St John’s Men’s Gym Ministry
St John’s Church in Chelsea was planted in 2006, and a men’s gym ministry was started not long after. The vicar, Andy Mason, and a local believer, Stephen Mensah, noticed that little was being done to engage and reach out to the diverse community, in an area with many social problems including drug use. They also saw that many of the local men really enjoyed lifting weights, and this is where the idea of opening a free gym came from and it has been going ever since.
Based in the church building, looking out onto the piazza, and in the shadows of the seven towers of the World’s End Estate in Chelsea, the gym runs three evenings a week and has between 20-40 men attending regularly. Through ‘pumping iron’, bench-pressing and cardio workouts, the gym’s existence has spread through word of mouth. It now reaches out to a large number of young men on the estate and the surrounding area.
The gym is run by Christians from St John’s Church who also do a workout at the gym. All are welcome to attend, and the only requirements are that the men don’t swear or blaspheme and the music played does not contain explicit lyrics.
The gym serves as a platform for the church to engage with the local community through fitness. Different events happen throughout the year including a summer gym BBQ on the church roof and a Christmas gym dinner – both of which see dozens of men attending. These events are great opportunities for conversations and a short evangelistic message. There is also, currently, once a week, a regular Bible study. In this the guys look at some of the big questions about Jesus and the Bible, while drinking protein shakes.
Community is key on the World’s End Estate, and the gym outreach has allowed friendships to form over the last 10 years, as well as giving opportunities to tell people about Jesus. Many of the men on the estate now feel comfortable stepping inside the church building, and a handful pop along to the Sunday services and other church-based events during the week.
By understanding the environment we live in, listening to our local communities and praying for opportunities, it is amazing how God has been at work. The gym has provided creative and effective evangelistic opportunities and allowed us to be a positive witness to our community. St John’s continues to pray that God might continue to allow them to be salt and light in the years ahead.
Jez Day is currently a Ministry Trainee at St John’s Chelsea. He has previously worked for an MP as well as being a Career Coach with the Charity Resurgo-Spear. Jez lives with his wife Rachel in Battersea and have been attending St John’s for the last 4 years.