Group Class Best Class
I was recently listening to an episode of The Best Hour of Their Day and the episode was called “Make Group Class Cool Again” and it was such a great episode. The episode talked about how CrossFit thrives on virtuosity–doing the common uncommonly well–and for CrossFit, that’s the group class. The group class dynamic at a standard (whatever that is) CrossFit box, is what is attraction about CrossFit. One of the biggest takeaways for me from the episode was when the hosts were describing why people come into their box. The hosts, Jay and Fern, said something to the effect of “nobody is walking into your box saying hey I just heard about this thing called double under. is this one of those places I can get one?‘ instead, they’re walking into your box saying ‘hey, my buddy has been having a great time and they’ve lost 10 pounds or I heard this class was fun.'” This is so true! I didn’t get into CrossFit so I could learn how to do double unders or muscle ups (spoiler alert: three years later and I’m still not close). I got into CrossFit because I love being around people, I love watching people do their best, and I love watching people take care of themselves. I love watching my friends come in after having a shitty morning or a terrible day at work and absolutely crushing a workout. I love being with someone who goes for that PR lift, fails, and then walks away smiling because they tried really hard. I love seeing families worry about generational health instead of generational wealth as they bring their children into the box for a workout. But none of this would be cool, no one would think this is fun if all of the emphasis at the box was only on one person or if all of your workouts were solos.
Similarly in the church, I think we need to remember that we can do all the personal devotions, have all of the one on one mentorships, but the reality is life with Christ is not meant to be done solo; it’s meant to be done in a group, in community, with others. Is having an individual relationship with Christ important? Absolutely. Just like having a personal trainer for CrossFit can also be important. However, it’s not meant to be the main way of forming yourself. It’s the group classes–Sunday schools, Bible Studies, Youth groups, Parenting Classes–where we learn more about who Jesus was, who Jesus is, and who Jesus is going to be. In fact, the group-ness of life with Christ was so important to Jesus, in Mark 6 we see him sending out his twelve disciples not as twelve individuals sent to get rid of evil spirits, but in pairs of two as co-laborers and partners in ministry.
So how can we make our CrossFit group classes or our church ministries cool again? Here are a few helpful suggestions that I’ve taken from the BHOTD guys and sprinkled in some nuggets from my few years of pastoral ministry:
- It’s not about you: The biggest hurdle to making group dynamics fun or making classes cool is to realize that it’s not about you. You are the conduit to making the class fun. Your attitude going into the class determines the amount of fun and the energy level of that class. Having a shitty day? Take a deep breath at the door and leave it there because your athletes at the gym are probably also having a bad day, but they deserve your best as a coach. Likewise, your small group or youth ministry deserves your best too. I’ve had to show up to church and lead sessions or preach on days where I felt so far from God, or on days where life gave me a giant kick to the chin. But for 90 minutes, my students and congregants got the best 90 minutes I could give them.
- Ask one more question: You know what really stops people from coming back to your class or church? Not being noticed and not feeling like you care for them. Take the time to get to know your members because chances are they’re cool as hell. Don’t stop at ‘how is everyone feeling today?’ make sure you interact with your athletes and ask them one more question. “Hey, Eden, how was your trip to Tulsa? Your pictures looked awesome!” or “Heard you had an awesome time going to the river this weekend. Have you always done that or is that something new you do as a family?” “How was re-opening the restaurant this past week? I know you were a bit anxious about that.”
Get. to. know. your. people. When you get to know your people, you can better learn what motivates them and what drives them to be the best they can be, and when you know that you can push them in that direction.
- Remember Your Why: what you’re doing is significantly less important than why you’re dong it. Always. In the different churches I have served I have heard ‘we always do (x)’ so many times I don’t think my eyes could roll back any further in my head. If your ‘why’ is because ‘we have always done this’ then it’s a pretty poor reason to do something. People walking into your box, or people walking into your church, are going to ask “why do we do (x)?”. Why do we do a movement warm-up if we’ve already done a dynamic warm-up? (Because the dynamic warm-up is to get your body used to moving, the movement warm-up is getting your body used to the specific movements used in the workout.) Why do we do trunk-or-treat? (because we want to provide a safe environment for the neighborhood children and their families to experience the church and the love of Jesus in a non-threatening, and fun, way.) The why you are doing something is always way more important than the what you’re doing. never forget why you are doing it.
- Care: I think this one speaks for itself, but you’d be surprised how this one falls to the back. As you’re coaching your class, genuinely care for your athletes. Are they completing the movement safely? If not, stop them! Care about their well being. Are they going through a rough breakup or maybe a death in their family? Let them know you care for them. Maybe this looks like giving some extra encouragement. Maybe it’s adjusting the workout so that they can complete it and not feel discouraged by being time capped. In your church, care for your students or congregants. To do that well, you have to go through the other three steps listed above and actually know your people. When you get to know your people, and not superficially, you start to care for them. You care whether they PR their front squat, you care that they have lost 3lbs, you care that they are able to move better and play with heir grandchildren. You care when your student gets accepted into their college of choice, you care when the elderly congregant talks to you about her new flower garden, you care when the man in the pew buys a new tractor and spends weeks fixing it to get it to run. YOU CARE.
The long short of this whole post is this threefold: First, you have to set the tone for the class. You’re a thermostat, not a thermometer. You set the temperature, not just tell what it is. Second, if you don’t buy what you’re selling, the others in the group won’t either. You have to take your class so fun that you’re sad you’re not in the class. Third, don’t be an ass and get to know your people. Show them you care. Without the people (athletes or congregants) you’d be out of a job, and life would be less fun.