had some undergirding thoughts for his staff:
A vision is something seen or comprehended by other than ordinary sight. It is what makes our work hard to communicate. Though we might arrive at a neat definition (and we’re working on this), yet such a definition can be comprehended only by those who have a proper spiritual and experiential background to grasp it. . . . A man of vision sees before others see; he sees more than others see; he sees more clearly than others see. How’s your vision?6
Sanny was concerned, even in his first year, that we would expand our field ministries without strengthening them:
We are in danger, I think, of growing too fast. All during the fifteen years I was with Daws, I saw how he fought growth, and I have learned from him and from observation the importance of building carefully and thoroughly. He often used the illustration of the corn stalk which grows up quickly but can be pushed over with your big toe as contrasted with the oak which stands against storms but takes a long time to grow. We have been praying for years for men of maturity, men of stature to come over to help us to strengthen the stakes, that the cords might in turn be lengthened. God is giving just such men. . . . Yesterday, Jim Downing arrived.7
In 1959, Sanny passed on to his staff8 seven points that Waldron Scott had heard in a message on the dangers of the second phase in the growth of an organization to which we could well succumb as our field ministries continued to spread:
- The original revolutionary thrust of the movement tends to diminish.
- A tendency for the ship to collect barnacles (hangers on).
- The movement is confronted with the problems of success:
- Tendency to scatter strokes instead of hitting a few basics.
- Tendency to scatter personnel and thus lose the strength of close fellowship.
- Conversely, tendency to rely upon the fellowship and slacken the pace.
- Refusal to face up to failures that inevitably accompany a movement–reluctance to call a mistake a mistake.9
- Difficulty in transmitting the original vision to the second generation with the same enthusiasm the first generation had.
- Complexity of the organization: it takes greater maturity, greater capacity to relate ourselves to others and all the functions.
- The problem of death. This rarely faces a movement in its first phase, but confronts it with increasing frequency thereafter.
Sanny’s Questions about Recruiting
In 1962, Sanny observed that “there might be something fundamentally wrong with our present method of recruiting. Why are we continually facing a shortage of top-caliber men to fill leadership spots in the work? Is it simply because the harvest is still plenteous and the laborers are still few? Or are we missing something basic—something so obvious that we are overlooking it?”
He went on: “Take the matter of Nav homes. Are they a help or a hindrance in recruiting? Would we get a better man in the home if we invited him in as a co-laborer in making an impact on a particular region for Christ, rather than inviting him in for ‘training’? . . . Possibly the problem is not the home at all, but in our sending area representatives out singly rather than in pairs or in teams. Is it true that two men working together are not one plus one but two squared? . . . Or possibly the problem is just in our own prayer.”10 He asked our staff for ideas.
The following year, he summarized how we were thinking about contact points and Nav areas. Thus:
The basic unit of the Navigator work is a contact—a man on a ship reaching out with his band of men, a key student in college, a student nurse in a hospital. The basic rallying point is a contact point—a home located near a pool of manpower such as an Army base or a university where a simplified, direct ministry may be carried on by a self-supported couple with a minimum of related responsibility. As in the traditional Navigator home, contacts are invited in for Bible study and fellowship, and it becomes a place for recruiting and growth. The Cosgroves’ home in Jacksonville is an example of this.
There are several types of contact points. One is manned by a couple who aim to gain experience and eventually invest their full time in Navigator ministry as our area representative. Another type is carried on by those who plan to help recruit and train people on the side while they continue in their business or profession.
The Navigator area, in the US or overseas, has a full-time representative who with his team works among servicemen, collegians and/or professionals, carries on public relations, church contact and liaison with other works. He supervises and stimulates those who have contact points within 250 miles of his home. Eventually as our areas increase in number we need to have regions,11 with regional directors to supervise the areas in their territory.
The plan through 1966 for the American ministry (US areas and overseas US servicemen) is to increase the number of representatives by 25 percent each year. The overseas national ministry should increase by 15 percent each year for that same period.”12
These challenging rates of increase pointed ahead to our adoption of Management by Objectives later in the decade.
In those years, it was the custom for our US area Reps to gather in January. Leroy Eims gave a vivid report on the 1962 event in Wheaton, Illinois. After describing those who came as an “odd-looking assortment of men from the four corners of the USA,” he outlined Lorne’s messages on the parable of the sower and the seed, leading us to prayer on seeding various areas with “good seed,” prepared by the Spirit of God to bear fruit and multiply. Lorne also laid out six general stages in an area ministry.13
By 1964, Lorne felt it necessary to remind our staff of our commitment to raise up spiritual laborers:
What do we mean by laborers? First of all, disciples—those who put Christ first, are identified with Him, continue in the Word, bear fruit. Further, each one developed to the maximum of his possibilities, and using his gifts in full.
At least three guidelines have been established, growing out of God’s promises. Sanny said:
First, to “grow our own” . . . our seed or offspring: Isaiah 43:4-6, Isaiah 44:3, Isaiah 54:3. This has brought about a change in procedure from five years ago, when we regularly recruited men and trained them in the atmosphere of whatever “going concern” was available. . . . We are now doing more of our own evangelism, creating our own “going concern.
Secondly, to concentrate on “good seed.” This means intensive concentration to produce high quality. Good seed has life. The good seed must fall into the ground and die, and when it does, it brings forth much fruit. . . . The good seed means the sons of the kingdom: Matthew 13:38.
Thirdly, multiplication. This underscores the importance of those who are good seed. We must continue to push toward multiplication to the third and fourth generation.
Sanny’s words above have been compressed. Lorne ended with a paragraph on the fact that God gives the increase. It is a matter of faith in God fulfilling His promises from start to finish. Faith, evidenced by patience and believing prayer.14
In 1964, the Studies in Christian Living were printed. By the end of the year, more than fifty thousand had been distributed. This was especially impressive because two major problems had come into focus during July: the bulky proliferation of assignments at Glen Eyrie and the need for better financial control. This required the decisive untangling of the various functions at the Glen until we were operating with around half of the people with whom we started the year. God then favored us to such an extent that our year-end mailing in December yielded the largest income month in our history, with gifts for our general fund amounting to 58 percent above December 1963.15
Experimenting and Training
The best methods and context for training were carefully explored in the early 1960s. Many papers were prepared for our training policy conference in September 1963.
The conclusions of this conference cover perhaps thirty pages. They are prefaced by the statement that God’s objective in Navigator training is two-fold: extensively, it is to contribute to the fulfillment of the Great Commission by recruiting and equipping Christlike laborers to fulfill their proper function in the Body and in the world; intensively, it is to contribute to the fulfillment of the Great Commission by producing reproducers.16
In his opening remarks to the conference, Sanny drew attention to the fact that 1963 was a very pivotal year in our history: our thirtieth year, our tenth year at the Glen. He sensed a great need to explore and refine our experience in training, noting perceptively that when we had discussed our future plans at the recent staff conference, many questioned the amount of money needed but few were stunned by the need of manpower. The time was ripe.
It was becoming clear that our field supervisors had some concerns as to the experience of those they had sent to Glen Eyrie for summer training. This flowed to a large degree from the divided responsibilities that such trainees were expected to discharge at the Glen. Nevertheless, our 1963 conference affirmed that the Glen offered some benefits unavailable in the areas:
- Giving the total Navigator heartbeat
- Exposure to leaders
- God’s work in the pressured Glen context
- Homogenization of the work
It was agreed that the primary training purpose of the Glen should therefore be for those who were seen as potential staff. As laid out in the conclusions:
The area has emerged as a focal point of Navigator training. The area Rep will take the primary responsibility for recruiting men to the vision, organization, getting them faithful in the basics, and establishing them in world vision so that by the time the man comes to Glen Eyrie, he will be looked upon as a prospective staff member.
By 1963, in addition to time at the Glen, we had adopted a ”two-year contact point ministry” as a guideline for preparing to become an area or overseas Rep. Contact points, as we have seen, were preferably located within a radius of 250 miles from their supervisor, who was charged with the responsibility of training and preparing the contact for his future job as an area Rep. In his 1964 report on the American ministry, Sanny stated that placing and developing contact points was “the single greatest need, taking priority over all else.”
An innovation in the early 1960s was one-day conferences.17 By 1964, more than five thousand people had attended one-day and weekend conferences during the previous year.18
We were constantly experimenting with new ideas for evangelistic thrusts. For example: About 1,100 attended the hootenanny in Kalamazoo; 1,150 attended the debate on “Is Christianity Credible?” in Bloomington; 350 went to the Olymp’n’anny at Glen Eyrie. Operation Homestead was an experiment in the Great Lakes region in which all the key men ministered together in one area, helping Walt Henrichsen get started in Kalamazoo and Bob V. get started in Bloomington.19
Much of this was driven by the enthusiasm and creative vision of LeRoy Eims, who was responsible for our US Areas ministries.20 Jerry White recalls this:21
I still remember with incredible fondness the weekly basement Bible studies in LeRoy and Virginia’s home in my early years, while teaching at the Air Force Academy. LeRoy made Bible study fun. In fact, he made ministry of every kind fun. I remember staff meeting after staff meeting where we not only worked hard, but we played hard. He knew how to band a team together. Hewas a master delegator and motivator. We worked hard for him—and loved it—and loved him.
LeRoy led us in some of the most innovative evangelistic and discipleship outreaches that I could ever imagine. There was never a task or opportunity too great that we could not tackle it. I remember how he rented a theatre in downtown Denver as an evangelistic outreach and filled it with non-believers to see Ben-Hur.
One of the things that impressed me the most was that at no time have I ever heard LeRoy criticize another person. Nor did I ever sense a spirit of competition or criticism from LeRoy.
He was always a man to challenge the status quo. He was always launching out on new ventures. More than almost any other person, he was the public spokesman for The Navigators. He was the most well-known speaker and author in our midst. In so many ways, LeRoy was the public face of The Navigators.
As much as anyone, LeRoy recruited me to The Navigators. But, more than that, he set a pace for me in serving God and walking by faith and recruiting people to the kingdom.
Meanwhile, in 1964, Sanny had some interesting observations for his staff22 on US college students, as compared to their parents:
Physically, they are not as strong. 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 from 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. Today’s collegian wants something to satisfy his inner need and something challenging for his energies. We believe the abundant answer to this is Christ and His commission.
Jack and Carole Mayhall had a burgeoning collegiate ministry by 1965,23 working primarily at Northern Illinois University. Then, LeRoy Eims appointed him as the first of our regional directors, defining the position as one who encourages and helps other staff by travelling around to visit our staff at the University of Illinois, Indiana University, Ohio State University, Kalamazoo College, and Michigan State. Later, when it officially became a region, Jack was responsible for all of the east coast north of the Mason-Dixon line, plus Canada. Later still, in early 1969, we divided into three US divisions: Skip Gray for the southeast, LeRoy for the west, and Jack for the northern. By the end of the year, we had agreed on unified profiles for our fruit.
Jack’s drive was to help our men become more skilled in man-to-man discipleship.24
His key staff were Herb Atwood at Illinois, Dave Johnson at Indiana, Bob Sparks at Ohio State, Walt Henrichsen at Kalamazoo, and Larry Whitehouse, who soon moved to Michigan State.
To illustrate how few we were, Jack recalls that in 1967, he held a national Reps conference in their home in Wheaton. Around twenty-four men were present and all the meetings took place in the home.25 We were growing rapidly, so we began to have staff conferences at Glen Eyrie.
By 1966, some five hundred college-age young people attended one of six summer training programs in the US and Canada. Such programs,26 it was agreed, provided:
- Experience and training for our staff and key people
- Sound doctrine and training for hundreds of collegians
- Increased effectiveness in the ministry
Bob and Marilyn V. married in 1964. Their first assignment was at Indiana University. Soon, there were five people living in their home for training.27 Then, after the required two years as contact staff, they were assigned to Michigan to carry forward the large ministry that the Lord had given Walt Henrichsen28 among the business people and churches. The two women and three men who had been living with them (starting a few weeks after their wedding!) moved with them to start the ministry at Michigan State, while Bob travelled around to continue investing in Walt’s businessmen. It was a time of intense pressure, during which Sanny asked Bob to pray about moving to Lebanon to lead the ministry begun by Waldron Scott.
After a struggle, Bob and Marilyn decided to commit to Lebanon shortly before they had organized a novel training program in Lansing. It was called Summer Training in Evangelism and Missions (STEAM) out of which came many future missionaries.
An American ministry report was included in the papers for our overseas directors conference in November 1966. It identified our US regions as:
Northwest: Russ Johnston
Rocky Mountain: LeRoy Eims
Midwest: Warren Myers
Southwest: Walt Henrichsen
Great Lakes: Jack Mayhall
Northeast: Jim White
Southeast: Skip Gray
Europe Servicemen: Dave Johnson
Within the US, we had thirty-five Reps supervising men in contact points. There were twenty-four such contacts, each supervised for a minimum of two years. The projection was that seven would become Reps in 1967 and another eight would become Reps in 1968.
We also had various regional staff, appointed by regional directors in conjunction with our US areas director.
The advantages of organizing the US in regions were identified as:
- Decentralization: more decisions made at the scene of action
- Better supervision and training for men coming up
- Increases the speed of our development
This 1966 report looked to the future:
The ministry in each US region is predominantly a collegiate or a servicemen’s ministry.
It has been demonstrated that a man involved daily in a grassroots ministry is most effective when he concentrates on one of these target areas rather than both. However, a regional director, whose work is primarily supervisory, can effectively direct both types of ministry.
Therefore, we plan on having two primary ministries in regions where there are choice collegiate and servicemen manpower pools . . . plus a backstroke ministry to businessmen and couples.
As the US field decentralized more activity to our regions, we were seeing better supervision and training for potential staff. We were applying the team concept29 in more depth. The caliber and quality of our staff were increasing year by year.
As of 1966, the US Navigators had:
- twelve staff working with seven potential staff in Europe and Asia
- thirteen staff working with servicemen in the US
- twenty-seven staff working with collegians
- 159 men projected as potential to become staff
At that time, the plan was to assign personnel to an additional fifteen military pools and fourteen colleges by the end of 1968.
At the end of the decade, our US field ministries cost slightly more than $1 million for the transitional period of January to September 1969.30
By Donald McGilchrist
See also articles on:
A History of our Calling
Navigators Among the People of God
Overseas Policy Conference 1961
Clarifying our Calling: 1960s
Overseas Training Corps: 1965
The Navigator Home
Overseas Ministries: 1960s
- “Dear Gang,” May 20, 1955.
- For these ethno-religious blocs, see article on Global Planning 1976-
- Training centers emerged later as places in which the concentrated training of potential staff was the focus.
- Source: Sanny to area leaders and overseas representatives, March 1957. Sanny added that we need to open at least six new US areas: New York City, St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Norfolk, San Antonio (servicemen), and Virginia (servicemen).
- “Dear Staff” letter, 1978-3.
- “Dear Gang,” May 28, 1957.
- “Dear Gang,” November 7, 1956. Downing had resigned his commission in the US Navy, intending to join Trotman’s team.
- “Dear Gang,” July 3, 1959.
- Trotman had spoken at our general conference in 1954 on “Some Mistakes I Made.” He explored eight of them.
- “Dear Gang,” May 4, 1962.
- Clearly, it was taking considerable time to flesh out the regions envisioned back in 1955. Every year, additional staff made the concept more feasible.
- “Dear Gang,” August 22, 1963. Sanny returned to this need in his “Dear Gang” of June 12, 1964: “The highest priority now in personnel assignments is the manning of contact points, for on this depends our continuing supply of men being developed. From this farm system will come next year’s and the next’s area Reps in the US and overseas. This is the part of the ‘development’ program that excites me most.”
- “Dear Colaborers,” January 24, 1962.
- “Dear Gang,” July 10, 1964. For a fuller look at what Lorne actually wrote, see his letter.
- “Dear Gang,” January 15, 1965.
- This conference had more than twenty participants and ran for ten grueling days. Sanny’s introduction shows that he was claiming Psalm 25:4-5.
- The first was at Oklahoma City in the fall of 1959. Source: Jerry Bridges on Navigator history 1953-1968 at NSI 1970.
- Weekend conferences were taking place by 1960: see notes on planning and administering in agenda for our January 1960 area representatives conference.
- Source: Extracts from Lorne’s presidential report for August 1963 to May 1964.
- LeRoy became US areas coordinator in July 1960, his title changing to US areas director in January 1962. In 1966, he left HQ to develop area ministries in the Rocky Mountain region. In 1969, he became director of the western division.
- Extracts from Jerry’s recollections at the memorial service for LeRoy
- “Dear Gang,” of April 3, 1964.
- Source: McGilchrist interview with Jack Mayhall, November 30, 2011.
- Jack’s father was a grocer, which gave Jack his analogy to various simple ministry modules which he described as “cans on the shelf.” He recalls developing three essentials: a heart for men, a vision for multiplication, and know-how. He added a strong commitment to missionary sending, especially in the Great Lakes region.
- Sanny, Downing, and Sargent were present from our headquarters.
- American ministry report in November 1966, overseas directors conference.
- The people were Nuke Shim from Jamaica, Betty Graham, Ben Blackiston, Charlie Green, and Terry Shy.
- The Henrichsens were moving to Texas.
- The November 1966 overseas directors conference considered an important paper by Doug Sparks on the “Philosophy and Method of Teamwork.”
- The November 1969 agenda for our divisional directors conference under finances. This transition occurred to align our financial year with the collegiate year in the northern hemisphere.