A Healthy Start

She first visited North Richland Hills Baptist Church’s 26 Wellness Center a few months after her husband died, just about the time her loneliness was becoming unbearable.

“I hesitate to use [her] name without her permission … but she tried us out for a couple of weeks and eventually joined,” said Jody Hayes, minister of wellness and sports ministries at NRHBC. “As we got to know her, she mentioned that she had lost her husband and had been struggling with depression. She was on a very limited income and our center’s price point and schedule fit her situation. To make a long story short, she attributed the positive turnaround in her mindset and depression to being able to have a place she could afford to come to each day.”

NRHBC is one of many Southern Baptist churches in Texas that are meeting the health and wellness needs among their congregations and in their communities.

From pick-up basketball, pickle ball and Jazzercise to martial arts, healthy cooking and reflexology, churches are striving to provide enjoyable and affordable self-care ministries for a variety of ages and interests.

For example, Hayes said The 26 Wellness Center (named for its location on Boulevard 26) includes commercially-rated treadmills, elliptical machines, upright and recumbent bikes, resistance machines, a walking track and a full-size basketball court.

“We have thousands of unique entries into the wellness center annually,” Hayes said. “But don’t get the wrong impression. We certainly are not the ‘churchy’ version of some of the big box fitness centers. We are much more limited in space and building footprint than those types of facilities. We are more like a fitness boutique.”

James Clark, senior pastor at First Baptist Church Tomball, said the topic of casual conversation at his church is often health and wellness related—among both old and young church members alike. They don’t see that trend going away any time soon so, over the next couple of years the church is planning to expand its health and wellness offerings beyond just its church walls.

“We try not to let our facility drive what we do, but instead we are about responding to the needs of people when they have them,” Clark said. “Right now we host a large soccer instructional clinic that meets almost nightly on our three fields. In our master planning we want to add bike trails and hiking trails and a larger recreational component with the intent that our park would provide recreational venues that will become an added resource for our community.”

Clark said allowing others to use FBC’s recreational facilities and not remaining the driving force behind everything that goes on has been a great way to serve their church’s vision to “invite people to have a life-changing experience with Jesus one conversation at a time.”

“In everything we do it’s all about creating more and more opportunities for people to have conversations,” Clark said. “It feels simplistic, and yet it really works for us. It helps us jettison the baggage and excess stuff and focus in on the main thing: we want our people inviting people and having those conversations. That’s it.”

O.S. Hawkins, president and CEO of GuideStone Financial Resources, said church-wide health and wellness ministries and initiatives are not only great for congregations and the community overall, they are also beneficial for pastors and church ministry staff.

“Pastors and others in ministry roles are wired to serve others and are more prone to ignore their own needs,” Hawkins said. “When you create an environment that encourages them to care for their own well-being, too, you can’t help but have happier, healthier people. The Bible identifies our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. When we take proper care of our temples, they are more useful in fulfilling the mission God has called us to complete.”

And while God’s mission is certainly more about meeting a person’s spiritual need for Jesus than meeting any physical or recreational needs, building relationships can take time and weekly sports, health and wellness ministries are a great way for God to use his church to help soften hearts toward him.

Terry Coffee, director of recreation for Parkside Baptist Church’s Recreational Outreach Center in Denison, typically works the evening shifts at the ROC and enjoys getting to know the young men who come in to play pick-up basketball. He remembers one particular night several years ago when one of the young men twisted his ankle and needed an ice pack.

“I gave him some ice and sat with him and he said, ‘Mr. Coffee, I’m worried about this election,’” he said. “It kind of came out of nowhere and I was like, ‘Oh, why’s that?’ He said, ‘There’s just a lot at stake, you know?’ I explained to him how I wasn’t worried at all and that the person God ordains is the person God ordains. I showed him Romans 8 and explained that nothing matters more than where we stand with God and how much we need Jesus. I shared the gospel with him on the sidelines that night and afterwards he said, ‘Why have I never heard this before?’ Those are the moments that make it all worth it.” 

TEXAN Correspondent
Kayla Rinker
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