Every Sunday night folks from Grace and St. John Lutheran (Crane Creek) in Tripoli gather to “Run with God”.   It’s an opportunity to support one another as they improve health and fitness, as well as explore the connection between mind and body as a spiritual discipline.

The program was started by Pastor Scott Duffus, who has been serious about aerobic sports for over 30 years.  Having spent most of his career doing interim ministry, he was always interested in connecting his interest in physical activity to church life and was excited to be able to do this in his new regular call to Tripoli.

“I am one of those people who has a hard time quieting my mind.  I know plenty of people who are able to sit quietly, and focus their mental and spiritual energy, read scripture or devotional material and then spend time in quiet reflection,” he notes.

“For me it seems that my heart needs to be beating above 140 BPM–at a steady training pace, and my muscles performing a repeated movement in a steady cadence, for me to be spiritually open.”

The program is loosely based on a national program, “Run for God”, but Pastor Duffus shaped the program to better reflect Lutheran theology.  They begin with a devotional based on The Runner’s Devotional, which includes a bible verse, a story about running and discussion.  Then they set off for a group run/walk.  All ages and levels participate.  The focus is to do a 5k in September.

The Run with God program also has a social media component, with a Facebook group where members encourage one another during the week.

Pastor Duffus also leads a weekly bike ride with a member of a local Baptist church. The group rides together and end with fellowship at the parsonage.  While there is no formal program involved with this activity, it is another opportunity to connect how physical activity connects to faith.

Both activities are open to the community and while there are “non-members” who participate, Pastor Duffus is careful not to use that terminology.  “The thing I see is that both appeal to people who are members but might not attend often, that is true of both the running and biking program,” he observes.

People today are seeking community and connection.

People of faith also seek ways to connect what they hear and do in worship on Sunday with their lives during the rest of the week.  And in our technical world where both work and even leisure lives keep us increasingly indoors and sedentary, we also need

And in our technical world where both work and even leisure lives keep us increasingly indoors and sedentary, we also need motivation to get out and get moving.  The Tripoli Run with God and bike trips fill all those needs.

More and more church leaders and faith communities are going to need to look outside of formal church programs to find ways to help folk make those faith connections to become mentally, physically and spiritually healthier.  This is one approach that’s working in Tripoli.  It may work for you.



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About The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson

The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson has been Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA for the Northeastern Iowa Synod since late 2013. Part of her job description is to help leaders and congregations use social media and other digital means for outreach and mission. She writes and edits this blog as well as runs the social media accounts for the synod.




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