Home Christian News Near Chicago, a Lutheran Church Finds New Life at the YMCA

Near Chicago, a Lutheran Church Finds New Life at the YMCA

“It means I no longer have to fix treadmills,” said Scott Morris, founder and president of Church Health, with a smile in his voice. Church Health, he said, runs a physical therapy program and used to have equipment of its own. Now it shares equipment with the Y.

Both Church Health and the Y, Morris said, are interested in the health of the people they serve — both in body and soul.

“Being healthy is not about the absence of disease,” said Morris. “It’s ultimately about having more joy in your life, having more love in your life and being driven closer to things greater than we are, which we would call God,” he said.

Partnering with a Y is not for everyone, said Tim Hallman, director of Christian Emphasis for the YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne. It requires trust and a close relationship between the congregation and the Y staff.

When he talks to churches that want to partner with a Y long term, Hallman has one simple question: “Do you love the Y?” He asks a similar question to Y leaders thinking of partnering with a church. If each group isn’t committed to the other’s success, sharing space won’t work.

The partnership at the Good Shepherd YMCA in Rockford was years in the making, said Kamrin Muhammad, the Y’s executive director of college and career readiness.

“We definitely started dating before we got married,” she said.

The church had known for some time they’d need to come up with a plan for the future. They started by sharing space with other groups, including Lutheran Social Services, a Pentecostal congregation and even a model train association.

Eventually, they approached leaders at the Y. The Y was interested in the project, in part because Good Shepherd is right across the street from a middle school and is located in an underserved community. The Y wanted to start an after-school program in the area and began using Good Shepherd’s building in 2020 in hopes that a long-term partnership would develop.

Lemonholm said the partnership has been a godsend for the congregation.

“We have stability and longevity now,” he said. “It has allowed the congregation to start thinking about the future, thinking about our neighbors, thinking about what can we do to share God’s love. I wouldn’t go back.”

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