Navigator Church Ministries Pastor's Lunch March 2023

Tom McElroy, who works with Disciplemakers for Life, Navigator Church Ministries (NCM) in the Chicagoland area, filled us in on an NCM lunch event held this past March. Tom is the NCM Upper Midwest Regional leader and serves Chicagoland from his home in northwest Indiana. Please see his responses to our questions below as he tells us more about this event, as well as NMC!

Could you briefly describe the event?

On March 20th, six pastors from five Chicagoland churches gathered for lunch to meet Nav City and NCM leaders and to fellowship around the topic of disciplemaking.

They walked away from the lunch with a clear understanding of how NCM partners with churches to Grow Intentional Disciplemaking Cultures. They even began to evaluate their churches in terms of disciplemaking using a phenomenal Navigator Church Ministries assessment tool.

Why do you think an event like this is important for the city of Chicago?

I am so grateful for you who invited pastors to this event. Thank you!  Chicago needs hundreds of centers of multiplying disciplemaking.  Churches can be some of those centers! Events like these:

1). Create fellowship among pastors around the topic of disciplemaking and their common desire to see kingdom advancement in Chicago;

2). Expose concepts of Life-to-life discipleship to pastors;

3). Help pastors begin to evaluate the potency or weakness in their church’s disciplemaking culture and;

4). Set the table for an ongoing cohort of pastors seeking to grow disciplemaking cultures in their churches, and;

5). Lay the groundwork for an eventual Chicago area network of churches dedicated to multiplying disciplemakers in their churches and to spreading this passion and conviction to other churches!

How can people outside of Chicago join the Chicago Navigators in prayer?  What are some things that they could be praying for?

People can pray for more NCM laborers in this vast city, as well as for the formation of a cohort of pastors who gather regularly to learn about, discuss, and encourage each other in intentional, relational, generational disciplemaking.

Lastly, you can pray for follow-up meetings and partnerships which are resulting from the lunch. “. . . The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree. . .”  Matthew 13:31-32.

Chicago Navigators "Great Commissioning" Service | February 2023

This past February, Navigators staff and friends gathered at Vineyard Christian Church to celebrate and commission James and Sunita Puleo as the new Chicago Navigators city co-directors. This was our opportunity to empower and to celebrate, not only James and Sunita, but to recommission and to unite ourselves as Chicago Navigators, and to our shared Navigator Core, Vision, Values, and Calling.

This commissioning service was, indeed, a time of great celebration as staff fellowshipped and connected over dinner. There was also a time for worship and prayer as staff and friends oriented themselves towards the Lord.

A chance to gather together is precious in the context of our large city and sprawling suburbs. More precious even is the chance to gather for the purpose of commissioning, which realigns us to God’s agenda for the advancement of the Gospel in our ministries, our city, and world.

As part of this realignment, the Chicago Navigators are embracing a season of seeking God’s will through prayer. Meeting and praying together help us to establish unity, direct our gaze towards Jesus, and experience ongoing commissioning from God; the one who directs us.

Chicago Navigators Summer Gathering | 2022

On Saturday, August 20th, Chicago Navigators staff and friends gathered in the house of James and Sunita Puleo, who are taking on the role of the new Chicago Navigators city Co-directors. This Gathering was a chance to welcome the Puleo family, enjoy fellowship with one another, and hear updates from staff across the city!

The gathering started as people began to arrive and connect with each other over lunch. It was a blessing to have staff and friends from many different ministries in attendance, including Nations Within, Collegiate, International Student Ministry, Military, and Disciplemakers for Life. It was also fun to have a strong showing of students from the Collegiate and International Student ministry who were back in the city to start classes on the following Monday.

After a time of fellowship and food, the new Chicago Navigators Co-directors, James and Sunita Puleo, were officially welcomed along with their four children. There were also introductions and updates given by all in attendance, which was a great chance to meet others across different city contexts.

Gatherings like these are important for the Chicago Navigators because there are so many things happening in the city of Chicago! When being a part of any ministry, it can be easy to have one’s vision narrowed to the scope of that ministry. Gathering all-together, however, is a great opportunity to meet people from other ministries, hear stories, and connect as a unified gospel movement in the Chicagoland area. We believe that taking the time to connect as a city actually makes individual ministries stronger!

If you, or someone who you know is interested in meeting with Navigators staff and friends from various ministries across the city, consider looking into one of our regional discipling communities! These communities meet throughout the year to practice encouragement, accountability, and training as it pertains to mission and discipleship in Chicago.

The Chicago Navigators: Missional Enterprise Event Summary

Director of Navigators Missional Enterprise, Ken Christie, spent three days with us here in Chicago, June 1st-3rd.

Inspired by other Navigator city ministries and their examples of successful Missional Enterprise, we here in Chicago invited Ken to share with us in-person. Ken also visited with our Chicago Navigators in their unique contexts, listening and encouraging us towards fruitful disciple-making within a business context.

Ken visited Chicago Navigators, Dr Mica Battle and Michael Abbott, as they begin their own missional enterprise. In July/August, Dr Mica and Michael are opening a for-profit coffee shop and café in Woodlawn between the University of Chicago and the upcoming Obama Center and Presidential Library, currently under construction. Furthermore, Ken connected with other staff and Navigator friends, who are either actively doing business-as-missions or who hope to begin a missional business here in Chicago.

The highlight of our time with Ken were two evenings of sharing and discussing the essentials of Missional Enterprise, especially as it relates to our city culture. Ken shared Missional Enterprise principles and paradigms: The Triple Bottom Line and A Paradigm for Starting a Missional Business (see images below).

Discipleship in Unprecedented Times

Saturday, March 13th, 2021 // 9:00am – 11:30am CST


Registration is live for our annual Minneapolis-St. Paul Navigators Discipleship (virtual) Conference and you’re invited! Join us online on Saturday, March 13th from 9-11:30 AM for a gathering of believers discussing what it means to be and make disciples of Jesus in these times. Listen and learn from our speaker Pastor Robert Daniels, and choose from over a dozen breakout sessions on topics ranging from mental health to discipling kids to loving your neighbors well during lockdown.

For more information on each breakout session click on the registration button above to see full bios and descriptions. Want to see videos from our breakout leaders and speakers? Check out our Facebook page (@MSPnavigators) and Instagram (msp_navigators)!

Be one of the first 50 registrants and you will be entered into a drawing for a $75 gift card for the Minnesota Twins MLB store!
Questions? Contact our conference director, Chad Selje ()


Our 2021 Life-to-Life Discipleship Conference speaker, Pastor Robert Daniels, is originally from Dallas, TX. After coming to faith in college, Robert served as a missionary with The Navigators in Bowie, Maryland. He then felt called to plant a church leading him to get training at Dallas Theological Seminary. He is now Lead Pastor of Christ Freedom Church in Lewisville, TX.

Laborers Celebration Gathering : This is Chicago

They sit around circular tables in groups, bent around white artist canvases they cover with magazine clippings and paint, the kind of colorful mixtures and shapes spotted at modern art museums.


One table’s canvas displays Chicago’s iconic “L” train and a palette of the city’s ethnicities and iconic food—hot dogs, deep-dish pizza. Another table’s canvas depicts faces ranging in age from Baby Boomers to Millennials pasted above a swath of orange-red, the color of the Great Chicago Fire.


Another canvas bears a cross, to symbolize Christ’s power over dark things like loneliness, even in this crowded city. Yet another held a mosaic of multicolored hands to represent Chicago’s diversity.


The people pouring their creativity onto the canvases are Chicago Navigators. Some are here for the first time, invited to join with this community of Kingdom laborers. They gather here once a quarter, in a space behind Overflow Coffee Bar and the Chicago Navigators’ offices at 1550 State Street, just north of 16th Street in the city’s South Loop.


Called the Laborer’s Celebration Gatherings, the meet-ups bring together Navigators from every piece of the city’s ministries, from Navigators Collegiate to Workplace, Navigators 20s to Nations Within, I:58 and Bridge to Freedom, Discipleship House to Navigators Military.


Jay Neuharth, city director of Chicago Navigators, says the gatherings have become an intrinsic part of building camaraderie between the city’s teams.


“We are disciples who are making disciples that are different from one another because of our ethnicity, our economic background, our personalities,” Jay says. “So it’s diverse but also unified. In order to have that unity, we have to be with one another, and it’s sometimes hard because we live in different parts of the Chicago metro area, and we work in different contexts.


“At least four times a year, we get together as a catalyst for that community. We have fun and are spontaneous and relational.”



Each year, the Laborer’s Celebration Gatherings, or LCGs, carry a specific theme. Last year, the planning team, which ranges from four to seven people throughout the year, focused on the theme “Keeping It Real.” According to Sara Woody, who leads LCG’s planning group, that theme centered on sharing with each other in vulnerable ways. Each meeting sought to ensure people from different Navigator ministries saw each other, recognized the work that went on in other parts of the city, and prayed for each other.


“We talked about, ‘What it would look like if people in the city would see what I’m doing and know what I’m doing?’” says Sara, who also is part of the Navigators Collegiate ministry on the city's North Side with a focus on DePaul University students with her husband, Justin. “It can, especially in ministry, feel like, ‘Would anyone even care if I just stop doing what I’m doing?’ I work with Collegiate, so it’s really cool to see what I:58 is doing, and what Nations Within is doing.”


This year, the team has turned its lens on the city itself, with each of the LCGs bolstering the theme, “This Is Chicago.”


“There’s Chicago, and there’s The Navigators,” Sara says, “but what’s the importance of the Chicago Navigators?” She says the creative element of that evening’s three-hour gathering came about while the team brainstormed and asked themselves, “How do we empower people to make art who are not artists?”


The resulting canvases delighted her.



“It was really fun to watch everyone,” she says. “They thought really deeply about it. That’s what I love about tonight. I can come up with my own opinions, but I’d much rather observe other people’s.”


During this September evening, the groups create, present, and explain their artwork, and then dive into a buffet of Indonesian food catered by a relative of one of the LCG’s team members, Desmonda Tambunan.


Desmonda, known as Monda, a hospitality student at DePaul University, looked giddy in anticipation as the group of about 30 Navigators and their friends prepared to pray and try homemade chicken satay and gado-gado, a type of Indonesian salad.


Of the gathering, she says she “just wants people to share and be encouraged. These [Navigators] are helping others get to know God more. Meeting people who have those same goals is very encouraging.”



Schivon Braswell, a nursing student who lives in the city’s Edgewater neighborhood, says two Navigator friends who attend her church invited her to the gathering.


She felt so comfortable she presented her table’s canvas—one of six that likely will hang in the offices of the Chicago Navigators.


“I love how real people are,” Schivon says, adding she’s encouraged by the openness and genuine desire to follow Jesus shared by the people in the room.  


Sara, envisioning the evolution of the Laborer’s Celebration Gatherings, says she hopes Navigators and their friends from across the city will continue to strengthen their community through the quarterly discussions and dinners.



“The groups can feel like water and oil,” she says. “You might put them all in the same room, but they still kind of separate, so it’s my hope that ongoing, there’s more listening together and more solidarity and not just, ‘This is what Collegiate does. This is what I-58 does.’ But rather, ‘This is The Navigators.’”



Erin Chan Ding is a freelance journalist with the Chicago Navigators

Photography by Kristen L Norman