While Billy Graham is most famous for his preaching ministry, he also served as the head of a complex ministry for years. In fact, much of Graham’s ministerial career has actually focused his energies on organizational elements within his ministry organization.
“Dr. Graham gratefully testifies that it would be impossible for him to lead such vast crusades of evangelism if it were not for the skillfully coordinated help of devoted colleagues. There are those who appear with him on the platform and are constantly in the public eye. There are others whose work is largely behind the scenes.”
Graham’s crusades required hundreds to thousands of workers. His team had the logistical task of coordinating numerous volunteers to serve as secretaries, ushers, counselors, singers, telephone workers, and much more. The first stage of a crusade’s organization was his staff’s enlistment and training of counselors and workers to be able to orchestrate the massive events. Graham’s staff enlisted a large team of volunteers who were spiritually concerned concerning their town.
Graham had to utilize extreme organizational abilities personally to assemble a qualified staff who could assemble competent volunteers. After the highly successful first crusade in Los Angeles, Graham’s crusades became a huge financial endeavor that required a highly organized staff. Concerning Graham’s team, he stated, “In order to do whatever needed to be done, they have subordinated their personal privileges, reordered their priorities, accepted disappointments and endless changes in schedule, stretched their patience, absorbed criticism, and exhausted their energy.”
One of the major areas that Graham encountered which needed a major organizational overhaul was the element of follow-up.
In Graham’s earlier crusades, he would present five pieces of advice to new converts:
- read the Bible,
- tell another person you are now a Christian,
- and live for Jesus in your home and at work.
He would also stress the need for a new convert to join a church.
Early in his ministry, Graham dealt with the lack of follow-up that characterized most evangelists’ ministry at that time. In most of those evangelistic meetings, many people would respond to an altar call, but relatively few evangelists ever conducted any follow through with the converts. Graham and his staff attempted to address the problem that converts were missing from church’s congregations within six months after a crusade had ended. Since Graham was so concerned with the lack of follow-up with converts, he began to pray and think what he could do to help remedy the situation. Due to this problem, Graham began to restructure their follow-up procedures and counseling during the crusades in an attempt to connect converts with local churches.
The sheer mass of converts at the crusades made the Graham staff begin to search for a more effective way to direct new converts. Graham enlisted Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators, to assist in developing the next steps for new converts. Trotman spent an entire nine months solely developing the Graham crusades’ counseling ministry and follow-up system.
As a result of his work, Graham’s staff began to train counselors on everything from where to stand to how to pray. They also began to use decision cards with contact information on the new convert, and they would send out correspondence to local churches in the surrounding area concerning information on the new convert. Graham’s team made it their practice to send a letter to the church of the convert’s choice the day after the decision to inform a pastor of what had occurred.
By connecting the convert with a local church, Graham’s team hoped for a greater discipleship probability than solely trusting in the person’s desire for spiritual development following one decision.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Distinctive Discipleship. He is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. Travis graduated from North Greenville University with a B.A. in Christian Studies and earned his M.Div. and D.Min. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with his doctoral focus on family discipleship.