The Rev. Steve Chiles has a church full of losers — and they just won big.
Chiles and his congregation at Shartel Church of God, 11600 S Western, won first place in the Lose to Serve Fitness Challenge conducted from January to March.
By losing weight together, members of the congregation beat out other Oklahoma City metro-area churches for the grand prize: a new home to give away to a church member. They chose Karissa Smith.
“It’s been a great journey,” Chiles said recently.
“It was always there in the back of your mind: I don’t want to be the one to cause a family not to get a home. I think that was a bigger incentive.”
Cody Bobay, a personal trainer, fitness coach and self-described “fitness evangelist,” and his organization called Lose to Serve issued the challenge to metro-area congregations, urging church members to get fit, get healthy and lose weight.
Chiles said he felt the time was right to take on such a health-focused mission.
“I’m a real firm believer that food addiction and the obesity issue is just one of the issues that the church has avoided because it’s so personal to them,” he said. “And I just felt like this would be a great opportunity if we didn’t do anything else — if we could just help a handful of people at our church get their lives back on track and reclaim their health and literally reclaim their body as a temple of God, it would be a really worthwhile venture for us.”
Getting fit to give back
Members of Shartel Church of God and other participating congregations gathered for the Lose to Serve Church Challenge Celebration event at Westmoore Community Church, the challenge’s second-place winner. The Rev. David Brown, Season 15 runner-up on “The Biggest Loser” reality TV show, shared insights from his successful weight-loss effort with the crowd.
Bobay, 28, said 30 churches participated in the challenge, with seven qualifying to compete for the grand prizes. Also competing for the two top prizes were: Southpointe Church, First Baptist Church of Moore, Discovery Church, Council Road Baptist Church in Bethany and Coffee Creek Baptist Church in Edmond.
Bobay, who attends Council Road Baptist Church, said he thinks the challenge worked well because congregations liked the idea of not only helping themselves by losing weight but also helping a deserving member of their church. He said participants from all of the churches combined lost a total of 4,951 pounds during the weight-loss effort. He said 617 people participated in the effort, with an average weight loss of 7.6 pounds.
“We finished with an 80 percent completion rate ... and that is incredible,” Bobay told the audience at the celebration event.
Participating churches were required to sign up as a group of at least 25 people age 18 or older to be eligible to win the grand prizes of a new house for first place and a four-year scholarship to Mid-America Christian University for second place.
Chiles said 54 members of Shartel Church of God participated in the challenge.
They won the new home by having the highest percentage of weight loss and the fewest dropouts. Bobay said the church lost an average of 11.7 pounds per participant for a total of 635.2 pounds. He said they finished with a 99 percent completion rate.
What the gifts mean
Bobay said the house was donated by 4Corners Homes and is being built in Moore on property provided by Habitat for Humanity.
For the last few weeks, Shartel Church of God Lose to Serve participants, along with Bobay and other Lose to Serve leaders, have been working to complete the home, in the house-building fashion that Habitat for Humanity employs. Bobay said the home is expected to be completed in late July or early August.
Smith, a single mother who survived the May 20, 2013, tornado with her daughter Jessica, told the celebration event audience that receiving the home is life-changing.
“It’s every mom’s dream to be able to provide stability — a home and a place for your children to flourish. With the Lose to Serve home, I get to do that for Jess,” she said.
Westmoore Community Church, as the congregation that came in second, won the Mid-America scholarship. Bryanna Weaver, 18, of Tuttle, was the church member chosen to receive the educational prize.
“I was really excited and kind of relieved,” Weaver said of receiving the scholarship. “It’s really awesome that people would lose so much weight just to help the community. It’s a blessing.”
Coming together to lose
The Rev. Matt Porter, executive pastor at Westmoore Community Church, 12609 S Western, said about 129 people at the church participated in the fitness challenge and together lost about 1,337 pounds. Bobay said the Westmoore participants lost an average of 10.3 pounds per person.
Porter said: “Anytime there’s a goal that people could rally around each other is huge for the body of Christ.”
Porter and Chiles said their church members came together in a variety of ways to encourage one another and stay focused.
Chiles said his church offered a health and wellness class on Wednesday nights. The church also set up a Facebook page so participants could encourage one another and share healthy recipes and exercise tips, he said. Emails and texts were sent to each participant to remind them to weigh in at required times.
Porter said members of his church also met for weekly fitness activities, including some Saturday classes taught by a church member who is a triathlete and personal trainer. He said challenge participants also studied Bobay’s book “Lose 40 lbs in 1 Day” together.
Lose to Serve fitness challenge participants Etheleen Herndon and Michaela Bishop, members of Westmoore Community Church, said the weight-loss contest was worthwhile.
“It was just inspiring,” said Bishop, who lost 59 pounds during the competition.
“I made sure I checked in every week.”
Herndon, who lost 24 pounds in the challenge, shared similar sentiments.
“It makes you feel really good that you’re doing something for someone else,” she said.
Bobay said Lose to Serve will begin promoting the 2015 church weight-loss challenge in August.
Lose to Serve
For more information about Lose to Serve, go to www.losetoserve.org or the organization’s Facebook page. Follow Cody Bobay and Lose to Serve on Twitter @LosetoServe.