The Zumba Pastor


Post Author: Rev. Krista Zimmerman


I take the stage and feel the music pumping and I’m ready to move! Let’s get this party started! Most people don’t expect their pastor to be dancing salsa, merengue, reggaeton and Bollywood on stage in front of a class. They haven’t met “The Zumba Pastor.”

happy zumba

Three years ago I went to my first Zumba class in the gym next to my very first, grown-up apartment in the town of my first call. I flopped around in the back row feeling like an idiot. Then I was sore for about three days. But I came back for more and more and more. Until I was a Zumbaholic!

Zumba started out as just a fun exercise to do. But then it turned into more. One of my parishioners had a friend who was teaching Zumba in her basement and was looking for a bigger space to teach in. I instantly said yes to using our fellowship hall! Before we knew it, there were fifty people in class every Thursday night! It was amazing! People were having fun, getting healthy and losing weight – and so was I!

Months went by. Soon Theresa and Amie, our instructors, and I were chatting after class as we normally did. They said to me, “Krista have you ever thought about getting certified to be a Zumba instructor yourself?” Had I thought about it?! YES! In fact I found myself getting sidetracked from sermon prep to watch Zumba videos on youtube! It was like so many ministry call stories I had heard before, just replace pastor with Zumba Instructor. It felt like a calling.

In December of 2012, I got certified. My friends let me lead songs in their classes. Theresa always introduced me at the beginning of each class as the pastor of the church and as a Zumba instructor. It really opened a lot of doors. People started coming up to me after class and saying, “YOU are the pastor? That’s so cool!” Or they would ask for advice or a prayer. Several of my parishioners also started coming to the class. It was another great opportunity to connect with them. There’s nothing like sweating it out with the same people you sat in the stressful council meeting with the night before!

Our classes got so big that we actually needed to move out of the church! We got an offer to come to a local community-based gym that was looking to offer Zumba classes. Now we’re teaching in an old furniture store turned gym. It’s privately owned and run by a Christian man who also wants to see change on our side of the city – the “bad” side. It’s the same side of the city my church is on. We are making positive connections between the church, the gym and the community. I think God has really blessed me with this opportunity to be part of the change, to help individuals be whole in mind, body and spirit in a depressed part of the city.

Zumba has done so much for me. It started as simply my self-care. Now, not only has it turned into a part of my ministry, it’s also introduced me to friends outside the church which is huge and hard for us pastor types to do! I now am asked to do Zumba in the local Lutheran school gym classes, women’s retreats and synod functions. Thank God for Zumba!


Rev. Krista Zimmerman is the pastor of United Lutheran Church in Rockford, IL. She graduated from The Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. When she’s not being a pastor or doing Zumba, she enjoys cuddling with her dachshund, Herman.

Image by: Krista Zimmerman
Used with permission
8 replies
  1. Sarah KG
    Sarah KG says:

    I love this story so much! Been thinking how I’ve kind of lost the personal hobby part of myself, and LOVE how you’ve integrated so many parts of yourself. Very inspiring!

    Reply
  2. Rebecca Littlejohn
    Rebecca Littlejohn says:

    This is marvelous! I’ve been doing Zumba for about four years now and I’ve toyed with becoming an instructor but haven’t. I’m so glad to know you’re in Rockford. I live in San Diego, but my dad’s in Belvidere so I’ll try to check out your class next time I’m there. Enjoy!

    Reply
    • Krista
      Krista says:

      YES! That would be awesome! You are more than welcome to join us at Fight College Inc (located on the Northwest side of Rockford at N Main and Auburn)

      Reply
  3. Andria
    Andria says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this! I got certified as a Zumba instructor this last June and have been teaching at a local gym for fun, but also did Zumba at our church recently for an Episcopal Church Women wellness event. I’d love to know more about how you handle some of the logistics (waivers, insurance, etc) and if you have any recommendations for opening it up to the larger community. Definitely something I would like to do.

    Reply
    • Krista
      Krista says:

      Hey Andria! That’s awesome! I knew there had to be some other ZumbaPastors out there! Sounds like you are doing some awesome things with Zumba in your community already! When we were at the church, we had waivers to cover the instructors and the church. They were reviewed by a lawyer just to be safe. Also, I checked with our church’s insurance policy and we were covered under them too. Some instructors get group fitness insurance for themselves too which I’m pretty sure you can get a discount through being a ZIN. As far as opening it up to the larger community, when we were at the church, we advertised it on our outdoor sign, newsletter, website, facebook page. But honestly the best advertising was word of mouth! Every once in a while we would do a promotion too, like bring a friend and you both get in free or buy one get one free. People seemed to like those too! Good luck and go girl!!!

      Reply
      • Andria
        Andria says:

        Thanks, Krista! That’s really helpful info. I’m in Downers Grove (Chicago suburb) but if I am in Rockford I will look y’all up at the Fight College location you mentioned.

        Reply
        • Krista
          Krista says:

          No way! I did my CPE in Downers Grove and my parents live in Naperville! Small world! Would love to come to one of your classes sometime too!:)

          Reply

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