What CrossFit can teach us about reaching millennials


I joined a gym called “CrossFit” a few years ago. Maybe you’ve heard of it. In 2005, there were 15 locations. By 2015, there were over 10,000. It got so popular that you could start a “box” (lingo for “gym”) in your garage and people would sign up. I literally have friends who paid $100+ a month to go workout in someone’s garage.

Why did it do so well?

When I walked in, I was suddenly part of a group of people who were committed to growing. There were men, women, young, old, fit, flabby, and everyone in-between. People greeted each other with hugs, cheered each other on during the workout, and tracked their growth on a chalkboard to the side.

And I remember having this distinct thought: “Church should be more like this.”

They had created an intimate community.

But even though so many people have jumped on the CrossFit bandwagon in the last few years, the trend has begun to wear off a bit. There is still growth happening… but there are also a lot of locations closing. Like any fad, there’s some normalcy to this, but CrossFit franchise owners are having to adjust to the changing culture.

I was reading an article this week written to these owners who were adjusting to today’s market and they were helping these franchises figure out how to counter declining attendance and membership.

And remember, CrossFit had even appeared in the research put together by two Harvard Divinity School students who analyzed how the next generation was approaching community in different ways. CrossFit was lifted up as an example of a community that was attractive to millennials.

And they’re declining.

It turns out CrossFit franchise owners had gotten used to people just coming through their doors. The name brought people in. And it still does—but not like it once did. As a result, there wasn’t a lot of incentive for these owners to have a plan.

We all do this. When things are going well, we just go with the flow. Most of us, whether CrossFit franchise owners or church leaders, fail to make a strategic plan until we’re being reactionary in response to poor results.

The advice to these owners was essentially “You have to try now.” These owners are having to create marketing plans to reach new people.

So here’s my question for you: What is your plan?

Because here’s the truth. You might be lucky enough to have some millennials walk in your door. But if you want to intentionally reach the next generation… it will take intentional action. It’s easy to throw out advice like “be authentic,” (which is important), but it won’t matter if there are not people that are first being pursued.

CrossFit owners are realizing this, and we need to as well.

Jesus is pretty clear about this. The Message translation of the book of Matthew has an amazing take on the Great Commission:

“Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19ish)



This sounds more like CrossFit than sitting in a pew.

If CrossFit needs a plan, you need a plan. How are you going to help create a community for millennials and gen Z to grow in the ways Christ commanded?

Unfortunately Jesus didn’t leave us a step-by-step guide to fulfilling this Great Commission. We have to be the ones who are innovating and planning the ways in which we are making disciples and students.

So what’s your plan?

Feel free to share in the comments below!