Churches add fitness facilities as part of ministry outreach, community service; Louisville’s Walnut Street church led the way

More churches are beginning to see health and fitness facilities as potential ministry niches, which can positively influence surrounding communities. Walnut Street Baptist Church in Louisville was a pioneer, building a six-story health facility including bowling alleys in the late 1950s and early 1960s, church consultant George Bullard told Jeff Brumley of Baptist News Global.

Now health ministries have been “making a comeback as a variety of social and religious trends in America converge,” Brumley reports. “There is absolutely an opportunity for new forms of church centered around fitness,” said Travis Collins, the director of mission advancement and Virginia regional coordinator for Fresh Expressions US.
Creative Commons photo by jerronlife
Secular organizations that promote fitness often promote health-focused ministries and programs. For example, Houston-based nonprofit Health Fitness Revolution released a list of the 20 Fittest Churches in Texas. Samir Becic, the organization’s founder, said, “Spiritual awareness is one of the key components of healthy lifestyle that impacts the whole body and rejuvenates the spirit.” Many of the churches on the list have fitness classes, nutrition and senior programs and sports leagues. Some also have facilities for fitness and health.
Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church in Atlanta has a 70,000-square-foot facility with a indoor pool and track, weight room, cardio center and even personal trainers. The church website says, “It is our desire that all who use our facility or participate
in our activities will have the opportunity to hear that Jesus Christ loves them and desires to have a personal relationship with them,” the church website says.
Besides building fitness centers, churches are promoting good health in other ways. “Another wave in recent years is that of church members, often led by pastors, uniting to lower blood pressure, drop pounds and tone up as a team,” Brumley writes. Christianity Today reported in 2013 that churches from Indiana to Virginia were making fitness pledges, and 250 members of Central Baptist Church in Northern Virginia said they lost 12,000 pounds collectively. (Read more)
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