Pastor Justin Barker of El Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Waxahachie has instituted a new initiative for the members of his church in order to encourage them to become good stewards. The Biggest Giver kicked off with church members participating in their first weigh-in Sunday, Dec. 23.

Barker said the idea to hold something like this came from watching episodes of The Biggest Loser.

“That is one of our favorite programs to watch,” Barker said. “I’m always inspired by the heart and dedication of the people on the show. They endure so much because they are serious about experiencing life-changing results.”

He added that’s the kind of motivation he wants to instill in the people of his church. And he felt like holding something like this around the new year was an even better idea.

“With each new year, people tend to set extreme goals that are often difficult to achieve,” Barker said. “They have the best intentions of reaching those goals, but they usually fail at attaining them.”

Barker believes that one of he main reasons people fail is because they lack accountability. He said with the entire church taking part in the program, he believes people will be able to reach their desired goals.

Every member of the church has been encouraged to participate in the program, including children.

“We not only want this to be a church thing, but a family thing,” he said. “I want to see entire families getting in there and making changes together. It’s important for every member of the family to be healthy. A healthy family is a happy family.”

Although the initial focus is to become healthy individuals physically, Barker is also going to use this to promote spiritual growth in the members.

“We must understand that everything we have belongs to God,” he said. “This includes our bodies. The Bible clearly states that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we must take care of that. But we need to remember that our possessions belong to him as well.”

Barker said the entire concept is to cause the people to become a big giver of themselves by denying their own personal needs.

Latricia Jackson is one of Barker’s members participating in the contest. She said when he introduced the idea she was very excited about it.

“At some point and time we must all realize that we have to get serious about our health,” Jackson stated. “We also need to get serious about our relationship with the Lord. And that’s one of the things I love about our pastor. He has a way of incorporating God in everything that we do.”

Jackson said she is choosing to take advantage of the program because of her own personal struggles with bad health. In addition, she wants to be the one who walks away with the grand prize.

Barker said he established it as a competition to help promote accountability. The contest will run through Feb. 10. At the end of eight weeks everyone will weigh-in. The male and female who lose the most weight will be given a monetary grand prize.

Partnering with the church and assisting members with their weight loss efforts will be Phillip Downs, owner and operator of The Lord’s Gym of Waxahachie. Downs has agreed to provide each member of the church a $15 membership to the gym.

Barker said he encourages church members who’ve not taken advantage of the program to sign up.

Follow Melissa on Facebook.com/MelissaCadeWDL. Contact her at 469-517-1450 or melissa.cade@waxahachietx.com.