For the first time ever, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has an “Active Life” Sunday on its planning calendar.
It all began after 1001 new worshiping community Team Sweaty Sheep was bombarded by churches calling for more information about their activities.
“We were passionate about both participating in [endurance sports] and reaching endurance athletes,” says Sweaty Sheep founder Ryan Althaus. “But congregations wanted ways to get healthy without the extreme endurance component.”
So Team Sweaty Sheep—which brings together the endurance athletic community in Louisville for prayer, devotion, worship and bible study—went to work creating a new ministry resource for the larger church community.
In collaboration with Evangelism and Church Growth ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, Sweaty Sheep sought to create a movement that encourages churches, as God’s people, to move physically, to get active and sweat a little—all in the spirit of mission.
“We wanted to share the joy and energy our community has experienced through our dynamic, holistic worship with as many churches as possible,” says Althaus. “That’s what it’s about—our bodies help us move beyond passive worship to truly experience the divine.”
What they came up with was an idea for Team Sweaty Sheep to train and certify churches in healthy living, play, inclusivity, community involvement, and active faith. The movement is called Active Life Church. Resources, including a handbook on developing an Active Life Congregation, are already available.
“Ryan Althaus and Team Sweaty Sheep have inspired many Presbyterian congregations to find God at the intersection of physical and spiritual well-being,” says 1001 New Worshiping Communities Acting Coordinator Vera White. “What might it mean for people of faith to engage in spiritual practices with the discipline of an endurance athlete?”
Althaus is in the process of moving to Santa Cruz, Calif., this July, where he will serve as development director for an organic community garden belonging to those who live outside: the homeless garden project.
Having just completed a master degree in business from Spaulding University, Althaus plans to couple his nonprofit work in the garden with a chapter launch of a west coast Team Sweaty Sheep in the Presbytery of San Jose, where he hopes to be ordained as a teaching elder.
“I’m excited to take what I learned in seminary, business school and a couple years of bi-vocational work with the 1001 initiative,” says Althaus, “to see what amazing new things we can create.”
“The Homeless Garden project is a perfect compliment to Sweaty Sheep’s work through runPossible in Louisville—where volunteers formed relationships with individuals battling addictions and homelessness, by training together for 5k runs and walks,” he says.
As a kickoff for his move to the west coast Althaus is helping the Redwoods Presbytery with their 2nd annual “Pedal for Protein,” held September 20-26. The 420-mile bike ride along the Northern California coastline benefits local food pantries and has room for 15 more riders.
Althaus is excited for the opportunity to multiply Team Sweaty Sheep. The ministries in Louisville will continue under the guidance of the Mid-Kentucky Presbytery.
“Ultimately I’d love to see Team Sweaty Sheep chapter, in all of our 173 presbyteries,” says Althaus.
“It’s where my energy is. In the newness and excitement of helping churches and presbyteries discover God in dynamic ways, I’ve found fulfillment,” he says. “I’m fully open to ‘gift the ministry’ to any presbytery with a heart to play.”