North Sydney gets fit
St Thomas’, North Sydney is running a fitness group aimed at encouraging people to keep fit as well as creating connections with non-churchgoing locals.
The idea for the program, called “Cottagefit”, grew out of a similar program run at Sovereign Grace Church Sydney, and is focused simply on creating a space for Christians and non-Christians to work on fitness together, and build connections in a community environment.
“It’s really just general fitness, with the intention of inviting friends who don’t go to church,” says group co-ordinator Palmer Wang. “Everyone does the same thing, we make it so your level of fitness before going in isn’t a much of an issue, and it isn’t a class so much as a a group of people with some leading.
“We saw this working elsewhere, we worked to get it [right for] church premises, and it’s been going for a good year and a half now.”
The group is run three times a week in the church’s cottage hall. Mr Wang says anywhere from 10 to 40 people attend any given session.
“We usually have about 20 per cent or so of that being people who aren’t involved in church at all,” Mr Wang says. “It’s really a stepping stone ministry, not a word ministry as such, but we do aim to make it an environment where people can become familiar with the faces of St Thomas’, so we’re not so foreign to others. The hope is then from there to invite new friends to things like Christianity Explained.
“It’s also ended up being a place where people can just be involved in community, as a complement to the Christian community of church.”
Mr Wang says a key aspect of doing this kind of ministry is to make it a group-run thing, with multiple people involved in organisation, with some basic training or self-education in training and fitness safety. He says it’s also important to be aware of the wide range of fitness levels among those who attend, as well as motivations people may have for joining such a group.
“I think most people who come to the group do so because they want to do fitness in a group, as opposed to trying to do that stuff on their own,” he says.
“It’s mostly local people [who] come to us, and the age range is pretty large – we go up to about 50 or so right down to 18. It’s also a wide range of fitness levels, but I suppose in a way that range and accessibility is what makes the group attractive for people.”