A first-hand experience account of Navigators:
Navigators: Stay or be screwed.
“Bible study was of the utmost importance. Incoming freshmen joined a Bible Study that they were expected to stay with until the end of their college career. If you transferred colleges your sophomore year and didn’t know anyone in the group, you were screwed.”
Navigators: Never Daters
“Not dating was stressed. The alternative was something akin to “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” in which God will drop your spouse into your lap if you’re only patient enough, and pray really hard. “Navigators, never daters; when they date, they date Crusaders,” was a common mantra on campus.”
-Every summer, Navs hosted STPs (Summer Training Programs.) Students go all over the country, and usually work in a venue already set up by Navigators. Depending on where you went, it could be anywhere from YMCA of the Rockies to the local McDonald’s. During this time, students are mentored/discipled by their leaders, and expected to “be a light” to their co-workers. Generally speaking, it costs almost as much to go on most of these programs as you would make at the job. Students are encouraged to “fundraise” by sending out support letters to everyone you know. If no one sends you money, then God doesn’t want you to go, but you still need to pay your deposit.
-Hierarchy. The only people who could have an audience, that lasted longer than 10 minutes, with the leaders were the students who were heavily involved: ran Bible studies, lead worship, organized social activities, etc. Below them were their friends. Below them were the peons who ran the sound system, greeted at the door, and did other trivial tasks. Below them were the students in an established Bible study. Below them were the newcomers, occasional drop-ins, and transfer students (see first.)
I suppose it could look a little intense and in-grown (one of my friends called the Christian organizations on campus “incestuous” which seems apt,) but I don’t think it was anything like the excessively controlling, don’t-hang-out-with-your-friends-outside-of-Navs-and-Satan-lives-in-your-Cheerios, emotional breakdown that is a true cult. The hierarchy, distant leaders, and lack of interest in new students who weren’t freshmen annoyed me more than anything else.