Health and Fitness for Pastors

For a seminary student, each day fills up quickly with class, work, homework, writing, study, seminary fellowship, family time, and more. For a pastor, each day fills up quickly with office hours, Bible study, sermon writing, class preparation, shut-in calls, counseling appointments, family time, and more. Isn’t it true that, whatever stage of ministry or ministry preparation you are in, you lose time for personal fitness?

Our own health and wellness remains an important facet of our lives—and it is a gift from God. Have you ever wondered how to prioritize exercise more in your life? Or if you have already taken that step, have you considered how to get the best out of your routine?

On October 26th, 2016, Seminary and Grow in Grace hosted a presentation by Mr. Dwight Sandvold, a former WELS teacher and owner of Fitness and Sports Training of Wisconsin (FAST). Mr. Sandvold has worked with many called workers on maintaining a healthy exercise regimen in the midst of a busy schedule of ministry. His presentation on Fitness and Wellness for the Called Worker stressed the importance of your body and what proper fitness can mean for you as a servant of Christ.

If you would like to watch Mr. Sandvold’s presentation in its entirety, the archived stream is available for viewing. And if you desire to take notes for yourself, the presentation handout is available for download.

Sandvold began the presentation by citing certain Biblical characters as good examples of having healthy lifestyles. Moses practiced physical health, being able to climb Mt.Sinai twice in one day; but he also practiced mental health by learning to take advice and delegate tasks. Daniel made the choice to eat vegetables in Babylon and was blessed for doing so. And even Jesus himself serves as an example for fitness—he walked everywhere (even to Caesarea Philippi, which would have been a distance of over 100 miles), had walking meetings, and even walked away from work to de-stress from time to time.

Everyone knows the basic fact that exercise is healthy, but just knowing that fact may not be enough justification for people to spend the time doing it. Sandvold addressed this with some mathematics, showing that just 3.5 hours of exercise a week for 50 years would equal 9,100 hours of total exercise. If that healthy lifestyle allows us to live and serve for another 5 years, then we just won 10,000 extra hours of service. Not only is there mathematical justification, but practical justification as well: Someone who is in better shape will be able to serve at a greater capacity, working more productively and positively.

Routine and nutrition were the next two points addressed. Getting a parishioner involved in your workout routine gives you extra accountability, and scheduling workouts into your planner allows you to better fit them into your busy day. Getting outside in the early morning is, in Sandvold’s opinion, the best way to solidify a routine. “You won’t have any conflicts at 5:30!” He then reminded the audience about certain nutrition principles—mainly, that we should eat according to our current activity level, not the activity level we had during High School! He even mentioned some ways to tactfully introduce a healthier lifestyle to your congregation (Does every potluck need 15 desserts?).

When Sandvold visited the Seminary campus for this presentation, he also stuck around to provide private consultations to Seminary students, faculty, and wives. Senior Chris Johns said of his session, “What I found most useful was that he actually gave me a direction in which to go for what to do with exercising, and worked through the different exercises with me. Before, I might have been able to claim ignorance as an excuse. I definitely can’t do that anymore.” Middler David Spaude adds, “Dwight is a well-rounded fitness consultant. So when I told him I like to run, but occasionally need to break for hip pain, he knew exactly what to do. Not only did he suggest, but he also showed me exercises and stretches to help with my pain. Now I’ve been utilizing his advice and am feeling better than ever when I run!” Those who consulted with Sandvold appreciated his expertise in the subject and his interest in their personal fitness.