Faith & Fitness Magazine takes a closer look at the successful fitness ministry at Houston’s First Baptist Church in Houston, TX. Houston’s First Baptist Church started in 1841 with sixteen men and women, and today the church has four campus locations in the Houston area. This year the fitness and recreation ministry at Houston’s First Baptist Church celebrated their 30 year anniversary! Dave Bundrick serves as the Minister of Fitness and Recreation at Houston’s First Baptist, and he recently took some time with Rob Killen of Church Fitness to share some expertise on operating a healthy and successful fitness ministry.
Church Fitness: How long have you served as the Minister of Fitness and Recreation at Houston’s First Baptist Church?
Dave Bundrick: I’ve been here now for 4 ½ years. Prior to God calling us here I oversaw the fitness and recreation ministry at Raytown Baptist Church in Raytown, Missouri. Our fitness ministry at Raytown really played a large role in connecting the community. This is something I really didn’t understand in the beginning when I first became involved in church fitness ministry. I didn’t realize how powerful and positive fitness ministry can be to the church, and in bringing people in beyond the church walls.
Church Fitness: How supportive has the church leadership and congregation been with regards to the fitness ministry at Houston’s First Baptist? How has the fitness ministry benefited the church and community?
Dave Bundrick: In the past five years support and interest have increased. We benefit the community by providing a safe, non-threatening environment that cares for the whole person.
Church Fitness: How many members do you have and what is the breakdown between church vs. non-church members?
Dave Bundrick: We have 1,337 paying members, of which 53% are members of Houston’s First Baptist, 31% are other church members and 16% are not members of any church.
Church Fitness: How much does is cost to join?
Dave Bundrick: We have a $50 enrollment fee, and charge $25 per individual and $15 for spouses, add-ons and seniors.
Church Fitness: What kinds of marketing and advertising have you down to help attract new members?
Dave Bundrick: We do a few different things. We run January and September promos in the church worship guide, have a monthly e-newsletter, have occasional monthly promotions where we invite people to try us out, and we incentivize our members by giving them a free month if they refer a friend.
Church Fitness: Yes, your members are your best form of advertising, so it makes perfect sense to not only involve them, but reward them for their efforts. What are some of the more popular classes and programs you offer to your members?
Dave Bundrick: Boot camp, TRX, Pilates, Group Cycling Classes and a group class consisting of a combination of cardio and martial arts that we call FIGHT.
Church Fitness: What days and times does your facility get the most usage?
Dave Bundrick: Mon, Tues, Wed and Thurs from 4:30-7pm, and Mon, Wed and Fri mornings between 8:15-11am
Church Fitness: I think those days and hours are pretty typical for high usage. How important is the strength and cardiovascular equipment, and which pieces are the most widely used in your facility?
Dave Bundrick: We average 943 visits per week to the fitness center, which includes the weight room, basketball courts, classes everyone that checks in. You need good quality equipment for a variety of reasons. #1 you want to purchase something that will last and draw members in. We experienced that first hand, when we renovated our weight room. It was a declining/barely maintaining facility. When we renovated the space, in 5 years we have experienced 300% fitness membership growth. There is more competition today than ever before in the fitness industry and if you expect to compete, you have to have quality programming, facilities and equipment. We must also keep in mind that we represent Jesus and His body, and His church, who owns everything, so why would His facility be substandard? Treadmills and bikes are the most popular pieces with the most usage.
Church Fitness: Well said, and I couldn’t agree more with you about doing fitness ministry with excellence! What future plans do you have for the fitness ministry at Houston’s First?
Dave Bundrick: We definitely want to expand the strength training and cardiovascular areas of our main workout floor, and we would also like to begin implementing some fitness aspects at our other satellite campuses.
Church Fitness: Dave, based on your experience, what advice and recommendations would you have for churches seeking to launch their own fitness ministry?
A) Seek expert consultation on facility design, equipment sourcing, staffing needs, programming & proforma budgeting. Engage consultants early on in the process.
B) Understand your market, not just church members. Seek to fill the voids in the market & meet people’s needs.
C) Give it 3-5 years before you count on it producing significant revenue.
Church Fitness: Excellent advice! I understand that you and some of your staff are presenting at the REACH Gathering Conference October 21-23rd, in Charlotte, NC. Tell us a little about the workshops you and your staff will be presenting there.
Dave Bundrick: My Fitness Ministry Associate at Houston’s First Baptist, Debbie Brown, will be presenting two workshops. The first one is entitled “Ok, I’m doing Fitness Ministry, but how can I do it better?” It will focus on some best practices for financing, administration, and organization. The second one Debbie is leading will focus on an alternative yoga and Pilates class. I’ll be presenting a 2 part series on Tracking and Reporting Ministry Effectiveness.
Church Fitness: Those seminars sound like they’ll be extremely useful and beneficial for all those in attendance. I hope you and Debbie get a nice audience. Thank you for taking some time out of your schedule to give us a closer peak inside the fitness ministry at Houston’s First Baptist Church. I appreciate it Dave!
Dave Bundrick: My pleasure Rob. We're proud to serve our church and local community through our fitness and recreation ministry. Godspeed!