By Brad Bloom, Publisher
“… in the name of Jesus I pray all of these things. Amen.” How do you end your prayers? Do you pray? Where? When? If you were given the opportunity and space to pause and pray before you exercise would you? If you did, would it make a difference — for you and others?
For more than thirty years I’ve visited and exercised at several Y facilities throughout the U.S. Some of them have created space in their buildings for a chapel. The spaces vary in size and features but generally provide a quite and inviting atmosphere with a variety of limited resources to support reflection, meditation, small meetings and conversations.
These chapels, though usually small in comparison to the weight room, cardio suite and pool area, are significant because they should be providing a precedent, a strategic laboratory and ultimately an in-demand/frequently used faith center that fuels the culture of the Y.
They “should be” but they aren’t as well as they could. I say that not as a critical indictment but rather as a realistic estimation that I hope can challenge leaders and members at Y’s to take their asset (the chapel if they have one/ the calling to a Christian mission if they don’t) and BE LIFE to their community.
Today’s fitness businesses do not intentionally provide space or give significance to enabling people to read the Bible, discuss life, fellowship and more intimately interact with each other with an awareness of God’s presence. Today’s Y’s can do that – some are. A chapel can be far more than a sanctuary away from the busyness, noise, and agendas of life. It can be that sacred space where people enter that close contact with God. It is the destination that helps them silence self-will, commit to obedience, and pursue greater things found only in the spiritual realm. The chapel at a Y can be the most transformative space within the organization.
PRECEDENT – STRATEGIC LABORATORY – INFLUENTIAL FAITH CENTER
The precedent exists. Chapels that are established provide evidence that ministry space within Y’s can be and have been done. Faith & Fitness Magazine will be working to better document these chapels. With improved data on these spaces Y’s should be better equipped to get answers to their most fundamental questions about chapels and effectively respond to objections or skepticism. Y’s that want to start a new chapel or grow the ministry of their existing chapel can draw on this precedent.
Already, there are chapels that are examples of being strategic laboratories to test approaches, grow usage and relevance, and better meet the spiritual needs of the community. In the Indianapolis area, at least one chapel has casual sit-on-the-floor Bible studies. It is an example of how the leadership of the Indianapolis association is intentionally open to letting staff and members initiate and lead different ways of using the chapel space. Obviously this leads to greater participation and shifts the chapel from being a secluded, lofty and exclusive place into being a welcoming and frequented common destination where members want to gather.
The opportunity to take chapels to a higher level of influence at a Y is significant. Marketing isn’t a weakness for many Y’s. Many do it quite well. But aggressively marketing the chapel isn’t being done. Signage and Internet presence can be improved. Staff education can be done. Programming can be developed. Resources can be expanded. In general, a rationale can be articulated so that members understand how their spiritual needs can be met and the chapel in turn can become a critical part of the total Y experience and deliverables.
The chapel at a Y can be the most transformative space within the organization.
In my session at the 2015 Redefined Conference at the Athletic Business Show in New Orleans I stated, “A church with a fitness facility in the building or on the campus must not miss the opportunity to encourage members to first go to the alter in the sanctuary and pray before starting a workout.” The sanctuaries are beautiful and dedicated to God. Churches do their fitness facility members a huge disservice when they fail to encourage such regular use of the sanctuary – such consistency in spiritual practice.
What I’m proposing is for your Y’s leadership to make an intentional redirect that can profoundly transform the way your entire Y gets used. Chapels that aren’t just established but then are also frequently celebrated will inspire members to use them regularly. Y chapels that get used consistently will expand your Y’s mission and impact.