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Donald and Mary McGavran Papers

Identifier: CN 178

Brief Description

Correspondence, lectures, sermons, book manuscripts, surveys, audio tapes, video tapes, microfilm of letters, notes, and other records dealing with the life of the McGavrans, especially their work as missionaries in India with the Disciples of Christ, and Donald's activities as an author and educator, including his role as founding dean of Fuller Seminary's School of World Mission. Much of the collection deals with his role in originating, developing, and applying church growth theory.


  • Created: 1906-2000


Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on the access to this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

The Archives does not possess the copyright to any of Dr. Donald McGavran's published works.


Donald Anderson McGavran

Birth Date: December 15, 1897, in Damoh, India, the son and grandson of missionaries. Returned with parents to the United States in 1910, grew up in Michigan, Oklahoma and Indiana

Death Date: July 10, 1990, in Altadena, California, of cancer


  • Parents: John Grafton McGavran and Helen (Anderson) McGavran, missionaries in India with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
  • Siblings: Joyce (Seelye), Grace and Edward Grafton
  • Marital Status: Married August 29, 1922, to Mary Elizabeth Howard
  • Children: 6 children. Mary Theodora, first daughter (born 1923) died of appendicitis in India. Elizabeth Jean (Mrs. John Davis), Helen (Mrs. C. M. Corneli), Malcolm H., Winifred (Mrs. K. W. Griffen), Patricia (Mrs. Scribner Sheafor)

    Conversion: Saved at 14 and baptized in the First Christian Church of Tulsa, Oklahoma

    Ordination: A minister in the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ denomination

  • Educated at home by his parents, then Woodstock School in India (where he and Mary later sent their children), then at public schools in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Indianapolis, Indiana
  • 1915-1920: Butler University (BA). During this period he left school to serve in the Army.
  • 1920-1922: Yale Divinity School (BD cum laude)
  • 1922-1923: College of Mission, Indianapolis (MA)
  • 1930: Graduate study at Union Theological Seminary
  • 1930-1932: Columbia University (PhD in Education)
  • 1971: Fuller Theological Seminary (D.Litt, hon.)

  • 1910: Attended as a boy with his father the Edinburgh Missionary Conference
  • 1917-1919: Service in the US Army in the 63rd Field Artillery Brigade during World War I. After training at Camp Shelby in Mississippi, he went with his unit to France in 1918. His unit returned to the United States in 1919 and he was demobilized.
  • 1919: During a YMCA conference at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, dedicated his life to going where God sent and carrying out His will
  • 1923: Donald and Mary commissioned as missionaries of United Christian Missionary Society (the missions arm of the Disciples of Christ) and sailed to India
  • 1923-1931?: Harda, India. Donald was placed in charge of the mission school system in Harda and later (1927) appointed director of religious education for the India field. This involved standardizing curriculum and instruction.
  • 1928-?: Served on the mission's executive committee. Also a member of the Mid-India Provincial Christian Council, which consisted of representatives from various Christian missions and churches
  • 1931?- 1932?  Furlough in United States (attended classes at Colombia University in New York and received his Ph.D.)
  • 1933-1936: Jubbulpore, India, headquarters of mission. Donald served as secretary treasurer of mission
  • 1936-1954: Takhatpur, India. Donald manager of a leperosaium and involved in evangelism among various castes, particularly the Satnami, writing on church growth 1954: McGavran family returned to the United States on furlough. Although it was Donald and Mary's's intention to return to India, the mission sent him to various parts of the world to do further research into the growth of churches planted by the mission and related Christian groups. He also was a guest or visiting lecturer at several seminaries in the mainland United States, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Philippines, Thailand, and Zaire (Congo) in the period 1954-1960. He began to teach and write extensively about the theories he had developed during his time in India about the factors that influence and shape the development of congregations and these theories were to be the dominant theme of his writings and educational work from this time on. Starting in 1961, especially, they were to have an enormous influence not only on the way Protestant Evangelicals practiced missions, but on their understanding of church life generally.
  • 1954-1956: The McGavrans served as the Host Couple for the Disciples of Christ's Divinity House at Yale Divinity School, the home of Disciple seminarians and their families
  • 1955: Survey of Puerto Rico
  • 1956-1957: Survey of Philippines, Thailand and India. Also did surveys of Congo, Jamaica and among Yakima Indians
  • 1957: The McGavrans were the Host Couple for the Mission House on the Disciples' Crystal Conference Grounds in Frankfort, Michigan, summer location of the School of Missions
  • 1957-1960: Served as professor of the College of Missions, on loan to other college and seminaries to teach missions
  • 1957: Taught at Phillips University, Enid, Oklahoma
  • 1958: Taught at the College of Missions, Indianapolis, Indiana
  • 1958: Taught at Drake University, Iowa (Fall)
  • 1958: Resigned from the mission for the purpose of founding an institute to understand church growth
  • 1959: Taught at Bethany College, Bethany West Virginia (Fall)
  • 1961-1965: Founder and director of the Institute of Church Growth at Northwest Christian College in Eugene, Oregon
  • 1964: Started Church Growth Bulletin. (McGavran remained editor until 1981)
  • 1965-1971: Founding dean of the School of World Mission, Fuller Theological Seminary
  • 1965-1967: Director, Lilly Endowment Research into Church Growth in Latin America
  • 1971-1981: Senior professor of missions at Fuller (full-time from 1971-1978, half-time 1978-1981)
  • 1981: Retired, but continued to be active as a speaker and writer until shortly before his death

  • Bridges of God (1955)
  • How Churches Grow (1959)
  • Church Growth and Christian Mission (ca. 1965)
  • Understanding Church Growth (1970)
  • Crucial Issues in Missions Tomorrow (1975)
  • Ten Steps for Church Growth (1977) plus thirteen others, along with nine he co-wrote and one he edited. He also contributed articles to many periodicals, including International Review of Missions, Christianity Today, World Vision Magazine, Missiology: An International Review, and Evangelical Missions Quarterly
  • Mary Elizabeth (Howard) McGavran

    Birth:  Born March 12, 1898, in Muncie, Indiana

    Death: April 5, 1990


  • Parents: Mr. and Mrs. Isaiah B. and Sarah Howard of 1333 East Main Street, Muncie, Indiana
  • Siblings: Older brother Walter
  • Marital Status: Married August 29, 1922, to Donald Anderson McGavran
  • Children: 6 children. Mary Theodora, first daughter (born 1923) died of appendicitis in India. Elizabeth Jean (Mrs. John Davis), Helen (Mrs. C. M. Corneli), Malcolm H., Winifred (Mrs. K. W. Griffen), Patricia (Mrs. Scribner Sheafor)

  • 1918-1922: Butler College, Indiana, graduating with an A.B.
  • 1922-1923: Graduate studies at the College of Missions (Disciples of Christ), Indianapolis, Indiana
  • 1954?-1956?: Took Library Science courses as she worked in the library at the Yale Divinity School Library

  • 1923: Donald and Mary commissioned as missionaries of United Church Missionary Society (the missions arm of the Disciples of Christ) and sailed to India
  • 1923-1931?: Harda, India. Mary taught in boys school and was superintendent of girls school. She also visited homes to do evangelistic and health work and was active in the local church.
  • 1931?- 1932?: Furlough in United States
  • 1933-1936: Jubbulpore, India, headquarters of mission. Mary worked with women and young people, the Women's Christian Temerance Union and taught in high school. She also did evangelistic work.
  • 1936-1954: Takhatpur, India. Mary was business manager of the village hospital and involved in an adult literacy program and was involved in counseling, child care and other social work.
  • 1954: McGavran family returned to the United States on furlough. Although it was Donald and Mary's's intention to return to India, the mission Donald sent him to various parts of the world to do further research into the growth of churches planted by the mission and related Christian groups.
  • 1954-1956: McGavrans' served as the Host Couple for the Disciples of Christ's Divinity House at Yale Divinity School, the home of Disciple seminarians and their families. The responsibilities, which were mostly carried by Mary, included running the house and advising and helping the young couples and families that lived there. During the McGavran's tenure, the Disciples sold the on-campus house and bought a new one on Canner Street and Mary supervised the task of making it suitable to be a multi-family dwelling.
  • 1957: The McGavrans were the Host Couple for the Mission House on the Disciples' Crystal Conference Grounds in Frankfort, Michigan, summer location of the School of Missions. Mary handled most of the practical, day to day aspects of the program.
  • ?-1960: The McGavrans lived in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Iowa and Indiana. Donald was teaching for varying periods of time at different seminaries and Mary served actively as a counselor and friend to his students and their families. This continued to be true during the couple's time at Northwest Christian College and Fuller Theological Seminary.
  • 1959-1965: The McGavrans lived in Eugene, Oregon, where Donald started the Institute of Church Growth at Northwest Christian College
  • 1965-1990: The McGavrans moved to Pasadena, California, where Donald was the first dean of the School of World Mission and a professor of missions until his retirement

    Other Information: Mary was an active member of the Jack Street Christian Church of Muncie and held various responsibilities there, including president of Christian Endeavor. She was also active in the YWCA She was a member of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority.
  • Extent

    50.0 Linear Feet (99 boxes (99 DC) Audio Tapes, Microfilm, Negatives, Oversize materials, Photograph Album, Photographs, Videos)

    Language of Materials


    Arrangement and Description

    The papers of Donald and Mary McGavran include correspondence (personal and business), class lectures, manuscripts of books and articles, newspaper clippings, statistics, maps, reference materials, financial records, documents gathered to study church growth in different parts of the world, photographs, audio tapes, and videos. They document a wide variety of different topics, but are particularly strong for three areas: the McGavrans' family life, their work in India as missionaries, and, especially, Donald McGavran's theories about church growth and the impact of these theories on the church, especially North American Protestant Evangelicals. The collection consists of various personal documents the McGavrans gathered during their lives, as well as files of material generated by Donald's teaching and administrative activities, particularly at the Institute of Church Growth at Northwest Christian College and Fuller Seminary.

    In a letter written to the BGC Archives on November 3, 1989, Dr. McGavran wrote, "I hope that you will include in whatever account you print of this collection of my papers at the Billy Graham Archives that it is important primarily because it casts a good deal of light on world evangelization. The manuscripts are written by a missionary of 31 years of experience in the field. All the manuscripts deal with aspects of missionary work. That so much of missions does not deal with effective evangelism but with good deeds done to non-Christians needs to be emphasized in any summary that you make and print of this collection. Mission today, yesterday, and I fear tomorrow is always in danger of doing good works in the name of Christ as a substitute for carrying out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-19). Please also include the statement that these archives were contributed to Billy Graham Archives by the founding dean of the School of World Mission, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California. This School of World Mission is now the largest school of world mission in the world and will probably continue so for many years."

    The first sixty boxes of this collection consists of materials which Donald McGavran gave to the library of Northwest Christian College (NCC) and for which a guide was completed in 1977. Selected portions of the collection were microfilmed at that time. The guide prepared by Richard Gaust of Northwest Christian College is in folder 60-5. Subsequently, this collection of material was returned to Dr. McGavran and sent to his office at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena California. In 1989 he gave several boxes of his and his wife's papers to the Billy Graham Center Archives. Almost but not quite all of the documents that were part of the NCC collection was included in this gift, as was some additional material, mostly family correspondence. A few other odds and ends which Dr. McGavran gave to the collection (such as the 1984 manuscript in folder 47-20) were also included in the collection. In 2000, the McGavran's daughter Patricia Sheafor gave a box of letters and other materials relating to the illness and death of her parents in 1990. Also included, although not received from Dr. McGavran, are audio tapes of his class lectures on church growth from 1975 and 1979 and the videos in this collection. Also in 2000 the Archives received from Fuller Seminary the records of Donald McGavran's years there as first dean of the School of World Missions which document his work from 1965 until 1981 as teacher, scholar and administrator, as well as the his files from his very active retirement, 1981-1990. These materials make up boxes 61-99 of this collection. The collection therefore covers the entire adult life of Donald and Mary McGavran, although most of the materials deal with Donald's work as missionary, church leader, teacher and scholar. There is relatively little material about the last decades of Mary's life after the couple returned to the United States from India. The materials in boxes 1 through 11 and 20 through 59 were for the most left in the arrangement established for them by the Northwest Christian College library staff. Dr. McGavran apparently worked with the NCC staff when they processed the collection and the arrangement is partly his. The BGC Archives (hereafter referred to as "Archives") staff simplified the arrangement somewhat by dividing the material into eight series and rearranging a very few items to fit this system. As mentioned, the NCC materials were selectively microfilmed. As part of this process, each folder was wrapped in sheets of white paper on which were a few notes on its contents, the number of pages in the folder, and whether or not the material should be microfilmed. These comments for the most part do not appear to have been written by Dr. McGavran, but rather by someone who was involved in processing the collection, perhaps Robert Gault or Reyburn McCready who provided the intellectual direction to the task. These wrappers have been removed and included inside at the beginning of each folder.

    Series: Paper Records (also see Box List)

    The paper records are divided into the seven subseries, described further below:

  • Correspondence
  • Financial
  • India
  • Institute of Church Growth
  • Lectures
  • Manuscripts
  • Miscellaneous
  • Surveys

    Subseries: Correspondence

    Arrangement: Chronological or alphabetical into the following further subseries:
  • Outgoing
  • Incoming
  • Letters not to or from the McGavrans
  • Additional correspondence

    Date Range: 1916-1976

    Volume: 18.5 linear feet

    Boxes: 1-19, 65-82

    Geographic coverage: Worldwide, with most of the material from India and the United States

    Type of documents: Personal letters to family and friends, letters relating to the McGavrans' missionary, educational and evangelistic work

    Correspondents: For an almost complete list, see the correspondence indexes in this guide

  • Don and Mary's courtship
  • Marriage and family life
  • Development and impact of church growth theory
  • Christian missions in India
  • Indian society and culture
  • Christian missions worldwide
  • Missions as an academic discipline
  • The Disciples of Christ denomination
  • Donald McGavran's activities as founding dean and professor at Fuller Seminary's School of World Missions and Institute of Church Growth

    Notes: Some correspondence with publishers of Donald McGavran's books and articles can be found in box 97.

    Exceptional items: There is an extremely detailed index, prepared by Reyburn McCready for the 1977 guide, to boxes 1-12 of the correspondence. These indexes list all the correspondents in these boxes and give the dates of their letters. There are indexes for incoming and outgoing correspondence. There is also an organization index which indicates which individuals were affiliated with what organization.

    Correspondence: Outgoing

    Arrangement: Chronological

    Date Range: 1917-1976

    Volume: 2.0 linear feet

    Boxes: 1-4

    Geographic coverage: Predominantly India and the United States

    Type of documents: Letters from Donald and/or Mary McGavran to friends, family, co-workers

    Correspondents: See correspondence indexes

    Subjects: See description for the Correspondence subseries.

    Notes: Family correspondence in this subseries should be read together with that in the Additional Correspondence subseries.

    Correspondence: Incoming

    Arrangement: Alphabetical-chronological

    Date Range: 1916-1970

    Volume: 3.5 linear feet

    Boxes: 4-11

    Geographic coverage: India, United States, some correspondence with most parts of the world

    Type of documents: Letters from family members, friends, missionaries, church leaders, professors of mission

    Correspondents: See correspondence indexes

    Subjects: See description of the Correspondence subseries.

    Notes: The correspondence in folders 7-8 through 8-6 should be read in conjunction with the family correspondence in the Additional Correspondence subseries. Material in folder 5-6 from Jean (McGavran) Davis was moved to folder 17-1. Material in folder 5-4 from Helen (McGavran) Corneli was moved to folders 12-22 and 12-23. Material in folder 6-2 from Winifred (McGavran) Griffen was moved to folder 12-24. Material in folder 10-2 from Patricia (McGavran) Sheafor was moved to folders 19-6 and 19-7.

    Correspondence: Letters not to or from the McGavrans

    Arrangement: Alphabetical-chronological

    Date Range: 1917-1965

    Volume: 1.0 linear feet

    Boxes: 11-12

    Geographic coverage: Mostly the United States

    Type of documents: Business and personal correspondence

    Correspondents: See Correspondence indexes

    Subjects: Donald McGavran's speaking engagements and publications, the teaching of missiology and/or church growth theory

    Notes: These are letters not written by the McGavrans or sent directly to them, but which they happened to have copies of in their files, usually because a carbon or xerox copy had been sent on to them.

    Correspondence: Additional correspondence

    Arrangement: Alphabetical

    Date Range: 1919-1991

    Volume: 13.5 linear feet

    Boxes: 12-19, 60, 65-82

    Geographic coverage: United States, India

    Type of documents: Almost all are letters to and from family members or soon to be family members. Roughly half are letters that Donald and Mary exchanged during their courtship 1920-1922.

    Correspondents: Donald and Mary Elizabeth McGavran, their parents, siblings, children, grandchildren, Bill Bright, Billy Graham, John Gration, Cal Guy, Alvin Martin, Paul Pierson. In boxes 65-82 there are numerous letters to and from missionaries, missiologists and other scholars, and church leaders from around the world. A few letters from friends and one folder of material from fellow workers with the United Christian Missionary Society (folder 19-9).

    Subjects: The McGavran's courtship, their life in India as Disciples of Christ missionaries, changes and developments in their extended family up until the mid-1960s, the Christian church in India, events on the Indian subcontinent between 1922 and 1956, the changing nature of missions, the church growth movement, Donald's efforts to encourage the training of evangelists and of church growth in many different parts of the world, the final illness and deaths of Donald and Mary McGavran and the tributes to them from family and friends

    Notes: The letters in this subseries consists of materials which either were not sorted at all by the Northwest Christian College staff when the collection was processed in 1976-1977 or were additional materials given to the BGC Archives by Donald McGavran in 1989 or by Patricia McGavran Sheafor in 2000 or by Fuller Seminary in 2000. They are not therefore included in the indexes prepared by the Northwest Christian College staff. The materials in boxes 12-19 and 60 consists almost entirely of letters to and from Donald and Mary (including several folders of letters written during their engagement, and to or from Donald and/or Mary and other family members. Boxes 65-82 contain Donald's continuing correspondence about church growth and missions in the last years of his life during his very active retirement, when he continued to have an office at Fuller Seminary, to travel, and write up until about 1988. He was also active in many organizations, such as OC Ministries (folder 77-1) and the U.S. Center for World Mission (folders 82-1, 82-2, including correspondence with Ralph Winter).

    Exceptional items: Folder 19-9 contains some letters from officials of the United Christian Missionary Society and other missionaries about the McGavrans' preparations to go to India. Folder 60-2 contains the letters Donald McGavran wrote to his family about Mary's illness and impending death and then about his own illness and anticipated death. The folder also contains the obituary for Mary which Donald prepared, programs of the proposed memorial services and a letter prepared by Mary McGavran that was to be sent to places where Donald McGavran was going to lecture, to let them know of the kind of support he would need because of his physical aliments. Folders 60-3 and 60-4 contain the letters and cards that came to the McGavrans' children after the death of Mary in March and Donald in July. Several are from church leaders talking about Donald's impact on the church, others are from family and friends sharing condolences and memories of the couple. There are also several clippings from various publications evaluating the life and ministry of Donald. Especially interesting is the tribute from church leaders in Madras in folder 60-4. Copies of some of the letters in these folders and other tributes to Donald and Mary, as well as copies of some of Donald's last letters, are in folder 76-5. Folder 67-3 has information about Donald's participation in a celebration in India of William Carey's mission work in India and the start of the Baptist Missionary Society in 1792. Folder 75-1 contains material on then life of Donald's brother Edward and folder 75-2 on his sister Grace. Other family information is in folder 75-3. Folder 65-5 contains a variety of miscellaneous letters and other documents that Donald apparently considered significant to the story of his life. Folders 68-7, 69-3, 75-9 and 79-7 (as well as material in folder 98-2) among many others document McGavran's efforts during the last years of his life to encourage, stimulate and inspire seminary professors, church leaders, missionaries and other influential Christians to concentrate on evangelism and winning significant new ethnic and other people groups to the Christian faith. Folders 68-2 contains McGavran's deeply heartfelt critique (entitled "I accuse, I plead") of his own denomination, the Disciples of Christ, for their declining interest in missions to India and their efforts to force Christian Churches in India to merge with the Episcopal denomination. Also in the folder is correspondence with Disciples of Christ pastor Norman Conner about creating the Continuing Christian Churches Mission (later Movement) to support those churches in India which did not merge. Donald always remained especially concerned about the church in India and many files of correspondence from the last years of his life reflect this, such as the material in folder 65-4 about persecution of Christians in India because they were almost all from the lower castes. See also material on the Dalit Christian church in folder 68-6 and 80-5 and on the Evangelical Church of India in folder 78-8. Folder 75-8 contains correspondence, reports and other materials relating to a meeting of representatives from Campus Crusade for Christ, Far East Broadcasting, Transworld Radio, and Haven of Rest to develop common principles and strategies for using mass media such as radio for evangelism. (See also folders 70-7 and 93-6.)
  • Subseries: Financial

    Arrangement: Chronological, alphabetical

    Date Range: 1926-1965

    Volume: 2.75 linear feet

    Boxes: 19-24

    Geographic coverage: United States, India

    Type of documents: Ledgers and account books, records of donations made to the McGavrans' mission work, receipts, checks, bills

    Subjects: Household budget and expenses of the McGavrans, contributions to their mission work, the operation of the Disciple of Christ's Divinity House at Yale Divinity School and the Mission House at their Michigan conference ground

    Notes: These folders contain various documents that relate to the McGavrans' household accounts while they were missionaries and after their return to the United States in 1954.

    Exceptional items: Folder 24-2 contains account books of monies the McGavran's received for their mission work from various individuals and churches, including Donald's brother Edward. (Edward also sent money for their personal use.) The 1943 account book contains an interesting letter from Donald to a church in the United States, detailing how their money had been used. They list some of his expenses and receipts. Receipts for donations received by Donald and Mary, as well as records of the expenses of their mission work are in folders 23-1 and 24-4. For three years the McGavrans (mostly Mary) were in charge of the Disciples of Christ's Mission House at Yale, a home for Disciples missionaries or Christian workers who were attending Yale. (Folder 55-11 contains a minute book from the Mission House which is from before the time of the McGavran's occupancy there but which they apparently acquired when they lived there.) Folder 24-3 contains materials relating to running the house and moving it to a new location. Folder 22-8 contains information about the sale of McGavran's various books.

    Subseries: India

    Arrangement: Alphabetical by folder title

    Date Range: 1929-1960

    Volume: 1.5 linear foot

    Boxes: 25-27

    Geographic coverage: Mostly materials relating to Harda, Jubbulpore, and Takhatpur, India, although there are other materials relating to other parts of India or India as a whole.

    Type of documents: Articles, class notes, minutes, address lists, memos, reports, lists, sheet music

    Subjects: The McGavrans' mission work in India - church planting, evangelistic, educational, medical, community development; work of the Disciples of Christ in India; the development of the Christian churches in India; Indian society and culture; Indian religions; devotional life and prayer

    Notes: These files contain a wide variety of documents gathered by both McGavrans in the course of their missionary activities, although most of the materials seem to Donald's. There are several folders of documents from the Mass Movement Committee, which was a group of missionaries and Indian Christians studying the current (in the 1930s) character of the Indian churches and how they could spread the Gospel. Its studies were a kind of precursor for the church growth surveys McGavran would later do.

    Exceptional items: Folder 25-3 contains a series of devotional and prayer guides for a prayer fellowship with which the McGavrans were involved. Folders 25-9 and 25-10 contains some of Donald McGavran's earliest writings on church growth. Folder 26-7 contains some of the letters the McGavrans sent to their supporters in the United States, describing their activities. Folder 26-8, besides lists of the possessions the McGavrans brought back from India and the expenses involved, includes a magazine from Woodstock High School, the school attended by the McGavran children in India. Folder 26-10 contains a handwritten song book with lyrics in an Indian language and music. This may be a hymn book. Folder 27-1 contains various documents related to Donald's study of the disparity between the lifestyles of Western missionaries and indigenous Christian workers in India and his suggestions for adapting more of an Indian lifestyle. Including is a kind of survey he did of missionaries, asking what kind of actions they would be willing to take. Folder 26-6 contains various documents on the importance of missionaries being proficient in the languages of their regions and ways to increase that proficiency.

    Subseries: Institute of Church Growth / School of World Missions

    Arrangement: Alphabetical by folder title

    Date Range: 1948-1988

    Volume: 4.5 linear feet

    Boxes: 27-31, 61-64

    Geographic coverage: This subseries contains information on church growth in different parts of the world, especially Nigeria, Brazil, Guatemala, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Peru and Bolivia.

    Type of documents: Correspondence, newsletters, clippings, minutes, reports and studies, notes

    Subjects: The founding development of the Institute, early studies that were done by its students, response of other missiologists to McGavran's theories, McGavran's developing ideas on church growth, the establishment of the School of World Mission at Fuller and its development up to about the late 1970s.

    Notes: Boxes 27-31 mainly concerned with the Institute at Northwest Christian College in Eugene, Oregon. Boxes 61-64 contain materials relating to Fuller Seminary's School of World Missions in Pasadena, California. The Northwest folders relate to Donald's activities in starting the Institute at Eugene, raising financial support for it, and developing its curriculum. The Fuller folders deal with roughly the first decade of the School of World Mission and McGavran's leadership of it. Most of the folders in this subseries also deal with Donald's building of support for church growth theories among other Christian leaders and institutions. Many folders contain reports on evangelism activity and church growth as experienced by particular missions or in various regions of the world. Folder 62-16, for example, has material on the Liebenzeller Mission and folder 62-20 has reports and statistics on church growth in Malaysia.

    Exceptional items:

  • Folder 27-10 contains various notes, reports and statements that outlined how McGavran thought the Institute should develop. Other thoughts, both on the Institute and on McGavran's developing ideas on church growth, are in folders 30-5 and 31-1.
  • Folders 27-7 to 27-9 contain materials relating to a "A Four Way Conversation," a series of lectures given by Donald McGavran, Cal Guy (see also folder 70-10), Eugene Nida and Melvin Hodges on critical issues in church growth.
  • Folder 28-2 contains the bulletin of Northwest Christian College, which often includes mention of McGavran or the Institute and its activities.
  • Folders 28-4 and 28-5 contain manuscripts of writings by Melvin Hodges and Jarrell Waskom Pickett on church growth. Other documents on church growth theory gathered by McGavran are in folder 28-1. Critiques of McGavran's books and of church growth theory in general can be found in folder 31-3.
  • Folders 29-1 through 30-4 contain studies done by McGavran's students of church growth in various parts of the world, usually of the church growth within a particular denomination. Donald also helped start a Church Growth research centre in India and there is correspondence with it throughout his files, as for example, the folders of Roger Hedlund correspondence in folders 70-8, 72-5 through 72-7 and 75-7 and also 67-6. There is also correspondence about Donald's continued involvement with the Global Church Growth Bulletin. See for example the correspondence with James Montgomery in folders 76-1 and 76-2.
  • Among the records about Donald's leadership of the School of World Mission at Fuller are McGavran's 1965 correspondence with David Hubbard, the president of Fuller, about the Insititute (folder 65-5), the program and speech from his inauguration as dean in September 1966 (folder 62-5), faculty meeting minutes (folder 61-4), kudos for the school (folder 61-70), Fuller newsletters (folder 61-11, 63-13, 64-1) the seminary steering committee (folder 61-25), foundations (folders 62-17 and 64-6,7) and plans for an MA and PhD in missions (63-1, 63-13). Also of interest are the records of his class grades in folder 91-5, the notes of his talks at the SWM's annual orientation for new students in folder 94-4, and a survey McGavran wished to do of SWM alumni to find out how they were extending themselves through discipling in folder 98-2. Many files contain correspondence about church growth in various parts of the world and current issues on missions. (Folder 81-2 contains material about Donald's close relationship with C. Peter Wagner, who held the Donald McGavran Chair of Church Growth at Fuller.) **
  • Subseries: Lectures, Speeches and Sermons

    Arrangement: Alphabetical by folder title

    Date Range: 1917-1988

    Volume: 11.5 linear feet

    Boxes: 31-39, 83-96

    Geographic coverage: Concern with the growth of Christianity worldwide

    Type of documents: Lecture and sermon transcripts and notes, supporting materials for lectures such as programs, syllabi, student papers, resource materials used in lectures

    Subjects: Church growth, theology of missions, theory and practice of missions, church history, expansion of Christianity in the twentieth century, cross-cultural communications, comparative religion, Christianity and culture

    Notes: This section contains Donald McGavran's lectures, speeches, and sermons in a variety of forums. They are classroom lectures on missiology or church growth as well as seminar talks and lectures that McGavran gave around the world. The folder titles generally are those assigned by McGavran and are either the topic of or the place of the lectures. Besides containing notes for or transcripts of the lectures, folders of class lectures often contain papers done by students for the class and other miscellaneous material related to the class. McGavran often gave seminars on church growth at seminaries and churches around the world to students and to church leaders and the notes from many of these can be found in boxes 88 through 90. The name of a country in a folder title, such as "Church Growth–Canada" does not mean that the lecture is on church growth in Canada, but rather that it was given in Canada. McGavran would apparently keep a particular set of messages together in a notebook and revise them or change them over time. So a set of folders labeled "Church Growth Seminar–Indiana" might contain notes or changes he made when he gave the set talks or some of them later in Japan and then further additions or deletions when he gave them yet again in another location. So the lectures were always in a sense works in progress. Whenever possible, these lecture notebooks have been left in their original binder. However, when the notebook itself was too badly worn, the materials were taken out of the cover and put loose in a folder. Some notebooks, such as those in boxes 83 and 84, are talks that were kept together because they were given during the same year or years.

    Exceptional items: Folder 33-2 contains notes and transcripts of speeches Donald McGavran gave when he was on the debate team in college on topics of the day, including America's entry into World War I. Folder 33-7 contains notes for the sermons McGavran sometimes gave to the church held in the McGavrans' home at Eugene, Oregon, for the student, their families and eventually members of the community. Folders 36-2 through 38-2 contain various clippings and notes that McGavran gathered as background materials for his lectures. Folder 91-5 contains McGavran's records of the grades for his students for almost the entire time he taught at Fuller. Folder 94-3 contains texts of the prayers that McGavran prepared for various of his classes. Also see the online version of the first class in McGavran's Adanced Church Growth class in early 1979 on video tape V3.

    Subseries: Manuscripts

    Arrangement: Alphabetical by folder title

    Date Range: 1925-1989

    Volume: 8.0 linear feet

    Boxes: 40-52, 97-99

    Geographic coverage: Christianity worldwide, especially in Bangladesh, Gold Coast, India, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Liberia, Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Sudan, Taiwan, Thailand, United States, West Africa

    Type of documents: Manuscripts of books and articles, including different drafts of the same work, correspondence with publishers.

    Subjects: Christianity and culture, Christianity in the modern world, church growth, conversion, the Disciples of Christ, Hinduism, Indian Christianity, the social gospel, the theory and practice of missions, study of missions, religious education

    Notes: This section contains manuscripts and typescripts of books and articles by McGavran, sometimes accompanied by other supporting material related to the work. Usually there is also a wrapper that was around the manuscript which sometimes has a few notes by McGavran, written in the late 1970s when some of these materials were microfilmed. A miscellaneous selection of his articles can be found in folder 40-7, especially those relating to evangelistic work in India and to church growth theory. There is also a contemporary appraisal by McGavran of Mohandas K. Gandhi. Several folders of correspondence with publishers or about articles or books McGavran was working on were bundled together with one group of manuscripts, so the archivists left them together. These can be found in box 97.

    Exceptional Items: Folder 97-11 contains not an article but a kind of diary of his impressions of a 1956 trip through Africa that included stops in Kenya, Nigeria, Gold Coast, Sudan, Rwanda and other countries. Information he gathered and notes he made about Lutheran churches in Liberia are in folder 99-5 and on Methodist missions and churches in Gold Coast are in folder 99-6. There are endorsements in folders 70-5 and 97-2 from Billy Graham, Bill Bright, Harold Lindsell and others of a book by McGavran emphasizing the need for greater concentration on evangelism in the seminary training of pastors. Also of interest is McGavran's correspondence (in folder 97-6) with officials of the World Council of Churches about an article he wanted to do for them on the need for evangelism in missions.

    Subseries: Miscellaneous

    Arrangement: Alphabetical by folder title

    Date Range: 1905-1977

    Volume: 2.5 linear feet

    Boxes: 52-56

    Geographic coverage: United States, India

    Type of documents: Address books, biographical data on the McGavrans, church programs, church conference reports, diaries, minutes, newspaper and magazine clippings, military documents and souvenirs from Donald McGavran' service in World War I.

    Subjects: The McGavran's college education and preparation of missions; the life of the Jackson Street Church of Muncie, Indiana; the McGavran's work in India; Donald McGavran's military service in World War I; the McGavran's homes and housekeeping; racial integration

    Notes: Most of the material in this section had been labeled "Miscellaneous" by the Northwest Christian College staff when the collection was originally processed. A few items were added by the BGC Archives staff.

  • Folder 53-2 contains articles written by Donald McGavran's uncle Herbert Anderson, a Baptist missionary, about his work in India in South Lushai at the beginning of the twentieth century. There are several folders in this section with materials gathered by or about Mary McGavran. The newspaper and magazine clippings in folder 53-7 apparently were collected by her, as were the brochures on mission work in folder 55-12.
  • Folder 55-9 contains a number of handwritten manuscripts and of essays and poems. Some of these seem to have been done by Mary, in some cases as class assignments. The rest were ones that were collected by her.
  • Folder 55-7 contains programs and other materials from the Jackson Street Church in Muncie, Indiana, Mary's home church, and one of the church's that supported McGavran all through their missionary career in India. (It later became the Hazelwood Christian Church.) Several of the programs contain a mention of Mary and her activities in the church. Other folders concern the McGavrans jointly, particularly folder 53-4 which contains articles, press releases and materials from books with biographical information about Donald or Mary.
  • Folders 53-5 and 53-8 have materials about Butler College and the College of Missions, which they both attended.
  • Folder 55-1 contains materials about the house they hoped to build (but never did) at Crystal Lake, Michigan, near the summer campus of the College of Missions and folder 55-4 contains materials about the home they built for themselves in Eugene, Oregon, on Fox Hollow Road.
  • Folder 55-8 contains miscellaneous legal papers such as documents relating to property ownership, a certificate that the McGavrans were UCMS missionaries, book contracts, clergy applications for special train fares, etc.
  • Folder 56-3 contains various printed documents about the UCMS, such as minutes of conferences, reports on its activities around the world, etc. Most of the rest of the material in this subseries are concerned solely with Donald McGavran.
  • Folder 56-4 contains various mementos from his service in the Army during World War I in the field artillery, mainly from his training at Camp Shelby in Mississippi. (See the Oversize Materials location record for information on various newspapers collected by both Donald and Mary with information about events during the war and its immediate aftermath.)
  • Folder 53-6 contain his notes and doodles from class lectures he attended, probably at Butler College. Folder 55-10 has what seems to be an incomplete ministerial record book that records baptisms performed, etc.
  • Folder 55-13 contains a notebook, probably Donald's, with a variety of things, such the 23rd Psalm, notes on a 1924 lecture by Samuel Zwemer, outlines for chapters in a book on change.
  • Folders 53-9 through 54-3 contain programs and other materials from conferences he attended, usually on mission work. There is a great deal of material from the 1960 National Council of Churches meeting. At about the same time, the UCMS, in response to positions taken at recent World Council of Churches meetings, set up a Commission on the Theology of Mission to re-evaluate and restate the biblical and theology underpinnings of the denomination's mission work. McGavran served on the commission and folders 54-4 and 54-5 contain the papers produced by the commission members, including McGavran, and other documents relevant to the discussion at the time of the purpose and legitimacy of Christian missions. The diaries in box 54 and the appointment books in box 53 both contain very brief descriptions of his activities and travels, as do the travel schedules in folder 56-2.

    Exceptional items:
  • Folder 55-5 contains a program and fact sheets for D.W. Griffith's film, Intolerance.
  • Folder 55-5 contains materials related to McGavran's efforts in the late 1950s to promote racial integration and brotherhood in churches in the Indianapolis area.
  • Subseries: Surveys

    Arrangement: Alphabetical by title

    Date Range: 1936-1964

    Volume: 2.25 linear feet

    Boxes: 56-60

    Geographic coverage: India, Jamaica, Latin America, Papua New Guiana, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Rwanda, Sudan, Taiwan, Thailand, Washington State

    Type of documents: Reports on church growth in various regions of the world and the data used to make the report, correspondence, maps, charts.

    Subjects: Detailed examination of the obstacles and opportunities for church growth in various parts of the world, particularly among the Disciples of Christ

    Notes: This subseries contains the notes, reports, and supporting materials for the surveys, mostly for the Disciples, of church growth in various parts of the world. See also folders 25-13 to 26-3 and folders 29-1 to 30-4.

    Audio and Video Recordings

    Arrangement: Tapes are basically grouped together by occasion. Thus, all the tapes from the Ethiopian church growth conference are together, as are all those from McGavran's church growth lectures. Then within these groups, the tapes are in chronological order. There are also a few individual items, not part of any group.

    Date Range: 1950-1987

    Volume: Audio tapes T1-T61, Video tapes V1-V29

    Geographic coverage: Ethiopia, India, United States

    Type of documents: McGavran's lectures on church growth, papers given at a conference in Ethiopia on church growth, film made to explain to supporters the McGavran's mission work in India, recording of the celebration of Donald McGavran's ninetieth birthday.

    Subjects: Mission work in India, church growth theory and practice

    Notes: The contents of individual tapes are described in the location records. Tapes T10 through T58 are particularly important, since they contain McGavran's considered exposition of basic and advanced church growth theory after years of thought and discussion on the subject. The online version of the first class in McGavran's Adanced Church Growth class in early 1979 is on video tape V3.


    The bulk of the material in this collection were given to the Billy Graham Center Archives from Dr. Donald McGavran in 1981 and 1989. Other materials were received from C. Peter Wagner and Patricia McGavran Sheafor. In 2000, various items that were not needed by the Archives were returned to the McGavran family, including letters and materials relating to the Howard family, some of Donald McGavran's WWI mementos such as his canteen and service manuals, miscellaneous correspondence, and stamps.

    Several books and periodicals, including Donald's dissertation, were transferred to the Evangelism & Missions Collection of Buswell Library.


    Accessions: 81-38, 84-78, 89-105, 90-49, 91-59, 95-36, 00-32

  • December 22, 1981
  • Robert Shuster
  • Janyce Nasgowitz

    August 7, 2000
  • Robert Shuster
  • K. Ford
  • Ruth Williams

    Accession: 00-62
  • September 12, 2001
  • Robert Shuster
  • Ruth Estell
  • Wendy Valentine
  • Title
    Collection 178 Papers of Donald and Mary McGavran
    Description rules
    Describing Archives: A Content Standard
    Language of description
    Script of description
    Code for undetermined script
    Language of description note

    Repository Details

    Part of the Evangelism & Missions Archives Repository

    501 College Avenue
    Wheaton IL 60187 US