Billy Graham Center

Interviews with Arthur Rorheim - Collection 410

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Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of Arthur Rorheim

An Essay on the Contents of the Collection (Scope and Content)

List of Audio Tapes in This Collection

Brief Description.
Two oral history interviews with Rorheim, executive director of Awana Clubs, International. Topics covered include his childhood, his parents' Christian example, his conversion, the youth work of the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle, Paul Rader, Lance Latham, the origins of Awana, and principles for establishing programs for boys and girls. The events described in the interview cover the years from approximately 1928 to 1989.
Vol.: 4 Reels of Audio Tape

Collection 410
[March 7, 2000]
Rorheim, Arthur, 1918-
Interviews; 1989
Audio tapes


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.


Arthur Rorheim was born in Chicago in 1918 to Norwegian immigrant parents, Rasmus Ole Rorheim and Alida Rorheim. Art's brother, Roy, had been born four years earlier in 1914. The family moved back to Norway briefly after Arthur's birth, but returned to Chicago 1920 or 1921. The Rorheim family then lived in a house in Chicago where they often housed Norwegian emigrants for a time.

Rorheim was convinced of his need to know Christ by his parents, friends, and especially the words of his brother, Roy, before his death due to spinal meningitis in 1928. Rorheim accepted Christ at the age of ten, immediately after Roy's death, and became involved with the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle's youth ministry. It was there that Art first became associated with Lance Latham, who directed the White Shirt Brigade, a boys choir of which Art was a member.

After graduating from high school, Rorheim worked for eight years as a printer, but continued to be very heavily involved in the Tabernacle and youth work in his spare time. When he was twenty-six, Lance Latham asked him to be director of the North Side Gospel Center's summer camp. He agreed and quit his job. In the fall, he was hired as the Center's youth director. By this time he was married and had two children.

Over the years, Rorheim and others at the Center developed a program of Bible training and clubs for children at every age level. Other churches began asking for copies of the manuals and uniforms developed for the Center's program. By 1950, Rorheim, Latham and others involved in the program decided it needed to get its own facility and it should be incorporated as a separate organization - the Awana Youth Association (later changed to Awana Clubs International). Rorheim became its executive director.

Under Rorheim's direction, Awana provided upbeat programs for boys and girls which included such things as Olympics and the Fairmont Fair. The competition section of the program was always followed by a gospel presentation that focused on the importance of the atoning blood of Christ. During the 1950s, hundreds of young people became involved with Awana across the country.

Nine hundred Awana Clubs nationwide had been chartered by the year 1960. The headquarters were moved to a four thousand square foot facility on Belmont Ave. in Chicago. The continual growth of Awana necessitated a move to suburban Rolling Meadows in 1971. The change in name from Awana Youth Association to Awana Clubs International reflected the organization's shift from a national to a global emphasis.

Scope and Content

Arthur Rorheim was interviewed by Robert Shuster on March 31 and April 24, 1989. The events described in the interviews cover the time period from 1918 - 1989. The boldfaced entries are intended to highlight the topics covered in the interview. Time elapsed in minutes and seconds is recorded to the left of the topics discussed in the interview. The index is keyed to a cassette copy and not to the reel-to-reel original.

T1 - side 1
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:15 Introduction to interview on March 31, 1989
00:45 Parents' immigration to the United States from Norway, marriage and start of a family, origins of the North Side Gospel Center, early memories of Norway
09:45 Reasons for the spiritual decline in Norway in recent years, plan for Awana clubs in Norway, reaching parents through their children, faith of Rorheim's grandfather, Rorheim's earliest memories, attending Norwegian church, description of various Norwegian foods
17:00 Father's personality and character, embarrassment as a child with having parents who were immigrants, mother's love for kids, parents' Christian example
23:45 Chicago in the 1920s, involvement with neighborhood gangs, "skitching" automobiles and other pranks, death of a friend during a prank
31:15 Daily family devotions, impact of the Christian example of his parents and friends, confirmation class, admiration for his brother Roy, Roy's conversion at the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle while listening to Paul Rader, Rorheim's conversion after the death of his brother Roy from spinal meningitis
40:45 Becoming part of the youth group at the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle, "The Tabernacle was the most unusual church the world has ever known," description of a typical service, Paul Rader as a speaker, the influence of Rader and the Tabernacle on Lance Latham, the Slavic Gospel Association, Torrey Johnson, Clarence Jones of HCJB in South America, Paul Fleming and others
46:30 End of side 1

T1 - side 2
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:05 Repeat of end of side 1 of tape
01:15 Meeting Paul Rader in about 1933, description of Rader's physical appearance and spiritual demeanor, Rader as spiritual father of Charles Fuller who was a spiritual father of Jerry Falwell, Rader's radio ministry, Rader's speaking style and other qualities, "cat and yarn" illustration
10:15 Tabernacle radio broadcasts, first meeting with Lance Latham, Latham's speaking style, his love for kids, experience of going to the Tabernacle's youth camp at Lake Harbor, Michigan, hearing Rader speak there
16:15 Activities at camp, a typical day at camp, length of camp, stunt nights
21:30 End of tape

T2 side 1
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:08 Repeat of end of side 2 of tape 1
00:30 Feelings of being buried alive, the Tabernacle's White Shirt Brigade under Latham's leadership, Latham's musical skills, Latham's leadership and guidance, memorizing scripture, influence of Latham's father and his opposition to liberalism in the Presbyterian church
09:30 Story of Latham's conversion at age 21 through evangelist William P. Nicholson, the Great Depression's impact on the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle, Rader's departure from Tabernacle and replacement by Clarence Erickson, witnessing to kids in Norway
18:00 Influence of the Tabernacle's club program on the later development of Awana, Rorheim's work experience as a photographic printer for eight years, more about the White Shirt Brigade, Latham's methods for developing leadership in the boys, Rorheim overcame shyness through White Shirt Brigade experiences
25:45 End of tape

T3 - side 1
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:15 Introduction of interview on April 24, 1989
00:45 Beginnings of the North Side Gospel Center in 1933, Latham rejection of the opportunities to begin a youth work, description of the building, characteristics of the Center
06:45 People involved in starting the Center, teachers and preachers who came to the Center, importance of the White Shirt Brigade, early meetings of the Center at the Bethel Free Church
12:00 Description of some of the kids who came to the Center, Jimmy Barker, Bob Swanson's part in starting the Center, other leaders, how Rorheim came to join the staff of the Center as director of the summer youth camp about 1944, approval by the board of Rorheim as the Center's youth director
22:45 Latham's vision for youth work at the Center, popularity of the Center with kids during after school hours, the Fairmont Fair as a tool for reaching kids
29:15 Games Rorheim helped develop and the origins of the Awana Circle and the Awana Square, place of contests in youth club work, the sharing and gospel presentation part of program, development of a uniform for the club, Latham's example as a model for Scripture memorization, importance of the Schofield Bible Course
38:00 Description of Latham's personality and abilities, the importance of the book of Romans in his Bible teaching, the importance of the Crucifixion for salvation, Latham's commitment to follow Christ anywhere, Latham's contact with Percy Crawford, the emphasis on sin in his gospel presentations
47:30 End of side 1

T3 - side 2
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:05 Overlap from side 1
00:45 Continuation of the exposition on how to present the gospel, Harry Saulnier's work at the Center in organizing a group to go to the Skid row area to evangelize, description of Saulnier's faith and speaking style
06:00 Memories of Paul Fleming, Rorheim's friendship with Truman Robertson [?],founder of Honey Rock Camp which was later acquired by Wheaton College.
11:00 Stages in the development of the youth program until it was formally organized as Awana in 1950, developing an attractive image, changes in the youth camp program, God's blessing on the program despite lack of money, gradual development of handbooks for different ages, the purpose of the manuals was to get kids studying and memorizing the Bible
19:30 End of tape 3

T4 - side 1
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:30 Introduction of interview
01:00 Events which led to the formal organization of Awana, making the training film Hitting the Mark with Bob Ford, need for more space than was available at the Center
07:15 The first board of directors, rasing money to buy a headquarters, obtaining an Illinois non-profit charter, work of Rich Wager in developing Awana's manuals, origin of the Awana Olympics, same games for girls and boys
16:30 The principles of Awana, the motivation system for Scripture memorization,development of committed leadership, necessity of hands-on practical training in order for leaders to be successful, encouraging teenagers to lead as soon as they were ready, the place of competition in Awana, teaching how to "lose well"
29:15 Adaptation of Awana to cultures outside the United States, first program developed in Venezuela in cooperation with New Tribes Mission in 1949, differences in the system in other countries, lack of missionaries with an interest in working with kids, Awana's desire to be an arm of local church and mission board
36:30 End of tape


The materials in this collection were given to the Billy Graham Center Archives by Arthur Rorheim in March and April, 1989.

Accession 89-20, 89-41
January 28, 1995
Robert Shuster
K. Cox

Acc. #89-36,89-48,89-58,90-48,90-79
Type of Material: Audio Tapes

The items listed below are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE:

T1 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 speed, approximately 66 minutes. One side only. Interview with Arthur Rorheim by Robert Shuster, March 31, 1989. Discussion of family, formative years, Paul Rader, and Lance Latham.

T2 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 speed, approximately 24 minutes. One side only. Interview with Arthur Rorheim by Robert Shuster, March 31, 1989. Discussion of Lance Latham's guidance, "White Shirt Brigade" experience, Rader and the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle, and Rorheim's development as a leader.

T3 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 speed, approximately 64 minutes. One side only. Interview with Arthur Rorheim by Robert Shuster, April 24, 1989. Discussion of North Side Gospel Center's beginnings, Rorheim's work there, and early days of Awana.

T4 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 speed, approximately 35 minutes. One side only. Interview with Arthur Rorheim by Robert Shuster, April 24, 1989. Discussion of Awana's formation, expansion of ministry, and details of the work of Awana Youth Association.

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