The Navigators History

The Navigators ministry began in the 1930s, when a young California lumberyard worker caught a vision. After seeing the benefits of basic discipleship principles in his own life, Dawson Trotman wanted to teach them to others, echoing the call of 2 Timothy 2:2: "And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others."

Dawson began teaching high school students and local Sunday school classes these principles. In 1933, he and his friends extended their work to sailors in the U.S. Navy. There, Dawson taught sailor Les Spencer the foundations of Christian growth. They spent many hours together praying, studying the Bible, and memorizing Scripture. When one of Spencer's shipmates asked him the secret of his changed life, Spencer brought the man to Trotman: "Teach him what you taught me," he said.

"You teach him!" Trotman responded. And the 2 Timothy 2:2 vision was strengthened.

Spencer did teach the sailor, and soon the two men were meeting with others. Eventually, 125 men on their ship, the U.S.S. West Virginia, were growing in Christ and actively sharing their faith. By the end of World War II, thousands of men on ships and bases around the world were learning the principles of spiritual multiplication by the person-to-person teaching of God's word.  At the same time, those high school students Dawson had taught began to reach out in ever-widening circles to others around them in Southern California.

In the early 1950s, Billy Graham, then a young, up and coming evangelist, pleaded with Dawson Trotman to help him follow up on the thousands who were committing their lives to Christ at his crusades. Dawson assigned key men to help Graham develop materials and train workers. Daws and Graham became close friends in the process, and Graham preached at Daws' funeral in 1956.

Since The Navigators' beginnings in 1933, that vision of spreading the love of Christ has flourished. In 1949, The Navigators' first overseas missionary left to serve in China, and in 1953 The Navigators' headquarters moved from southern California to Colorado Springs.  Today, the Navigator staff family—4,600 strong—includes 70 nationalities, 130 languages, ministering on more than 150 college campuses in the US and over 100 countries around the world.  In the US, we not only minister on 150+ college campuses and dozens of military bases, but with businessmen and women in every line of work, among homemakers, ethnic minority groups, international students, and churches.
Our aim is to make a permanent difference in the lives of people around the world. Our purpose—To Know Christ and to Make Him Known—describes the center and direction of the ministry. From the beginning, we have sought not only to reach people for Christ but to equip them so that they, in turn, can help fulfill Christ's commission to "go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19).