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I’ve been going to our local YMCA just about every week day for a few weeks now, and had been going occasionally before that.  On my internship, I made it a point to go the Y in the town were living in pretty regularly too.  It’s been great – I work out, I’m healthier, I’ve dropped some of the extra weight.  I have more energy.  I’ve combined this with eating better (mostly).  I’m seeing results and I’m committed.  This is the whole reason I started going – to be healthier.

I wonder if we could replace the Y with church?

I’m not suggesting that a church become a work out facility.  I’m talking about something much deeper – at the core.

The Y is great for a few reasons.  It’s approachable.  I have never met anyone afraid to go to the Y.  Even the Village People are happy to go to the Y and try to recruit others to go too! (You know you’re going to have YMCA in your head for a while now – sorry about that.)  If you don’t know how to use a piece of equipment, you just ask.  No one shames you for this, they are happy to help – both employees and people working out too.  Does this happen in your church?  Or are people afraid to ask questions?  Who’s doing the helping – only the pastor, or others who are a part of the church too?

The Y is enjoyable – as enjoyable as doing something difficult can be.  Working out isn’t easy – it’s not supposed to be.  It’s work.  Yet, I don’t see anyone there that really doesn’t want to be there.  They aren’t looking to be entertained or to have someone else do the heavy lifting.  People come for their own reasons, they work out, sometimes they get help, they talk with other people there, and they leave.  They are healthier and as a result, when they leave the Y and go back into the regular world, they are better prepared for living in the world.  What if church were like this?  Following Jesus was never meant to be easy (remember that whole pick up your cross and follow me bit).  The reason we go to church is to be fed so we can go back out into the world to live differently.

The Y is relevant – It seems like the Y has no problem letting go of older programs that just don’t make sense any more.  The same goes for equipment and facilities.  I’ve never heard anyone at the Y talk about how their treadmill was being used by someone else, or how one of the machines was moved and how upsetting it was.  I’ve never heard anyone at the Y say that a machine couldn’t be replaced because Mrs. Smith’s great-grandfather had built it (even though it was falling apart).  Do I even need to say more on this in relation to church?  I think you see where I’m going here.

Of course the Y isn’t church and vice versa.  They are different.  But I have to wonder – are there some things that church can learn from the Y?

Things like:

  • Know why you exist as an organization.  The Y knows what it’s purpose is and sticks to it and it works.
  • Commitment.  There are all sorts of people who come to the Y.  Over the course of this week, we’ll start to see those who aren’t all that committed to a New Year’s resolution stop coming.  There won’t be panic at the Y though.  People come, people go.  The Y stays true to who it is and what it is about.  People will come when they are ready.
  • Excellence.  The Y I go to is in an old building.  It’s not the state-of-the-art.  Yet, the Y has great programs and does them well.  Excellence doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune and have the latest, greatest thing.  It means you have a commitment to doing what you do well and you know what your purpose is.
  • Seekers.  People come to the Y to seek something.  Maybe it’s health.  Maybe it’s community.  Maybe it’s just to get out of the house.  Regardless, people are seeking something – they have a hole to fill.  The Y offers them something to fill that hole with.  But again, it does it in a way that makes sense.  The Y doesn’t try to be all things to all people.  It doesn’t over try.
  • People want to work.  People come expecting to do some heavy lifting.  They know it produces results.  Before we get into heavy theology here, (works righteousness vs. grace, etc) keep it simple.  There is an expectation.  People are going to do something, not just sit and be a spectator.  People even pay for the privilege of being active.

Imagine if your church took on these lessons.  What would happen?  Maybe you are in a church that is already like this.  Great.  Share your experience in the comment section.  I look forward to hearing from you.