Health and fitness facilities and ministries are being eyed by churches seeking their ministry niches. But the missional use of wellness is nothing new in American Christianity.
“The early forms were churches like Walnut Street Baptist Church in Louisville,” said George Bullard, a South Carolina-based church consultant and president of the Columbia Partnership. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Kentucky church built a six-story health facility that included bowling alleys.
And it worked.
“They had the clientele and they opened it to the transitional community” in which they were located, Bullard said. Soon other churches followed suit, but often without the financial or ministry success that Walnut Street enjoyed.
“The problem is that many churches built gymnasiums to survive, but they built them on the ‘Field of Dreams’ model — if we build it, they will come,’” Bullard said.
Health ministries, with or without dedicated facilities, have been making a comeback as a variety of social and religious trends in America converge. Whether it’s limited to a group of church members setting weight-loss goals together or a congregation seeking its ministry niche in the community, the wider obsession with health and exercise is merging with churches’ search for missional meaning.
“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.
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SOURCE: Baptist News Global