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LifeWay’s new wellness program entails holistic fitness approach

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–If Christian organizations don’t get into the business of health and fitness, then wellness programs will lack an essential ingredient — God.

“Health and wellness is a major part of our society, and it is an industry that has been taken over by a wave of thinking that does not include God,” said Branda Polk, specialist in health ministry for discipleship at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Polk introduced “Fit 4,” a new Christian wellness plan to state Baptist leaders during annual meetings in Nashville, Tenn., Dec. 1-3. LifeWay is expected to release Fit 4 in June 2000.

Most articles in health and wellness magazines focus on “self, self, self, instead of focusing on our creator,” Polk said.

“LifeWay Christian Resources needs to be in the Christian wellness business because Jesus needs to be there for people to see,” she said.

Polk explained wellness as “wholeness and completeness.”

“Wellness is not the absence of illness. It encompasses a lot more than just physical health,” she said.

She said Fit 4 resources address fitness in four areas of life — heart, soul, mind and strength. In fact, Polk explained, the foundational Scripture for Fit 4 is Mark 12:30-31 in which Jesus says the most important of the commandments is loving God with all one’s heart, soul, mind and strength.

“The heart is our emotions. The soul is our spiritual relationship with God. The mind is our will and mental well being and strength relates to our physical bodies,” she recapped. “Those four areas represent the whole of who we are as human beings.”

Fit 4 is a goal-oriented, educational plan that helps adults avoid the short-term effects of diets while adopting a healthy lifestyle that focuses on the totality of life, she added.

“These biblically based resources emphasize discipleship in every area of our lives.”

Fit 4 advocates a balanced approach to wellness with lifestyle disciplines of upreach (relationship with God), inreach (taking care of the body) and outreach (relationships with other people), she said.

Polk said when LifeWay discipleship employees began discussing a couple of years ago whether they needed to focus on wellness, they decided to ask the opinions of people in the pews.

“We hired an outside research agency to survey churches, and we found the topic of health and wellness really hit a hot button. People were very willing to share ideas and suggestions,” she said.

What they found by talking to churches and individuals, Polk said, is:

— People were looking for resources that were biblically based and had Christ as the foundation.

— They were looking for a whole-person approach. “They weren’t interested in just weight loss as a single issue, but they wanted to address health and wellness as a whole,” Polk said.

— They wanted solid information on exercise, fitness and nutrition from people they could trust and from reliable experts in the field.

— They wanted easy-to-lead resources that were supported with videos. “They didn’t want to put a lot of stress and strain on the person who led it and they wanted it to be easy to train new leaders.”

— They were looking for a plan that was personalized, both to the individual and to the church.

— They wanted information that was current and able to be continually updated, perhaps through technology or the Internet. “New research comes out every day in the sciences of fitness and nutrition.”

— They wanted to be able to use the resource as an evangelistic and outreach tool.

The Fit 4 resources were designed based on this input, she said. They include, for individuals: a nutrition starter kit (a member book, accountability journal, cookbook and insulated lunch kit) and a fitness starter kit (a member book, accountability journal, exercise video and a gym bag); and for leaders: the nutrition and fitness starter kits, a facilitators guide, four class videos and a leadership training video. Four additional studies on emotional, spiritual, mental and physical wellness are available through the Fit 4 plan. All studies include a member book and an accountability journal.

“Each resource highlights one area of wellness and relates that area back to its role in the total, holistic wellness concept to help individuals work toward a balanced lifestyle,” she said.

Questions about Fit 4 can be addressed to Polk by e-mail at: [email protected] or by phone at (615) 251-5613.

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    About the Author

  • Terri Lackey