As Program Coordinator at Grace United Methodist Church in Decatur, Illinois, Penny Butts works on finding new activities and ways to grow the church. "Fit Clubs are really big in our city," says Penny. "So the idea to combine faith and fitness just seemed natural." She adds, "God wants us to worship our bodies. After all, they are our temples."
Penny approached the Board of Directors about having faith-based workouts at church as part of a community outreach program. "Initially, they liked the idea, but had concerns about running a business out of a church," she recalls. "But they set us up as a non-profit organization and got behind it quickly."
It wasn't long before Penny's club, "Grace, Faith, & Fitness" was off and running.
The gospel truth
Participants in Penny's club work out to the inspirational Body Gospel. A typical session begins with a welcome greeting, followed by a short prayer. Then, of course, it turns from salvation to sweat. "Body Gospel is such a unique and uplifting program!" she exclaims. "Everyone is enthusiastic and really enjoys it. People are always smiling as they're working out."
Penny believes that the church environment adds to the comfort level. "People don't have to be intimidated by a gym where everyone is super-fit looking," she reveals. "They can be themselves and not have to worry about being judged."
Penny's group also does a "Biggest Loser" Challenge. "It's basically a 90-day weight loss competition to see who can lose the greatest percentage of body weight," Penny explains. "We find out everyone's weight loss goals and track their progress week by week. Any money won from the competition goes right back into the Fit Club to buy things like exercise equipment or floor mats."
Spreading the word
Penny got the word out on local bulletin boards, doing display ads at the Church, and by utilizing social media. "We're constantly adding friends to our Facebook page," she says. "It's one of the best ways for regulars, as well as prospects to stay connected to us."
Penny also contacted local Television stations and newspapers. "They love to do 'feel good' stories," she explains. "Plus, a church doing a Fit Club to gospel music is completely unique."
And Penny's Fit Club received an added boost from an unlikely source. "The Chicago Tribune found out about our club through a newspaper in Orlando," she says. "They ran a story on the club and the exposure has been awesome!"
Growing by the numbers
Grace, Faith, & Fitness has come a long way since eight people showed up to the first session. "We're averaging about 30 people now, and last night we had 44!" Penny says with enthusiasm. "We're getting repeat customers, as well as new people all the time." She continues, "The church loves it and everyone has been thanking me."
But for Penny, nothing can trump the impact that the club has had on her personally. "So many of the people who are showing up have never even exercised before," she says. "A few obese men came in and just watched for the first 2 sessions. Now they're actively participating and making progress."
Penny goes on, "I'm seeing all different types of people—from those in their late 60's, to people who are 200 pounds overweight. It's incredibly rewarding to be making a difference to so many people!"
Coach's Playbook: Starting a Body Gospel Fit Club.
Present the idea to your church as part of a community outreach program.
Conduct a Biggest Loser contest. It will help people stay accountable to their goals.
Spread the word any way you can. Contact local television and radio stations and put up signs on community bulletin boards.
Utilize social media—friend as many people as you can on Facebook.
Sign up all of your participants for the free membership on WOWY®.
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