An interview with Todd Bright
Lifestyle Family Fitness photos are copyright by Lifestyle Family Fitness. Used by permission.

Faith & Fitness Magazine: Back in 2008 a pretty surprising headline hit the fitness industry. It read, “Lifestyle Family Fitness CEO Steps Down”. Since then there have been quite a few headlines about upper management shakeups at major fitness clubs. Some were mergers, some moved to other clubs and some have been an outright result of a tough economy. The thing that made your departure from Lifestyle Family Fitness so different is what was reported next, “Geoff Dyer, Lifestyle Family Fitness founder, says Bright left the company to pursue missionary work.” That had to leave quite a few people asking, “He did what?” and “Why did he do that?
 

My focus changed. What do I do with my time? God called me to serve Him.

Todd Bright: I was saved in 1999. After my salvation I continued to ask, “God, why did you give me these skills? What purpose am I to do with them?” I continued to work in the financial / vice-president role with the company and then became the CFO of Lifestyle Family Fitness. So, I continued to use the skills God has given me but what was drawing on my heart was, “God you made us all for a purpose. What is that purpose for me?” I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t about the money.
My reason – my desire to be with Lifestyle was about the people. It was the opportunity to help people, be a part of a team and grow that team. Once I got to that point, that it wasn’t about the money and we changed our lifestyle to live on a lower amount of money my focus changed to asking a new question: What do I do with my time?

I really felt God had called me to serve Him full-time. Not just working alongside others but serving Him in full-time ministry.
 

Faith & Fitness Magazine: Club Industry magazine in their issue naming the top 100 clubs in 2010 ranked Lifestyle Family Fitness as #11 with revenues of $105 million. That is a very impressive performance in today’s market. Describe what it is like to be the CEO of such a company.

Todd Bright: Back when Geoff Dyer founded the company there was a focus on people. Growing the management team allowed the company to grow to more than a $100 million in revenue. The growth was putting the right people on the team in the right places and then building the infrastructure to support the growth after that. The day-to-day is to engage the people and just continue to focus on them.

Faith & Fitness Magazine: With such a diverse staff and large membership I imagine there has to be an expectation that your Christian faith be kept personal.

Todd Bright: When I first started working for Lifestyle Family Fitness, I was very open about my faith. What Geoff Dyer and the management team liked was the idea of the Christian moral being a part of what you do day-to-day. When I would speak to the team about being honest and doing things with integrity I didn’t have to quote Biblical references. I would simply live out the scripture in front of them. People want that. Even the board liked that aspect. You want to deal with someone that is honest and hardworking – as the scriptures teach someone who will do things properly and in order.

What is required of me is to be a faithful steward for God. Once I realized that – everything changed.

Faith & Fitness Magazine: Beyond your business skills, strategic thinking and leadership how did you influence the company and what legacy do you feel you left?

Todd Bright: It was more of the servant attitude of really humbling yourself and serving alongside with others. In the fitness industry [all the major clubs] have “the box” [the space] and the equipment. The difference between the clubs is the people. The focus while I was there was to get people to care more about others than they do themselves, hiring people and equipping them to serve in that direction. That is the piece that I feel is still there.

 

What my family started doing is we became givers. That is something anybody can do.

Faith & Fitness Magazine: Share a bit about your history. What brought you to where you are today and what impacted your thinking and behaviors most?

Todd Bright: The most significant impact that helped me and changed my thinking is that I was involved in Crown Ministries in 2003. What I learned is that everything is God's. What is required of me is to be a faithful steward with God. Once I realized that – everything changed.
As a family we focused on paying off debt and removing our home mortgage. What then happened at the end of 2005 is that we became debt free. That allowed me to ask, “What has God called me to do and why am I doing it?” Once you are debt free and money is not your driving force or gaining more worldly assets is not your driving force you then now have the choice of asking, “What am I going to do with the time God has given me?”
Once we were debt free then when I went into the office – the club, I was doing it because I felt God was calling me to do it. You want to be there. Everything changes. You look at everything you do now based on your time not based upon trying to pay your bills.
That is what was so fun about Lifestyle Family Fitness. I was there because that is where God wanted me to be. Everything changed.

Faith & Fitness Magazine: So your perspective of your stewardship of your money was also transformed?

Todd Bright: What then happened in 2006 is that we decided to live off of a certain level of income, which was significantly less than what I was making. We decided that we would be giving the rest. So, what my family started doing is we became givers to ministries and served God in different places. The decision for me in 2008 was, “Is it better for me to continue to work so that I can give financially or do I give my time?”

Faith & Fitness Magazine: Do you think that is something that mostly CEO’s and upper-level income earners can afford to do?

Todd Bright: I think that is something anybody can do. The key is to spend less than you are earning. In my first year of ministry we didn’t have an income. I’ve gone from being a CEO of a company making significant dollars for a $100 million company to now raising personal financial support for ministry. It doesn’t really take much to live.

Faith & Fitness Magazine: What role does fitness play in your life? Do you still get to exercise at Lifestyle Family Fitness?

Todd Bright: I still am active. Since we moved from Florida to Colorado I no longer exercise at Lifestyle Family Fitness. I think that fitness teaches us to take care of our bodies. It is after all, the temple in which the Holy Spirit resides. I want to take care of it.

I have six children. In 2011 I am 45 with a child that is about to be 1 year old. I want to be around for my children. One thing that the health and fitness industry showed me by being around some of the best personal trainers in the world is the importance of fitness.
 

Christians go to church and believe the pastor will do this and that.

People come to know Christ when Christians realize that THEY are the plan.

Faith & Fitness Magazine: Tell me about the ministry where you now serve. What led you there?

Todd Bright: The name of the ministry is Kingdom Building Ministries. My passion is about doing what God has called you to do “where you are”. After committing my life to God in finances, I served almost three years to minister to the people with whom I worked and the members to help change lives. I did that from the physical fitness side, in which I passionately believe, and also with their relationship with God – with Jesus Christ.
So, the focus of the ministry in which I work today is to equip people to serve God where they are. You don’t have to be a pastor or minister to be working for God. You can serve in your neighborhood – everywhere. That is what our ministry does. So, it was a natural fit for me.

Faith & Fitness Magazine: Do you think people get that concept that they truly can serve God where they are? So many times people say, “I didn’t attend a seminary and I don’t serve in some official role in the church.” What does it take for people to really grasp that concept that, “I can do ministry too.”

Todd Bright: Jesus said the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.We need more laborers. That is the key. There is a world of Christians that go to church and believe that the pastor will do this and that. People throughout the world will come to know Christ when Christians realize that THEY are the plan. There is no other plan. Christians are it. Jesus called twelve ordinary disciples who then taught others. While I believe strongly in the church. The plan isn’t “the church” --- “now let’s have more churches.” Instead it is a body of believers. Christians need to be awakened. That is the message and mission of this ministry.

Faith & Fitness Magazine: What are the primary activities of that ministry?

Todd Bright: We do two main things. First, we have a team of speakers that share throughout the U.S. and other countries. They reach over 200,000 people each year. Their message is both evangelical and calling people to a deeper walk. We also do training in small groups primarily focused on high school and college aged. We equip them to be laborers for God’s kingdom wherever God has called them. They don’t have to be a pastor or teacher. They could be a CEO, a parent at home, a bank teller or retail clerk. It is rather organic in nature.

Faith & Fitness Magazine: What do you feel are some of the most pressing needs today in society and how can both fitness clubs and Christian ministries and churches better meet those needs?

Todd Bright: What is great about the fitness club is the membership base. People come because they have a need that they want served. Obviously they go to a club for the health aspects but there is also a relational connection need. The health club today has people coming in to it on average of two or three days per week. Since people go to a club for both the health needs and the relational needs I think that a Christian club owner has the opportunity to change lives for God.

For those called to ministry in the health club I believe they have a great opportunity to meet the needs of people.

The needs are there. People go to a gym and talk about what is happening in their family. Perhaps they just lost a job. Maybe they lost a family member, have a health issue or have trouble with their children. Whatever the issue is, I believe it can be met within the health club. I believe the health club can play a significant role in the ministry of God.

From the church perspective, people go there one to three times per week for different meetings. However, church meetings are only for a small period of time. The growth of people coming to know God will happen outside the four walls of the church as we said, organically by the everyday laborer for God. For those called to ministry in the health club I believe they have a great opportunity to meet the needs of people.

Faith & Fitness Magazine: How did you manage your role as a husband and father both as a CEO and now in ministry?

Todd Bright: I look at my family as a blessing. God gave me my wife, joined us together as one and gave us six children. What I want to do is be my very best for God. So, what God called me to do was be a CEO. I was to be the best I could for members, employees and the board of directors. I would give my best wherever I was at that moment. One thing I was able to do because of the management team was set parameters on my work. I gave my best. The Bible teaches me that I’m not to give 24 hours a day – 7 days a week. But I am to give my best. So, I would give my best to both [the company and my family]. I would set parameters from when I would work on the weekend to when my day would end during the day.

Faith & Fitness Magazine: How do you think the average everyday person can do that and keep their family a priority?

Todd Bright: This is not a politically correct answer but it is something I’ve seen over the years and firmly believe. God has given each of us abilities. Follow those abilities. Recognize what God has given you and don’t try to push beyond that just because others think that is what you should do. The key is to find your sweet spot and then just let all the rest come together.

If I hadn’t had the skills to be a CEO it would have been the most miserable job I could have had. But when you are passionate then it all comes together.

Faith & Fitness Magazine: What do you tell the many people out there that are in a job because it is a way to meet their needs?

Todd Bright: Get your financial house in order then get to a point where you can do what God has called you to do.

Faith & Fitness Magazine: What recommendations can you offer to our readers in the area of time management so they can have more and better time for personal fitness and ministry?

Todd Bright: I believe the enemy of things being good is the desire for the best. Making everything perfect will absorb all of your time and not allow you to do the things that you can do at a 90% or 85% level. If I wanted work to be perfect then I could never balance that with my family. If I was trying to do everything perfectly with my family then I could never balance work.
I don’t judge, “Did I make it perfect?” I instead judge it, “Did I do the best I could with the time I had?”

Faith & Fitness Magazine: Many of our readers know that their Christian faith experience can and should truly impact the ethos of today's modern fitness lifestyle. They are looking for ways beyond the typical, "listen to Christian music, read the Bible and pray with people" approach to do that. Those are certainly solid core practices. But, how can gym members and fitness facility leadership better integrate the Christian faith into their fitness culture?

Really listen. If you want to increase your retention then connect with your members.
That is also a great way to do what God calls you to do.

Todd Bright: Live what Christ has taught us. Love God and love others. Focus on the person in front of you and to the side of you. There is a core group in the fitness club that is there for the relational connection. A Christian at the gym has the ability to come along side others and ask, “How is your day?” Then Christians need to really listen. Christians have the ability to be that testimony while they live life. Club owners, workers and members have the ability to shine Christ to others.

As the CEO of Lifestyle Family Fitness I couldn’t go into a club and tell everybody, “Hey I’m a Christian, I want to pray with you, let’s get out a Bible and read.” I couldn’t do that. But, I could walk into the building, smile, ask them about their day, care about them and invest in them. I was amazed to see who God would put in my way – the opportunities He would create.

God puts us in a place for a reason. Sometimes though we get so busy that we don’t see the people He puts in our path. We get so busy doing our tasks. Which is the better way to represent the Christian faith: Making sure the task is done properly or reaching out to the person that has a need? For gym leadership – If you want to increase your retention then connect with your members. That is also a great way to do what God calls you to do. Everyone wins.

Faith & Fitness Magazine: What changes need to happen in the fitness industry?

Todd Bright: Over the last decade there has been a focus on the bigger boxes and nicer equipment. I think the change you are going to see take place is going to come back to people. It is servicing the members and caring about them. Pricing is always a factor. But, at the end of the day it is always going to come back to service and a focus on members.

That same thing is happening in churches. Churches are getting bigger. We see mega churches. People go church hopping because of a lack of connection. Yet we are seeing now in the bigger churches a move to life groups or small groups to promote better connection. People have a basic need to be connected and be loved. I think you will see that both in the church and the health club.

Have passion. Be strong in God.

Faith & Fitness Magazine: We can sometimes be like that person in the gym who goes through the motions but it doesn’t seem to make a difference. What attitudes are necessary for us to experience real physical and spiritual change?

Todd Bright: We need to have passion to realize that today is just for today. It may not go the way we desire for it to go. Sometimes when you go to the gym you don’t experience that “high” after your workout. But look what happens if you don’t have patience and quit. When you start again you feel the pain and wish that you had never quit your workout routine.

Each day may not be exactly what you want it to be, but tomorrow will be better. Be strong in God as you go through it.

Faith & Fitness Magazine: Do you ever workout with your children?

Todd Bright: I do. It is a great way to have connection. Back when I was at Lifestyle Family Fitness I would come home and run. My children would ride their bikes with me and ask me all about my day. I still do that today. Family exercise and activities are a great time for discussions.

Faith & Fitness Magazine: Any family discussion that you fondly remember?

Todd Bright: My decision to leave Lifestyle Family Fitness was difficult because the people there are great. I discussed that with my children while I was running and explained what I felt God was calling me to do. I asked for their opinion. To hear them tell me what they see and where they feel God is leading us were memorable.

 

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