By Sylvia Small

Swimming instructor Bahama Lynch teaches 4-year-old Lyla Belle Nelson to swim at Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church’s Family Life Center.

Some churches offer more than places to exercise the spirit.

They offer ways to work out the body, too.

The Family Life Center at Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church, The Gym at Peachtree Presbyterian Church and the Sports & Fitness Centers at Dunwoody Baptist Church offer alternatives to the traditional for-profit fitness center. All take the holistic approach by ministering to the body, mind and spirit.

“We consider ourselves a mission portion of the church,” said Faith Giebel, director of sports at the Dunwoody Baptist Church Sports Center at 1445 Mount Vernon Road. “We provide people of all ages an opportunity to build or grow their relationship with Christ in a positive, supportive and fun environment.”

None of the facilities require church membership to take advantage of their recreation or fitness programs.

In fact, they say community participants outnumber church members at each of the gyms.

Patricia White, who attends the Cathedral of Christ the King, has been going to Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist’s Family Life Center for about eight years. She said a woman who lived in her condominium building introduced her to the facility.

“I enjoy the camaraderie of the women,” White said. “I can’t wait to come here!”

Jim Peterman, a resident of Dunwoody, has frequented the Family Life Center at 2715 Peachtree Road since 2005. He learned about it years ago when he worked at the Peachtree Palisades building.

Constructed at a cost of $6 million, the 70,000-square-foot facility opened in February 1990. It operates Monday through Friday and is staffed by five full-time employees, three part-time employees and about 30 volunteers.

“It has everything I want, including pretty girls,” Peterman said.

Membership coordinator Mary Ann Hall says the center has approximately 1,700 active members. About half are senior adults, she said. Only about 300 are church members.

Hall, who has worked at the center more than 20 years, said water and land aerobics are the two most popular adult programs. Children’s activities include Abrakadoodle, which is an art enrichment program; pre-ballet classes; golf instruction; and a tennis program.

The center offers a regulation-size basketball court, an in-ground volleyball system, an indoor track, a fully-equipped cardio center, two full-size racquetball courts and a weight room. A sauna and a steam room are available in the men’s and women’s locker rooms.

“People who use the Family Life Center are provided with opportunities to grow physically, mentally, socially and spiritually,” Hall said.

The Gym at Peachtree Presbyterian Church, located at 3434 Roswell Road, will celebrate its 12th anniversary this summer. The roughly 60,000-square-foot building is open daily. There are 10 full-time employees and six part-time employees.

“Our mission is to provide for the physical and spiritual nurturing of the people who participate in our programs,” said Sales and Marketing Director Jan Smith. “The Gym is an integral part of the total ministry of this church.”

Smith estimates only 25 percent of the people who use the facility are church members. She said participants range in age from the early 20s to the 80s.

The group fitness classes are very popular, according to Smith. They are designed to burn calories and help maintain weight loss, to build lean muscle and strengthen bones, and to promote flexibility and balance.

Children’s birthday parties are also a hot ticket, according to Steven Nelson, a Kennesaw State University student who works at The Gym.

During the parties, kids ages two and older receive an hour of instruction in activities such as basketball, dance, gymnastics or inline skating. Then, it’s off to the party room for 30 minutes of cake and ice cream.