Keep the Faith


We all need a mission. It guides us as we go about our business. The mission of the national YMCA is “to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.”

However, in the mid 1990s, some Y officials reportedly tried to remove “Christian” from the national Y's mission statement. That effort failed.

Despite this, some of the 2,617 local Ys have created their own mission statements, some of which don't mention “Christian.” A director at a YMCA in Illinois was quoted in an article on this subject in the Tennessean as saying that 30 years ago her Y turned the chapel into a fitness center and removed the painting of Jesus from its lobby.

“The fear is that people will be put off if we identify as Christian,” she was quoted as saying in the newspaper.

Political correctness may be the culprit behind this de-emphasis on religion at the Ys. Perhaps the fact that a non-Christian would walk into a Y not realizing there might be religious messages displayed says a lot to the possibility that some Ys moved away from their original mission long ago.

The idea of losing your mission applies to all fitness facilities. Is every potential member who walks into your facility immediately struck with your facility's mission, which often is reflected in its brand? Do your staff members maintain their focus on the mission so that long-time members continue to feel that their fitness facility is keeping its promise to serve them in the way they expected when they joined? Do your mission statement, brand and focus work together rather than compete with each other? Your mission guides your brand and your focus. Your mission also guides which members you seek.

A consultant once told me that when he asked club owners who their members were, they often said, “everyone.” He shook his head and wondered aloud why few club owners have a truly defined member. Perhaps because they don't know their mission, brand or focus.

Perhaps today's competitive market leads facility owners to believe that the days of appealing to a targeted group is over, but I contend that today's competitive market is exactly why a targeted member group is so necessary. Who wants to compete for the same members with the club down the street? A defined purpose and brand narrows your prospect focus and that can differentiate you from other clubs. However, to know who you are targeting, you must remain true to your purpose.

Some Ys are returning to their roots. The Tennessean article states that the religious focus of Ys was the subject of a workshop at the national Y convention in July, and a movement is afoot in some Ys to incorporate more religious wording in their mission statements and more religion in their facilities and programming.

I have to applaud those Ys for sticking with or returning to their mission because a clear mission and strong brand is what makes for a good organization that serves its members. Whatever your business' focus, here's hoping your mission is just as clear and you resist the urge to stray.

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