Health and honoring God go hand in hand. 

In the last three years, Southeast Christian Church has worked to create a culture of physical wellness among its employees. The initiative is about more than trying to manage spiraling health insurance costs.

“There’s also a stewardship side to it,” Organizational Development Pastor Jon Powell said. “Yes, health costs are rising, but we know that we’re blessed as a staff to be able to have great benefits because our elders know that is important. That is only made possible by the folks in our congregation who give to our church, so we want to be the best stewards of that. We want to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves. The other side is we want our staff to be effective in ministry.”

While fitness is one key focus for effective ministry, Powell said it fits into the full framework.

“Wellness fits into the overall strategy of how we want to care for our staff from a holistic standpoint,” Powell said. “Wellness is a piece of a bigger picture of how we are developing our staff in the areas of leadership, counseling, spiritual, doctrine and culture.”

Southeast has about 600 staff members.

In the last couple of years since Southeast started offering a wellness program, roughly 70 to 75 percent are engaged in it.

Benefits Coordinator Penny Gindle­sperger has helped put together different activities, challenges and rewards for Southeast staff to get healthy.

“We started small by offering biometric screenings,” Gindlesperger said. “That turned into having quarterly challenges for the staff to participate in to help their status in Go365 and also be engaged in the wellness program. We’ve done sleep, water and step challenges. They were on teams and competed against each other.”

Humana’s Go365 wellness program helps employees personalize and track activities such as eating habits, workouts and step-counts while earning rewards as they go.

“We try to think of people in all situations,” Gindlesperger said. “In challenges or class offerings, we realize we have a really wide ability and interest level for wellness.”

In 2017 alone, Southeast saved hundreds of thousands of dollars due to staff wellness.

“We don’t want to spend money on health insurance,” Powell said. “I mean nobody wants to really do that. So that’s just more money we can use to reach people for Jesus. That’s the stewardship piece to it.”

One person who’s passionate about health is High School Ministry Resident Andrea Amettis, who is a personal trainer and leads a fitness class for high school girls called “Monday Fun Day.”

“I know my purpose and the calling that God’s put on my life is to make health more of a conversation topic,” Amettis said. “With body image issues, instead of feeling like I have to work out to look a certain way, we should just enjoy the opportunity. The focus needs to be on our faith and that the Lord has given us our bodies as a gift rather than having to restrict or discipline ourselves.”

Time and again, Amettis has seen God use fitness to ignite faith.

“There’s a girl I used to coach volleyball for that’s in high school,” Amettis said. “She hasn’t been plugged into a church and lost her dad last year. Through this class, some girls who go to school with her and are involved in High School Ministry brought her a few weeks ago. She’s getting community around her, and she’s exercising, which is helping her with the depression of losing her dad.”

Southeast is increasingly creating a culture that brings fitness to the forefront.

When Powell transitioned from the Sports & Fitness Ministry to Human Resources, there were no health incentives.

Powell said the HR Ministry is continuing to combat the challenges that come with working at such a large church, and keeping Southeast’s staff healthy is a main priority.

“The demands of ministry are intense,” Powell said. “We’re often so busy serving other people that we neglect our own well-being.”