By Stephen Ingram

I don’t do CrossFit.

I’m more of a racquetball then hit the sauna workout kind of guy.

Even though I do not do CrossFit myself, it is not from a lack of effort from many of my friends
who are involved in the highly successful style of workout. I would say that I am asked by these
friends but it feels much more like an evangelism technique.

They really do love CrossFit, I mean really love it.

Before CrossFit I never really heard people talk about their gym/workout experiences with such
vigor and passion. As someone who is interested in things people love I began to inquire more,
and what I found floored me.

Every one of my friends that I talked to would talk about the gym, the workouts, the results, and
the experiences from the circuit training all as benefits of the program. While these were all
listed as factors, two others consistently were named as the primary reasons they loved their
gym and continue to go back: Community and Accountability.

Over and over again the people I interviewed told me that more than anything else, the
community that they experienced among their workout group and the accountability to the
practice and standards kept them coming back.

Each year, working out and getting into shape is at the top of Americans’ new year’s resolutions
list. Also, each year the vast majority of those making health-based resolutions quit in the first
two months. So, what is keeping my CrossFit friends committed and others not? I believe it is
community and accountability.

Each January, churches also see a bump in attendance due to new year’s resolutions. While
spirituality and church are no longer in the top 10 resolutions, millions of people still resolve on
January 1 that they want to get back to their communities of faith. Unfortunately, for most, their
resolutions are no different than others and usually fade by mid February.

What if we began to learn from some of the success of CrossFit and realize that the reason they
stay might not be the same reason that they came? Many will drift into our churches and youth
rooms this January because they want to “get back on the church wagon.” What if we were
intentional about implementing the practices of community and accountability and see if the
results change?

Bring Them Into the Fold- Walking into a church/youth group for the first time in a while is
tough. There are feelings of guilt, awkwardness, and imposter syndrome. Practicing a strong
welcome plan is vital. The last week of this month we will be sending a 5 step plan that outlines
how to create a student-led welcoming ministry in your group!
No One Sits Alone- We developed a policy in our student ministry that no student ever sits
alone. It’s a simple practice with profound ramifications. Our students, especially leadership
students are steeped in this DNA and after a short time it becomes second nature to them. Our
goal is simple, to make sure that when a student is in our ministry they always have a friendly
face and a kind word within arms reach.

Never Assume- We work hard to never assume that a student knows what we are talking about
when we discuss everything from youth group happenings all of the way to our Biblical teaching.
We explain everything. This ensures that our students never feel left out because of a sentence
that starts with, “Well, we all know….”

Follow Up- We follow up with our students when they have missed three weeks of
programming. I have known youth ministers who feel that this is pushy and too forward but we
believe it accomplishes some important goals in our ministry.

  1. It lets our students know that they are missed. Nothing is worse than thinking that you
    are a part of something and matter to a group only to find out that no one notices when you are
    not there.
  2. It is an incredible pastoral care tool. When we follow up with a student and their family
    after missing several weeks we not only show we care but gain some insight into their lives and situations. Jane has missed four weeks in a row and because we practice accountability we might find out that she is in volleyball season right now or we might find out that her parents are going through a divorce. Either way that information is actionable. Volleyball: We can go and cheer her on and ask her about the season. Divorce: We can find ways to be there for her and her family during this trying time. No matter the actionable steps, they all originate from accountability.

This January, as students and families stream back into our services and youth groups, let’s be
intentional in helping make sure they do not trickle back out as easily as they came in.