Each spring most of us look forward to warmer weather, longer and sunnier days, and the blossoming of beautiful new flowers. Spring also brings with it a variety of annual rituals, such as spring cleaning around the house, getting our yards and lawns spruced up, or tackling a new outdoor project now that it’s a little more pleasant to work outside. Designing a fitness ministry is more than creating a design for an attractive facility, it is engineering an experience that consistently illuminates the spirit.
In keeping with the springtime theme, of the April/May 2015 issue of Faith & Fitness Magazine, I wanted to share a few ideas to help brighten and enliven your church fitness ministry. Fitness and recreation ministry continues to become a larger part of churches everywhere, and part of our mission is to help your church fitness ministry exude the type of excellence and professionalism that will attract new members to both your fitness ministry and your church.
We’ve always said one of the first things to do is the form a fitness ministry counsel, or fitness advisory panel to help plan and formulate the strategic goals and mission of your fitness ministry. It’s important to utilize people who have an expertise in the fitness arena in order to make sure you’re getting the best help possible. For example, if your church is selecting a builder for a new wing or an expansion that will include a fitness center, be sure to select a builder and architect that have experience in the design and development of fitness centers. Otherwise you may find that your space is inadequate to accomplish the goals and objectives of your fitness ministry. Even some of the most simplistic things can be overlooked, such as the adequate spacing for all equipment , too many doors leading in and out of your fitness center, neglecting to have sufficient space for warm-up and stretching, or not having the proper electrical wiring done to support your cardiovascular equipment. Proper planning and design is critical in optimizing the space for your fitness center. Too many facilities think that having a fitness center is merely providing a space and throwing some equipment into the room. Churches approaching fitness ministry in this manner should expect to see too much benefit, or serve very many members of the congregation and community. Both new and existing church fitness ministries should always be asking how they can best serve and meet the needs of their congregation and community. What are some specific programs or services that would appeal to a broad cross-section of our members? What are some areas of improvement that we have identified? How do we go about making those improvements, and what is the timeline for these improvements to happen? How much money will these improvements cost our church? In order to have a successful fitness ministry your church must be serious about the planning phase well in advance of launching, and establish a firm vision of what your church wants to accomplish through fitness ministry.
A second consideration to keep in mind is to never underestimate the power of branding and brand-name recognition. Any successful entity almost always has a universally recognizable logo or symbol that people can immediately identify to its particular product or service. Virtually everyone knows the logos for iconic brands such as Apple, Nike or Target. Sure, these are world-renowned brands; however you still want to have an identity for your church fitness ministry that is easily recognizable within your community. You want people inside your church and beyond your church walls to know that your logo and brand is representative of not only fitness ministry, but fitness ministry done with excellence. This is a key to helping spread the word and attracting new members to your fitness ministry, which will in turn attract more new members to your church. Simply referring to your church fitness ministry as a recreation outreach center, or “First Baptist Church Fitness Center” will not always pique the interest of most people. Names like this were common 30 years ago and often won’t excite and spark interest in attracting new people to your fitness ministry.
ROB KILLEN'S 7 TOP TIPS TO MAKE YOUR CHURCH FITNESS FACILITY BRIGHT AND INVITING
1. Form a fitness advisory panel to help plan and formulate strategic goals and mission.
2. Use the power of branding and brand-name recognition to pique interest and attract new people.
3. Focus on lighting and color choices inside your fitness center to make a huge impact.
4. Assure you have available good quality and adequate quantity of cardiovascular and strength training equipment.
5. Also, focus your efforts on group exercise programs or small group training classes.
6. Investing in nice locker rooms and make sure they are clean, comfortable, spacious and inviting.
7. Excellent customer service must be a priority.
After your church formulates some strategies, establishes some goals, and develops a unique brand for your church fitness ministry you can now focus your efforts on the inside of your facility. One area that can have a huge impact on the ambience and atmosphere of your fitness ministry is the lighting and color choices inside your fitness center. Have you ever walked into the lobby or front desk area of a business and found yourself instantly energized just from the atmosphere? It’s amazing how proper lighting, color schemes and decor can affect our attitudes and energy levels in a positive way. A positive mindset will help ensure people commit to their exercise routines, as they will be more likely to look forward to coming in for their exercise session. People should feel a sense of energy and enthusiasm when they enter inside your fitness ministry. Dark or dimly lit rooms tend to make people relaxed, or even sleepy. On the other hand, bright lights and bright colors can awaken our senses. Studies have shown that various yellow colors tend to symbolize sunshine, joy and optimism. Different shades of orange can express energy and symbolize balance, enthusiasm and vibrancy. It may be a good idea to hire an interior designer with a background in fitness centers and health clubs.
Consider adding some new lighting fixtures, to help make the rooms brighter and increase the amount light. Use natural sunlight whenever possible, but be careful to take into consideration the strong glare that the sunlight can create at certain times of the day. If you plan to utilize Windows and natural sunlight, be sure you have a way to minimize the sunlight and heat. Tinting the Windows, or having some adjustable blinds installed can help the glare and heat levels. Some coats of fresh paint, a front desk makeover, waterfalls and artwork are just a few ideas to help make your fitness ministry more appealing and attractive. Many local area artists will often look for a place to display their latest artwork. You may be able to have several different artists displaying their artwork at different times. This gives you the option to periodically change out the artwork displayed, while always adding something new and different.
Having the perfect space is only as successful as the quality of fitness equipment you choose to place in it. It never ceases to amaze me when builders invest millions of dollars to create a new building, and then have a budget of only a few thousand dollars for the fitness area. If you’re going to do fitness ministry it should be done with excellence. If you want to attract new members to your fitness ministry you must have a facility that is worth paying for people to join. Remember that the number one reason most people will desire to participate in your fitness ministry will be the quality and quantity of cardiovascular and strength training equipment you have available. If you walk into any fitness center, regardless of whether it’s a health club, YMCA, community recreation center, hospital-based fitness center, or college recreation center, you’ll always find the cardiovascular equipment to be the most popular and most widely used pieces for most of your members. Treadmills, ellipticals and various cross trainers are typically the pieces generating the highest usage. Selectorized strength training machines, cable based pulleys, functional trainers, dumb bells and free weights will also be very popular. Besides having a budget for new purchases, you also need to make sure you have a budget for replacement pieces and funds for the upkeep and maintenance on all your equipment.
If you don’t have the budget for top-notch fitness equipment, instead focus your efforts on group exercise programs or small group training classes. Small group personal training classes have continued to explode in popularity in recent years. Many people prefer to exercise with others. The group format develops camaraderie, helps with encouragement and motivation, and improves adherence for many who have a difficult time with committing to a fitness program. The key is to have a qualified, certified instructor in place to instruct the classes.
Many churches will utilize meeting rooms, gymnasiums or open spaces to enable groups of people to exercise together. Functional training equipment such as bands, medicine balls, battling ropes and kettle bells are very effective and inexpensive tools for churches who want to begin offering fitness ministry on a smaller scale. With the right tools and engaging group exericse your fitness ministry can gain fresh new approaches to doing outreach.
Another important and often overlooked space in church fitness ministry is the locker rooms. The size and format of your church fitness ministry may or may not dictate the need for locker rooms. For churches that have a large fitness ministry, or have the goal of growing their fitness ministry, investing in nice locker rooms are a must. Any place people go to shower, bathe, shave and undress must be clean, comfortable, spacious and inviting. On the flip side, locker rooms that more closely resemble your old high school may not be too well received! If your locker room needs an upgrade consider investing in new lockers, benches, sinks and shower stalls. While it will not be cheap to renovate your locker room space, there may be some church members with a background and expertise in these areas that are willing to help your church defray some of the costs. As is the case with your front desk and fitness center areas, adequate lighting and airflow are very important considerations for your locker room area. People will be showering throughout the day, which brings about an increase in temperature and humidity levels in the locker room areas. Therefore it’s important to make sure there is proper airflow and adequate ventilation to keep the moisture levels down in temperature levels cool. Fresh paint, shower tile and countertops can go a long way in updating the look of your locker rooms.
Last but certainly not least for the success of any church fitness ministry is the level of customer service offered to your guests and members. In order to offer excellent customer service it must be a priority. Your guests and members need to know your church cares about their experience and comfort level while exercising at your church fitness ministry. I often encourage churches to think outside the box when exploring ways to improve customer service, retention and the member experience.
I recently traveled for work and was extremely impressed with the service from the hotel I was staying at during my trip. Before I even left to go on my trip I received an email notification from the customer experience manager of the hotel. The email thanked me for choosing their hotel, and welcomed me to both the hotel and the area. The email had a personal phone number and email address where I could contact the customer experience manager at any time prior to and during my stay hotel stay. I think adding customer experience manager is a great way to provide excellent service for the members and guests of your church fitness ministry. Every guest and member can be given a card with the contact information for the customer experience manager, and you could even have some nice signs posted around the fitness center with their contact information. Whenever possible, the customer experience manager could personally great each guest and member upon their arrival. This person is the primary point of contact for anyone who has questions, needs assistance, has a complaint, or has a suggestion on how your fitness ministry could improve the level of service or offerings. They can also serve as a primary contact in helping members of your fitness ministry transition over to becoming guests and members of your church, too!
Your church fitness ministry may not be able to afford or have the need for a customer experience manager, but you can certainly have one of your staff members serve part-time in this capacity, or you can share various job duties with different staff members, and have everyone on your staff involved in some way with customer service. The key is reaching out and being proactive to your guests and members. Don’t be afraid to look at other successful business models, regardless of whether they’re hotels, resorts, salons, restaurants or other fitness centers. If another business has a great idea or service that you think can improve your church fitness ministry, don’t be afraid to implement it.
Some of the above ideas will no doubt require time and money, while others may require the work and assistance of volunteers within the church and local community. The end goal is the same: providing outstanding service and facilities to improve the health and well-being of your church and community. Fitness ministry has proven to be one of the most effective outreach programs within the church when properly executed. If your church currently has a fitness ministry, see how you can become involved in helping grow and improve its reach both within your church and in your local community. If your church doesn’t offer fitness ministry, consider bringing the idea of starting one to the senior leadership of your church. If your church is not in a position to launch fitness ministry at this time, maybe you can start the planning stages and pursue fitness ministry in the future.