Building Community The GYM Takes Fitness Ministry to OKC's Inner City

Kaitlin Franklin

Recent Oklahoma Christian graduates are living out their passion and setting out to work in a troubled community through a project called The GYM.

Payton (14) and Darian (Russell 16) Minzenmayer, TJ Becker (13), Mark Kuneman (13), Steven Langley (14), and Dillon Byrd are developing a physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness ministry in Oklahoma City. 

“The GYM is a non-profit effort in the Oklahoma City area that is seeking to re-envision health,” Payton said. “We’re looking at physical, mental, and spiritual health.”

The GYM will offer affordable workouts, nutrition classes, and tutoring to struggling and underserved people.

The team is currently in the process of finding a permanent facility after launching at a temporary location just south of downtown.

“Fifty percent of the people who are incarcerated or in prison are in the neighborhood just south of us,” Payton said. “We’re next to government housing, and we’re literally right in the middle of a neighborhood that is the heart of this kind of problem. We are seeking to just plant ourselves in the middle and to grow out and to be a gym for the community.”

Payton and Steven graduated from OC in December, but they dreamed up the idea of The GYM during their sophomore year. 

Now their plan is in development, and the OC community is rallying behind the team to make it possible.

“All of it links back to OC,” Payton said. “We’ve talked to multiple professors and people who work here, and OC has been receptive to it. It’s good to have this community to gather around us in this effort.”

The GYM’s future likely will include members of the OC community, particularly current students. The team ultimately plans to hold free sports camps for kids in the area.

“It will be a great way to come out to help,” Payton said. “It would be great to have a community of people who just love to play sports and love kids come down there and help us teach these classes, help kind of keep it organized.”

Payton’s passion for ministry spurred him to pursue a master’s degree in OC’s Graduate School of Theology. 

Josh Bailey (98), the GST program director, said he sees likely success for The GYM and its ministry.

“I’ve seen Payton in action around the Bible and he is definitely equipped to do what he is doing,” Josh said. “I think they have a lot of indicators that say it definitely will be a success.”

Payton said he hopes The GYM will be fully operational by August. He hopes the first year brings significant growth for the ministry.

“The big dream is to be working toward our new building, to establish our own space, to really start setting up a garden, to really start setting up memberships,” Payton said.

The group will launch a campaign to help fund the new building in the coming months. Payton said he and his co-founders welcome anyone interested in giving, volunteering, or joining the team. 

For more information, follow the effort at 

“Anybody can help,” he said. “If you find any spark of interest, you have the ability to help us and you have the ability to make this grow, because we are trying to build a community to help a community.”

Summer 2015

View more stories from the Summer 2015 issue of Vision magazine.