History of NCF

A spontaneous work of the Holy Spirit among nurses began in the mid 1930's and early 1940's. In Chicago, three nurses met to pray at Children's Hospital. By May 1935 the group had grown and spread to other hospitals. A steering committee of 19 nurses met at Lawson YMCA to consider establishing an organization to meet the spiritual needs of nurses. They began as the Christian Nurses Fellowship, with Alvera Anderson, a public health nurse, as first chairperson. They continued to meet monthly at First District Illinois Nurses Association Headquarters in Chicago. Similar developments occurred in other areas. Students affiliating in Chicago discovered these groups, and often started one in their own hospital upon returning. City-wide fellowships also developed in Minneapolis, Flint, Philadelphia and San Francisco in the early 1940's. Most called themselves Christian Nurses Fellowship (CNF).

The first Christian Nurses Fellowship conference was held in 1946 at Round Lake Conference Grounds in Illinois. By the following year Christian Nurses Fellowships were meeting in eight metropolitan areas. Students who met CNF in Chicago and others cities often wrote later for personal help or to ask how to start a group. This need for a person to devote full-time to handle correspondence and encourage those starting groups and citywide fellowships became evident.

A National Movement

A national movement formed in 1948. Alvera Anderson, who was already in correspondence with nurses elsewhere, became General Secretary for CNF. In November of the same year Tressie Myers, a head nurse and instructor at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago, became the first traveling staff member. Alvera Anderson spearheaded the movement in its formative years, and then returned to public health and school nursing in 1951. Tressie Myers then became General Secretary (later to be retitled Director) of CNF, a post she retained until her retirement in 1968.

The purposes and doctrinal positions of CNF closely resembled those of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Consequently, CNF united with IVCF at the time of its official formation.

By early 1951 the National Committee of CNF questioned if the name Christian Nurses Fellowship implied that the organization was only for Christian nurses. They wanted all nurses to feel welcome at the CNF meetings. After thoughtful discussion and prayer, they changed the name to Nurses Christian Fellowship in 1952.

Read the personal reflections of Tressie Myers on God's faithfulness in celebration of the 25th anniversary of NCF ministry in September 1973.

Subsequent Directors:

  • Grace Wallace: 1968-1984
  • Mary Thompson: 1984-2007
  • Harriet Coeling: interim director 2007
  • Pat Emery: 2007-2009
  • Jane Hall: 2009-2016
  • Kathy Schoonover-Shoffner: 2016 – present


In July of 1951 the first official publication of CNF began as a mimeographed four-page quarterly entitled the CNF Bulletin. It was edited by Cornelia Knight, Thelma Marshall and Frieda Zuckerman. In October it became The Lamp. By 1953 the publication became bi-monthly. In 1958 the name was changed to The Nurses Lamp. Editors included Grace Wallace, Marian Hall and Judy Shelly. In September 1984 the bi-monthly publication ceased with the advent of the quarterly magazine, the Journal of Christian Nursing. The journal was first edited by Ramona Cass, then beginning in September 1990 by Judy Shelly. Kathy Schoonover-Shoffner became editor beginning with the Summer 2004 issue. NCF joined with publishing partner Lippincott Williams & Wilkins | Wolters Kluwer Health in 2005 to publish the journal. As of 2023, JCN reaches over 10,000 globally each month through its online journal platform, as well continuing quarterly print publication. JCN entered its 41st year of continuous publication in 2024.

NCF Press began in 2002 with the publication of Nursing in the Church (Shelly, ed), followed by a series of Bible study guides based on Called to Care. Subsequent publications include Caring Across Cultures (Grace Tazelaar, 2004), The Garden of My Heart (Skip McDonald, 2005) and The Nurse with an Alabaster Jar (Mary Elizabeth O'Brien, 2006).

Resource Development

In 1967 a vision held by Tressie Myers and other NCF nurses became a reality when an ad hoc sub-committee of the National Advisory Committee met to explore the need and design research to develop materials pertinent to nursing. In August 1968, two committees funded by the Lilly Foundation analyzed the data to develop papers on a Christian philosophy of nursing and defining spiritual needs of patients. Refinement and further research enhanced NCF workshop content. A ten-year plan developed in 1971 included curriculum development and a strong witness to the nursing profession. Ruth Stoll, a faculty member at the University of Kentucky and former NCF staff worker, was appointed as NCF's first Curriculum Specialist.

The ten-year plan became a reality as NCF began to produce numerous written, audiovisual and workshop resources. Manuals were developed for workshops such as Persons in Crisis, Love That Heals, What Is Man?, Anxieties in Nursing, The Nurse as a Whole Person, Spiritual Care, Hope in Suffering, and Grieve, But Not as Those Who Have No Hope, and reproduced across the U.S. and in other countries.

Over the years, NCF staff members have written numerous Bible study guides related specifically to nursing. InterVarsity Press subsequently published many of those guides, such as Standing Orders, Rough Edges (both by various staff), Lifestyle of Love, by Mary Thompson, Caring in Crisis, by Judy Shelly and the Caring People series by Phyllis LePeau.

Sharon Fish and Judy Shelly began writing textbooks in 1976. Spiritual Care: the Nurses Role, released in 1978, is now in its third edition and is also published in German, Norwegian, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Other books followed - Dilemma: A Nurse's Guide for Making Ethical Decisions (Shelly, 1980), The Spiritual Needs of Children (Shelly and others, 1982), Spiritual Dimensions of Mental Health (Shelly and Sandra John, 1983), Not Just a Job: Serving Christ in Your Work (Shelly, 1985) and Values in Conflict: Christian Nursing in a Changing Profession (Shelly and Arlene Miller, 1991), Called to Care: A Christian Theology of Nursing (Shelly and Miller, 1999, Second Edition 2006) and Spiritual Care: A Guide for Caregivers (Shelly, 2000).

Faculty resources began with Teaching Spiritual Care, edited by Shelly (1985), a manual containing various pre-tested strategies and lesson plans for teaching spiritual care in a school of nursing. A task force of nurse educators wrote Concepts in Nursing - A Christian Perspective, edited by Ruth Stoll (1990). A growing interest among Christian nursing faculty in developing a Christian paradigm for nursing is spurring faculty conferences and regional work groups to develop additional written materials.

Conferences and Events

The tradition of NCF summer conferences begun in 1946. For many years the conferences met at rustic Camp Li-Lo-Li, near Salamanca, New York. In 1975 separate conference in the east and west began. Westerners met at Lassen Pines Conference Center in California and Easterners at Camp Burton in Ohio. A move to InterVarsity's Cedar Campus (Michigan) in 1989 provided a central location and more comfortable facilities. Although old-timers tell nostalgic stories about mice giving birth in their suitcases, encountering snakes in the shower stalls, and braving flood waters at Li-Lo-Li as well as raging floods at Camp Burton, Cedar Campus brought a welcome change of venue.

The summer of 1991 brought another change. The first North American Conference for Christian Nurses, sponsored by NCF and nine other Christian nursing organizations (Including the Association of Seventh-day Adventist Nurses, Baptist Nursing Fellowship, Bethel College Nursing Department, Christian Nurse Educators, Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul - N.E. Province, Franciscan University of Steubenville - Ohio, Hospital Christian Fellowship, Nurses for Christ, and Oral Roberts University School of Nursing.) was held at Northwestern College, St. Paul, Minnesota. Over 500 nurses and students from 43 states and eight countries rallied around the theme, "Jesus Christ, the Hope of Nursing." The enthusiastic response led the sponsoring organizations (called the Network of Christian Nurses) to begin planning for another combined conference in 1994. Subsequent conferences were held in Birmingham, Alabama (1994) San Diego, California (1998), and Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada (2002).

Today, NCF holds virtual retreats and online conferences year round for nursing students and nurses. Regional in-person events for students also are developing in 2022-2023. NCF's quarterly online Journal Club was started in January 2018 and has grown to include almost 100 nurses every quarter.

Continuing Nursing Education

In 1993, the Wisconsin Nurses Association Continuing Education Approval Program first granted NCF Continuing Nursing Education (CNE) Providership, allowing us to award contact hours for NCF continuing education events. Ruth Snapp, NCF CNE Director, organized procedures for planning a CNE event into a Manual that was updated regularly. The Journal of Christian Nursing began including CNE contact hours in 1994 and now offers two CNE modules in every issue that are American Nurses Credentialling Center certified through a publishing partnership with Wolters Kluwer Health Lippincott Professional Development. 

Organizational Growth

In March, 1990, the NCF National Council was formed to collaborate with staff to develop and implement NCF ministry for the '90's. Plans emerged to develop a grassroots leadership network of Regional Councils who "own" and build the ministry in their part of the country. These Councils were linked to the National Council and to one another for resources and support. They are also linked to NCF ministry in different parts of the world through NCF International. The Councils were disbanded in the mid 2000s to provide

The NCF Website (www.ncf-jcn.org) debuted in 1998, with Linda Kunz as the Webmaster. This has opened the way for a tremendous increase in communication among Christian nurses, as well as seekers. Up-to-date information about conferences, resources and groups is now available at the click of a mouse. The addition of the online store makes it possible to order materials and register for conferences over the web.

Professional Focus

A unique dimension in NCF ministry among students and nurses has been the integration of our faith and nursing. Through Bible studies in schools of nursing and health agencies, mentoring, conferences, and printed resources, we equip students and nurses to represent Jesus Christ in our profession.

From the very beginning of NCF, the organization has provided Christian perspectives within the national and international nursing organizations. Even before CNF was officially organized, Chicago nurses were involved with national conventions. In June 1948, CNF had a booth at the National Biennial Nurses Convention in Chicago. Since then the displays and the staff have changed, but NCF has had exhibits at ANA, NSNA, NLN and the Westberg Symposium conventions. Worship services, focus sessions and program speakers have also been part of our professional witness. For several years the Lutheran Nurses Guild (now disbanded) sponsored these events with us.

In 2002 the NCF National Council voted to become a professional organization, as well as a ministry. A membership fee of $65, which included a subscription to the Journal of Christian Nursing was established. Over twenty years, the membership rate has only increased to $79 for nurses and remains the same low price for nursing students. By 2005 over 1000 people joined as members. In 2023 NCF had 1500 members.

Global Concern

Concern and involvement in world mission have been among NCF's purposes from the beginning. In 1953, an American nurse, Rebecca Glanzer, went to India to establish a work among nurses. The emerging movement became the Evangelical Nurses Fellowship of India, with Lily Bonner, an Indian nurse, as director. In 1976, Chieko Fukushima, a Japanese nurse, attended an NCF informational meeting in Philadelphia and felt God calling her to establish NCF in Japan. She spent several years continuing her education in nursing and in an NCF discipleship program in Chicago, then returned to Japan as the first NCF staff worker.

NCF-USA has learned and grown from the fellowship of Christian nurses around the world. In 1970, NCF-USA joined Nurses Christian Fellowship International (NCFI), and in 1988 hosted (for the first time) the quadrennial NCFI conference in Philadelphia. Subsequent quadrennial conferences have been held in Fiji, Hong Kong and Edinburgh, Scotland. A former NCF-USA staff member, Ruth Lichtenberger, served as NCFI General Director 1975 through 1996. Harry Louden, from Scotland, served as General Director from 1996 until 2004, when the position was dissolved because of inadequate funding for an international office and full time staff, and the International Board assumed the leadership of the movement.