All around the Church

Improving a Congregation's Health in Every Corner of the Building

by Stacy Smith and Rachel Davis

From church kitchens to those extra classrooms, there are many way to emphasize health throughout your church facility. This guide offers tips to making your church building a healthy place for all.

THE KITCHEN

  • Even the smallest kitchens can be a teaching kitchen. Have someone who loves to cook teach classes on cooking to any who want to learn. Use the food for church events or a soup kitchen.
  • Rethink the church potluck. Charge to the congregation to eat healthy meals together and to try out healthier recipes.
  • Coffee and donuts every Sunday? Instead (or alongside), offer fresh fruit and veggies. This will help those with allergies, as well as those who need to cut out sugar from their diet.

THE GYM

  • If you have a gym, find ways for every age group to use it—basketball leagues, walking groups, yoga, aerobics classes, lamaze, exercises for the elderly, badminton competitions, chess, ballroom/swing dancing, dodge-ball and even a church tournament weekend. Try to find even one activity for every constituent group in your church, and then encourage them to take part!

THE PARKING LOT

  • Open your parking lot to a small farmers market on Saturdays, so the congregation is encouraged to eat local and healthy food.
  • Buy some sidewalk chalk and have the children write weekly scripture verses on the pavement in your parking lot. This makes that walk back to car a much more enjoyable experience and gets people outside.

OUTSIDE GROUNDS

  • Measure the distance of a walk around your church, listing how many laps is a mile, half-mile, etc. Congregants can then worship and exercise at the same place. Make sure that your sidewalks are in good shape, and organize a monthly clean-up crew to keep the walkways clear and clean.
  • Grow a community garden with congregants to learn more about the earth and fellowship simultaneously!
  • Build a playground –promoting children and families to turn off the TV and play outside!
  • Turn unused space into a volleyball court. This is a fun activity for the youth, or as an Eagle Scout project.

LIBRARY

  • Stock a shelf with books and magazines about healthy living.
  • Provide copies of your favorite CHReader.org articles to your church members.

ON THE WALLS

  • Use other bulletin boards for health awareness, recipes of the month with photocopies for people to take and local health events/centers.
  • Challenge your members to a friendly walking competition and chart their distances on a wall mural.
  • Use our “visual devotionals” to create a space for walking prayer. Print out the devotionals and line a hallway with them. Encourage members to walk and pray alongside each image.

SANCTUARY

  • Find some time for older members to come and walk around the church sanctuary. This is especially important in the wet and colder months when people may not want to get outside. Even providing a small opportunity to get moving will be important – and using the church sanctuary reminds us that we worship God with our whole bodies!
  • Remember to include prayers for health and healing in each worship service. You may also include a special prayers service for healing and wholeness at a different time, or focus one service a month on how we honor God with our bodies.
  • Perform an open service of meditation and breathing exercises for those members who just need a break (Note: make sure there is childcare for mothers – they always need a breather!)
  • Make sure that your sanctuary is welcoming to all who come. Test out your access ramp and make sure that it is safe and maintained.
  • Ensure that you have room in the pews for wheelchairs, and make an effort to ensure that all people can participate in the life of worship – singing in the choir, reading scripture and participating in the sacraments. This might mean moving the choir down from the loft for a Sunday, or creating a special worship opportunity for someone who cannot step into the pulpit.
  • If appropriate in your tradition, make sure that you provide gluten-free communion bread and grape juice as an alternative to wine. People with allergies or addictions will thank you!
  • Don’t forget the dust! Many small corners of our sanctuaries are full of allergens that can impact your members. Encourage regular cleaning of the less-used spaces in the church, especially in the spring when allergies tend to be the worst.

BATHROOMS

  • Provide free information about recovery, abuse or other difficult topics in your bathroom stalls. People may feel more comfortable picking up information when they have some privacy, rather than where others can see them.
  • Make sure there is hand sanitizer in all the bathrooms.

DOORWAYS

  • Designated “safe doors” during icy times so members can walk out with no fear of falls. You might not be able to shovel every sidewalk, but make sure that this one is clear and safe for those entering the church building.
  • Install weather stripping on doors/windows to keep members warm and save on heating costs.
  • Pay attention to the heavy church doors. Install automatic systems to keep heavy wooden doors from closing on children or older folks.

WINDOWS:

  • Check your windows for drafts and have them reinforced — it saves energy and makes it easier to regulate the room temperature.

NURSERY

  • Make sure that your nursery is tested for lead paint and healthy air quality – this is also a good decision for the rest of the church!

THOSE EXTRA CLASSROOMS

  • Become Disaster-Ready! Get a group from your congregation to train with the American Red Cross and use the extra space for storage, keeping things like water, blankets, food, etc.
  • If you have extra space, open the church up to community programs like Weight Watchers, the YMCA, and the American Diabetes Association, encouraging members to attend programs that may apply to them.
  • Create a “safe-space” for nursing mothers. Place a comfy chair and ottoman in a spare room, or have volunteers make some bedding or comfortable blankets. Encourage nursing mothers to take time out with their infants. Not all moms will want to use it, but it can be a helpful respite for moms who don’t always feel comfortable nursing in other areas of the church.

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