Milan Bittenbender on How a Health Coaching Business is Creating True "Wellth" for Himself & OthersApr 14, 2023
Pastors have developed many skills for the church which could be transferred into the marketplace. And being able to coach others is definitely one of those skills!
Have you ever wondered how you could leverage your ministry skills into a thriving coaching business? And how coaching around health and wellness could enrich your life and the lives of others?
Today we’ll share how one pastor discovered a renewed calling and passion to lead others toward health and wellness and launched his own profitable coaching business, and how you can too!
Links for Today's Show
- Milan Bittenbender's True Wellth Coaching
- Milan Bittenbender on Facebook
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Introducing Milan Bittenbender of True Wellth Coaching
I’m so glad to have Milan Bittenbender with me on the show today. I’ve known Milan a bit over the years, as we’ve both served as pastors in the Wesleyan Church in the West Michigan area. In fact, 9 years ago or so, Milan planted a church 15 miles from my hometown, and I’ve always been a little envious of him, in the name of Jesus, of course, that he got called to serve in the beautiful city of South Haven, located on the shores of Lake Michigan.
In 2022 Milan transitioned from vocational pastoral ministry, and during a 3-month sabbatical, he decided to focus on his physical health and wellness. He lost 35 pounds in 67 days. Check out his Before (L) and After (R) pictures below!
Through that experience, the Lord has given him a renewed calling and passion to lead others toward health and wellness - body, soul and spirit - which he does through his business, True Wellth Coaching. You'll find him online at www.truewellthcoaching.com.
I’m excited to have Milan on the show today to share his experience, and how he’s been able to create true wealth for himself and his clients. And now let’s get to our conversation with Milan Bittenbender!
Highlights From the Full Interview
How Milan Made the Transition from Pastor to Health Coach
Milan has served in church or parachurch ministry for about 20 years. After 9 years serving as lead pastor in a church he planted, he went through a transition, and took a 3-month sabbatical to figure out what's next.
During that time he began to evaluate various aspects of his life, and he realized that one of the things he wanted to improve was his health. He realized that at age 52, he wasn’t as fit as he had been in his 20’s when he had been so athletic. So he worked out a ton for 5 months and watched what he ate, but he had little to show for it. Then he learned more about a health coaching program his sister and her husband had been doing over the last 7-8 years, while they were also in full-time ministry.
Milan gave their program a try, and in 67 days he lost 35 pounds! But what was also amazing to him was how much energy he felt now too. It basically gave him a whole new lease on life. And others noticed the transformation that took place not just physically but in other areas of his life too, and they wanted to know how he did it.
Through this experience, the Lord has given him a renewed calling and passion to lead others toward health and wellness - body, soul and spirit, which he does through his business, True Wellth Coaching.
What Do You Say When People Think You've "Left the Ministry"?
Milan has lived and ministered in this small town for many years, so people know who is is. There are some awkward moments sometimes when people still think he's pastoring in the church, or wonder when he's getting back into the church.
And sometimes people ask if he’s going to start a new church somewhere else, and he says No, because he feels God is calling him to stay in this community but minister in the context of health coaching. And the Lord has given him some wonderful opportunities to share his faith through that.
Milan runs a support group called Health and Hope, for anyone in his community who wants to take back their health. People come from all walks of life, and they don’t need to be part of his program or use his products.
In his workshops, Milan is up-front about how God made our bodies, and that he intends for us to be well, and that when things get out of whack, God can help restore our health. He's had some great opportunities and open doors to share Christ in other groups that he's been invited to, including a group of unbelievers, where he's been open and honest about his faith and health journey. These are opportunities he may have never had as a "pastor" but he has now as a "health coach." Milan added,
"And one of the really really cool things, Rich, that's been very refreshing for me, is that these people are hungry. When I share the Word they're leaning in. They want to know what the Word says about Jesus. And that's been pretty exciting for me. So I think I'm still a pastor."
What are the pastoral skills that you’ve been able to use in business?
In pastoral ministry, you're working with people. And if you're going to work with people, you've got to have compassion. You've got to be able to sit and listen to people and hear their story. Milan says it's the same for coaches. "As I'm coaching people, if I don't know their story, if I don't understand who I'm coaching, I'm not going to be a very good coach, I've got to have that compassion."
Overcoming the Poverty Mindset for Pastors
Milan has experienced how pastors can sometimes fall into a poverty mindset and have self-limiting beliefs, thinking that they may not be able to live the abundant life that others can. And how the concept of stewardship in the church has often been limited to just money. But stewardship encompasses more than just financial giving.
Milan believes that we should also be good stewards of our bodies, families, gifts, and abilities. Our physical bodies are amazing gifts that we should take care of, and that we should use our time and earning potential to provide for our families and live in a way that shows God's blessings on our lives.
He also believes that being a good steward involves using our resources to help others, but that we must first take care of our own families before we can do so. There is a delicate balance between accumulating wealth and living a generous life, and being a good steward involves finding that balance and using our resources to make a positive impact on the world.
What's Been a Surprise or Blessing in Your Transition from Pastor to Health Coach?
Helping his clients get healthy brings Milan a lot of joy. He mentions a close friend who was facing the prospect of taking insulin for his diabetes for the rest of his life, but decided to try getting healthy instead. Since then, his friend has lost 60 pounds, and his sugar levels and blood pressure have improved.
Milan has over 40 clients, and most of them have experienced similar benefits from getting healthy, including increased energy levels and improved physical conditions. Milan sees his work as a form of discipleship and enjoys being able to help his clients in both physical and spiritual ways.
What’s Something You Wished You Had Known Earlier in Life and Ministry?
In church work, there is sometimes an imbalance between spiritual health and physical health toward the spiritual side. The old adage that you can be "so spiritually minded that you're of no earthly good" comes to mind. So Milan believes it can be easy for pastors to focus too much on the spiritual aspect of a person's life and not treat the whole person.
That's why his company, True Wellth Coaching, focuses on treating the whole person. He says,
"My tagline is health and wellness: body, soul and spirit. And so I think I have a much more holistic approach to loving and serving people now. And I'm very, very concerned about the whole person and that was before, but I kind of felt relegated to you know, okay, let's, let's just unpack the Bible and talk about your spirit..."
Milan believes that by helping people get healthy in all aspects of their lives, including physical, emotional, and financial, it will lead to a more integrated and fulfilling life. Pastors could serve their congregations better by incorporating health and wellness into their ministries. Milan admits that he overlooked the opportunity to serve his congregation in this way and now realizes that he could have helped some people in his congregation who are currently in dire physical straits.
Advice for Pastors Wanting to Create Income Outside the Church?
Milan encourages pastors to find ways to use their unique gifts and passions to help others in practical ways beyond their ministry role in the church. He emphasizes the importance of addressing the whole person, not just the spiritual aspect, and suggests that there is a lot of untapped potential for pastors to serve people inside and outside the church in new and innovative ways.
One of the things that Milan overlooked was his passion for fitness and nutrition when he was younger. He wishes he would have kept that passion going, and used it during his pastoral ministry as a way to serve more people, create more income for his family, and develop redemptive relationships with people who might never come to his church.
Pastors should think outside the box and look for ways to monetize their skills and passions, which could help them earn extra income and address any financial needs they may have related to their church work. Milan is inspired by this quote from Zig Ziglar: "You can get anything in life that you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want."
For pastors who have a passion for health and wellness, starting a health coaching business would be a great way to supplement your income and it would fit well within your ministry schedule.
What Does the Future Look Like for the Role of Pastor?
Milan is frustrated with the corporate mindset that permeates many churches today, and the pressure it puts on pastors to function as CEOs. When pastors need to prioritize organizational structure over loving and shepherding people well, we have a problem. This is why many pastors are experiencing burnout and feel unable to fulfill their calling as a shepherd and pastor. And why many people are leaving the church. Milan believes this corporate mindset is destroying the work of God, and that the church today must recapture the organic, simple, and flexible nature of the first century church.
Milan encourages pastors to align themselves with their life calling and not be limited by the expectations of their church or leadership team. Think outside the box and be willing to have difficult conversations if necessary, to ensure that you can serve God without compromising who God made you to be.
Connecting with Milan
If you're feeling like your health isn't where it needs to be...maybe you want to lose some weight, get in shape, and take better care of your health, Milan would love to connect with you. And if you're looking for a business opportunity, and you're wondering if becoming a health coach might be right for you, he'd love to have that conversation as well. You'll find Milan on Facebook and at www.truewellthcoaching.com.
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