Fitness classes open door for evangelism, discipleship at Missouri church

Fitness classes open door for evangelism, discipleship at Missouri church

by
Daniel Sperry for Nazarene News
| 20 Jun 2024
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Holy Barre

A Missouri Church of the Nazarene is opening its doors for evangelism and discipleship through a free fitness class offered to women in the community.

Pastor Denise Anderson started Holy Barre classes at Ferguson Church of the Nazarene last year due to her passion for holistic ministry. She initially wanted to get women from the church involved, but an open invitation for community members to participate free of cost has brought in women who are not involved with the church.

Denise pastors at the Ferguson church alongside her husband, Phil. After arriving as pastor in November, Denise learned about barre classes, which combine Pilates, yoga, and ballet, from a parishioner.

Denise went online to learn more and found Holy Barre, which brings Scripture, worship music, and prayer into the class. She asked the parishioner if she’d be willing to help start a program at the church.

“I asked her if she wanted to get certified and if she wanted to teach classes and offer them free to the community,” Denise said. “She loved the idea, so we got trained.”

The church currently offers two weekly classes, one in the morning and one at night. Due to the demand for the evening class, Denise's team plans to offer back-to-back evening classes.

The class begins with Scripture reading and then transitions into 45 minutes of exercise. Denise exclusively plays Christian music and encourages class members to use it as a time of worship. They close with a time of discussion and prayer.

One of Holy Barre’s selling points is its price point—free. Some Barre studio memberships cost upwards of $180 a month.

Thanks to a grant from the USA/Canada Region’s Blessing our Community initiative, Ferguson Church of the Nazarene can offer the Holy Barre classes at no cost, making them easily accessible for a community with a 24 percent poverty rate—one and a half times the national average.

“When I saw the grant opportunity, I thought, ‘Well, I would love to have all the mats and equipment so that there are no barriers for people to come,’” Denise said.

Many women from the congregation have become regular attendees, and the class has created a place for discipleship and fellowship. Denise noted that many community members have also started attending regularly.

A woman who lives across the street from the church called herself a “heathen” when talking with Denise at her first class. As the woman continued to attend Holy Barre, she became more comfortable during closing prayer and discussion. Eventually, she shared that her husband had cancer.

“She asked if I could pray for him, and she was tearful while I was praying,” Denise said.

That interaction exemplifies what Denise and Ferguson Church of the Nazarene hope to do: connect with community members who are searching for Jesus and a place to belong. Using exercise to accomplish that goal was a no-brainer for Denise.

“I’m exercising every day anyway,” Denise said. “Why not do it with people and have it be an opportunity for them to come into the church?”

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