Decades-Old Fitness Ministry Still Pumping and Praying

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On Sundays lots of people carry a Bible to church, and in many North American churches it’s not uncommon for people to carry a workout bag another day of the week. At Third Christian Reformed Church in Zeeland, Mich., weekly exercise classes have been connecting faith and fitness for nearly 20 years.

The church’s evangelism director approached church member Sue Gras to bring Body & Soul, a Christian fitness ministry, to the church. Almost two decades later, Gras is still leading women of all ages in cardio fitness, strength building, and faith building classes.

“What makes our ministry unique is that it addresses the desire to keep physically fit, but more importantly, reaches out and offers fellowship and growth in our spiritual lives as well,” Gras said.

Third CRC supports this community-friendly ministry by providing the location for the classes, covering yearly training for Gras, and subsidizing childcare workers to make the classes accessible to mothers with young children. Scholarships are available if the $5 per class fee is prohibitive.

“Over the years Third has offered this program, we have touched the lives of 400 to 600 women,” Gras said. “The ages vary, some as young as teens, some in their 70s, and all [ages] in between.” 

When Body & Soul began at Third CRC, it was the only ministry of its kind in the area. But several new instructors have been generated through those classes, bringing faith-connected fitness to other churches, including Borculo CRC in Zeeland and South Olive CRC, in Holland, Mich.

The programing of Body & Soul changes each season with new music compilations, a different spiritual focus, and updated exercises. “The women make connections with other women and are strengthened in their daily walk, with encouragement to know the love of God,” Gras said.

Body & Soul has ministry partners in more than 12 countries worldwide.

About the Author

Alissa Vernon is the news editor for The Banner.