SCHEDULE THIS SEMINAR AT YOUR CHURCH.
Do you like to exercise, eat healthy and help others who want to know more about God? If so, you may be part of a growing group of individuals and organizations responding to the increasing public demand for fitness initiatives and facilities that specifically address both physical and spiritual needs. Fitness professionals need to understand the reasons people join fitness programs and then connect with them. Today’s culture is ripe with consumer awareness. People know deep down what they want – and they want to get it. While traditional Christian institutions may not yet be prepared to fully support this growth potential, barriers are decreasing and individuals (you may be one of them) are moving forward with faith and wisdom to develop the next fitness industry/ Christian ministry model.
TODAY’S CLIMATE FOR A NEW MODEL
In the September 2012 issue of Club Industry, the magazine for fitness business, Editor-In-Chief, Pamela Kufahl brings to the attention of fitness professionals how the industry and the public behave. She says, “One thing the fitness industry does well…is imitation of any model that proves successful. This trend will only grow as the industry tries to discover what will attract the multitude of people who have never belonged to a club or who keep joining and failing and then quitting”.
- Racquetball/tennis facilities
- different membership models
The continual evolution of expectations and the rapid adaption to trends suggests that there are many people still looking for something that will work for them. As Kufahl suggests, “If you want to jump on a bandwagon, feel free. But perhaps you are better served to come up with another model that has not been thought of yet for those consumers who still have not found the type of facility that suits them”.
A quote from writer Jeanette Winterson in Bill Moyers Faith & Reason reads, “There is a spiritual dimension to people...we are driven to want something more." This truth comes full circle I believe as the fitness industry looks for new ways to engage consumers, churches look for better ways to reach their communities and the public, every day people like you and me, look for ways to change and thrive, be active, healthy and spiritually engaged with God and each other.
FAITHFUL FLUFF OR SERIOUS SOLUTIONS?
We don’t want Zumba done to Christian music, yoga with prayer, Cross-Fit with Bible verses, sports and recreational activities guided by faith principles and facilities that are friendly to more conservative values or inclusive to diverse beliefs. That is all nice but it isn’t enough. Obesity is a chronic health condition that is killing people, physical and material lust is wrecking marriages and individual purpose, hate is going unchecked, irresponsibility is driving emptiness, doubt and fear drown hope and vision. Andy Stanley has said, “Stop looking for solutions to problems and start looking for the right path.” More than a church offering a cool fitness facility or a wellness professional offering an innovative approach, people seek genuine compassion, miraculous grace and boundless potential. We all seek this because God puts these yearnings within us. That is a pretty significant driver. It is a big need that needs to be satisfied. Effective training and preparation can help you to meet that need.
CHRISTIAN COLLEGES NEED TO CATCH UP QUICK
The institutions that should be the best at delivering this kind of training, Christian universities, do not yet have an effective model, a proven curriculum or a thorough and modern study to help cast vision and prepare graduates for this expanding opportunity to shape culture. These universities have a combination of a school of theology, academic degree programs (in health care, sports, kinesiology, human performance, management, psychology, counseling and more) or a wellness/fitness/sports facility. Several have all three. Few though have yet intentionally brought those resources together to form a curriculum, partnerships, reputation and ongoing research to support graduates to advance in this form of ministry and develop a dynamic business. I want to see more Christian colleges do this. I believe they can do it well.
ENTREPRENEURS MOVING FORWARD – WITH OR WITHOUT THE PREACHER
Business models are being created. This is happening sometimes with the (financial, spiritual, influential and motivational) support of universities, churches, organizations and their leadership. Increasingly it is happening without that foundation – and that is ok. In fact initiatives not directly responsible to these larger institutions often have greater flexibility and adaptability. Gym owners, health care providers, personal trainers, athletes, business people, missionaries and others make up an extremely diverse group of individuals who are leading this new fitness trend. They are forging new methods of ministry with creativity, personal resources, knowledge, skill and enthusiasm. Certainly some churches are doing fitness ministry. I have visited their facilities and observed their programs. They are testament to the fact that it is being done. I believe organized churches can do more – much more. As they move forward to do that, I’m confident they’ll find competent people (often within or closely associated with their congregation) to grow and lead a fitness ministry.
EASIER THAN YOU THINK
Indeed the enthusiasm may be the number one criteria to start a fitness ministry. Those who have confidence in God are fueling this trend. Men and women are boldly responding to a high call. They often start to grow a vision while working at a gym or serving at a church. Such a personal fitness ministry may start small and be funded totally by personal finances. Subsequently another individual or two may come alongside and join in the ministry. They start with basic ministry tools (books, videos, equipment and training). They continually do research networking with others and even visiting/observing other ministries or working with another ministry to learn and train. They promote and grow the ministry through a variety of means. A new fitness ministry is built with continual prayer, insatiable passion and a focused one-person-at-a-time approach. After all this new fitness model has a fitness component and a ministry component. Most importantly it is one-on-one personal compassion. THAT is the next big thing in fitness.
-Brad Bloom, Publisher