The CSU Navigators are experiencing a phenomenon that many student organizations hope for, but not all achieve – exponential growth.
CSU’s chapter of Navigators, an international, nondenominational Christian organization, has nearly doubled in size every year for the past five years.
“In five years we’ve gone from 12 students to 300,” said Navigators Director Ben Nugent.
Navigators meets at 7 p.m. on Thursdays, but the group’s size this year requires it to change locations regularly.
In addition to the group meetings, there are many smaller, student-led Bible studies offered throughout the week.
“The heartbeat of a real Navigators ministry is a man-to-man, one-on-one mentoring,” Nugent said. “Our studies walk people through the Bible, answer questions they have, help with problems and focus on character building.”
Vanessa Grady, a junior health and exercise science major, leads one of the small group Bible studies. Grady said the growth in recent years is incredible.
“When I first went my freshman year, there were only, like, five people,” she said. “I felt like I was going to get knocked over last week. I felt like God just wanted to surprise us.”
Nugent said he is pleased with the group’s growth, but not surprised.
“It’s stuff I really can’t explain,” he said. “We’ve just been bathing this campus in prayer.”
As Navigators has grown, the staff has had to involve more strategic event planning and has had to recruit nearly 60 of the upper-classmen students into leadership positions, such as leading Bible studies or participating with the praise and worship team, Nugent said.
Michael Curtis, a senior civil engineering major, leads a Bible study and assists the staff with whatever else needs to be done.
Curtis said he hopes the group can maintain its closeness and community, despite its large numbers.
“I would absolutely love it if we could find a small-group atmosphere even though we’re growing so much,” he said.
Caryn Hickman said the small-group feeling is part of what makes Navigators so successful.
“Having a welcoming atmosphere to everyone is so important,” said Hickman, a senior health and exercise science major. “I just love the Bible studies and meeting one-on-one with students.”
Grady agreed that an inclusive environment is important to the group.
“The biggest reason why I go and why I stayed is that it’s not cliquey,” she said. “I like that the people are real and at the same time are not exclusive with each other.”
Nugent said he hopes to see Navigators continue to grow and reach new students each year.
“I want our students to be able to talk about God in a non-confrontational and non-offensive manner – to talk about Jesus without ticking people off,” he said. “We want people to explore Jesus more, whether they call themselves Christians or don’t call themselves Christians.”
Curtis said he hopes Navigators will continue to build a strong foundation and will continue on the path God has put before the group.
“The growth is mostly a God thing,” Curtis said. “It has very little to do with the Navigators.”