Community Yoga - Karma and Community

August 17, 2020

By: Rev. Meg Gaston

When thinking of what we can do differently to reach our communities, very few people would consider offering a program at a building that isn’t connected with the church at all as an option. West Church, Lake Norman, Mooresville, NC, however, did just that when they launched Community Yoga. This all began when they were brainstorming for their “Fun Friday'' activities. They wanted to offer a different activity every Friday during the summer to get the community involved. Originally yoga was just one of the many activities they offered, but it was so well attended that they decided to make it a regular thing. They went from offering it monthly to now offering it weekly due to the turnout. West Church decided to make Community Yoga a Fresh Expression after Dawn Lynch attended a fresh expressions training.
The church started out by being intentional with what they wanted this to look like and who was involved. Instead of having mostly church members attend, they asked church members not to participate. They did not want the unchurched attendees to be inundated with church people. This may sound like an odd way for a church to do ministry but having too much involvement from the anchor church can often lead to a Fresh Expression or community outreach to turn into just another place church members will go to hang out. West never offered Yoga at the church, because they wanted to be intentional about providing a space where unchurched people would feel comfortable. They started out meeting in the back of a bar, but after scheduling conflicts they decided they needed to find a more solid location. There was a yoga studio that a church member was an instructor at, so they asked the owner if they could rent the space.
Since the yoga community is so based on karma, they have been able to find instructors who will teach the class for free; and they got a great deal with the studio and only pay $25 a week to rent the space. This helped the church’s partnership with the community strengthen. It also helped the yoga studio have more business, as the community members who were new to yoga started wanting to do it more and joined on at the studio. After each yoga session they have a social time. Initially this was going to a restaurant to grab dinner, but they quickly saw that most people would just go home instead of driving somewhere else. Now they offer very light refreshments, like grapes and something to drink.
The community really began to grow during this social hour as people started to open up during that time. The few church members present have been able to form relationships and be the church outside of its usual four walls. From the beginning West Church wanted to make sure those who came to yoga knew there weren't any expectations regarding coming to church; but they also never hid the fact that this was sponsored by the church. Every week West is thanked at the yoga session, and those who attend know if they want to learn more all they need to do is ask. The next goal the vision team has for this Fresh Expression is to offer a moment of prayer after Yoga and before the social time. They want this to be a time the community members can share what they’d like prayer for, but also know that if they aren’t ready there is no pressure. 
If you can find a yoga studio and teacher that would be willing to offer you a deal, a project like this would be great for a church that wants to make a difference in their community but don’t have a large budget to do so. The regulars who come each week took it upon themselves to sign up for bringing snacks. 

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