The Nazarene Caravan program began in the heart and mind of a Nazarene layman in California. In the 1930s, LeRoy Haynes became concerned as Nazarene boys and girls joined club programs that taught life-styles that were not compatible with Nazarene beliefs. He felt the Church of the Nazarene should offer a club program for children that reflected Nazarene belief and the doctrine of holiness.
LeRoy Haynes began by planning and organizing the first Nazarene club program for use in his local church. Word of this successful new approach spread from church to church. In 1934, the Southern California district actively launched “Boy’s Work” under the direction of LeRoy Haynes. The following year, 1935, the district program expanded to include “Girl’s Work” with Mrs. Jeanne Haynes as the director.
As news of this program spread, people from across the United States and the British Isles began contacting LeRoy and Jeanne Haynes for help in setting up local Nazarene club programs. The 1936 General Assembly included a display about the new club. The heart of the Church of the Nazarene was stirred, and interest increased.
God was also at work in the heart and mind of Rev. W. W. Clay, who was developing two programs, “Bluebirds” for young children and “Pioneers” for older children. Rev. Clay invited Rev. Milton Bunker to work with him to develop and promote these club programs.
Interest in Nazarene children’s club programs grew, but a problem occurred as the number of club programs increased. The local churches and districts were handicapped by the lack of a unified program and inadequate materials. The 1940 General Assembly called for a “Commission on Boys’ and Girls’ Work” to find a solution.
The Commission meetings were filled with discussions, evaluations, and differences of opinion. In the end, the Commission stated, “Scouting [referring to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts] offers us [the Church of the Nazarene] the most helpful solution.” The Commission produced the booklet, “The Scouting Program in a Protestant Church.” For the first time since the dream began, it looked like the dream of a Nazarene club program would end.
Soon it became evident that Boy Scout and Girl Scout programs were not the answer. Again, the general church began to consider the development of a Nazarene club program. On November 17-18 in Santa Cruz, California, representatives from six western districts, three members of the commission on Boys’ and Girls’ Work, and two members of the Department of Church Schools attended an historic meeting. The decision was made for the Church of the Nazarene to develop its own children’s club program. A committee was appointed to prepare the manuscripts for the Nazarene Caravan program. The newly–created club program was presented to and approved by the Board of General Superintendents.
The first Caravan book, Trailmarker for boys ages 12 and up, was released in 1946. Then came, Pathmarker for girls ages 12 and up, Signals for boys ages 9 to 11, and Signs for girls ages 9 to 11.
In the fall of 1946, Millington Church of the Nazarene in Michigan became the first official Nazarene Caravan club program in the United States. As the new club program grew, it became necessary to appoint a national Caravan director. Rev. Milton Bunker accepted this important assignment.
At a district Caravan Round-up in October 1949, Carol Wordsworth of Youngstown, Ohio, became the first person to receive Caravan’s highest award.
List of General Caravan Directors
Milton Bunker, 1948-1953
Records missing, 1953-1957
Betty Barnett Griffith, 1957-1967
William (Bill) J. Young, Jr., 1967-1977
Ford Hubbert, Jr., 1977-1979
Fred Sykes, Jr., 1979-1981
Mary Kathryn Hughes, 1981-2001
Suzanne M. Cook, 2001-2006
Jeff Harmon, 2006-2007
Dan Harris, 2007-