n the mid to late 1980s a small group of Christian recreation and leisure scholars talked about the need to establish a forum for sharing their scholarly work, especially those points of integration between faith and discipline. It was a time when it was difficult to get religiously-oriented, disciplinary papers accepted at secular professional conferences or published in scholarly journals. Finally, in the summer of 1989 about twenty Christian educators and authors were invited to Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan to share their research on work and leisure. Glen Van Andel (Calvin College) along with Paul Heintzman (University of Ottawa) and Tom Visker (formerly at Dordt College and now at Bethel College, Indiana) were most involved in forming what was initially called “The Symposium on Christianity and Leisure.”
Calvin College hosted the symposium for four years until, with the help of funding from the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), it moved to Northwest Nazarene College in Nampa, Idaho in 1993. The CCCU represents a large consortium of over 100 Christian colleges and universities from around the world and is committed to “advancing the cause of Christ-centered higher education and to help our institutions transform lives by faithfully relating scholarship and service to biblical truth.” The Northwest Nazarene conference played as significant role in expanding the focus from recreation and leisure studies to the whole scope of disciplines represented in our respective departments including health, physical education, recreation, dance, sport and athletics.
The following summer the conference returned to Calvin where it met until 1997 when Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania hosted the conference. Subsequent years included stops at Dordt College (Iowa) in 1998, Calvin College (1999); Westmont College (California) in 2000; Calvin College (2001); Wheaton College (Illinois) in 2002; Redeemer University College (Ontario, Canada) in 2003; Baylor University (Texas) in 2004; Azusa Pacific University (California) in 2005; Gordon College (Massachusetts) in 2006, Trinity International University (Illinois) in 2007, Seattle Pacific University (Washington) in 2008, and University of Ottawa, Canada in 2009, Calvin College in 2010, College of the Ozarks in 2011, and Indiana Wesleyan University in 2012. The 2013 conference will be held at Baylor University. Although the CCCU continued to co-sponsor and promote many of these conferences, unlike the Northwest Nazarene conference, they provided no further financial support.
The conferences produced a number of quality papers that were compiled into an initial book, Christianity and leisure: Issues in a pluralistic society (Dordt Press, 1994) edited by Paul Heintzman, Glen Van Andel, and Tom Visker. Subsequently, another book, Physical education, sports, and wellness: Looking to God as we look at ourselves, was edited by John Byl and Tom Visker and published by Dordt Press in 1999. A third manuscript of selected conference papers is scheduled for publication in 2008. A HPERD list serve was also initiated in 1997 to better link Christian scholars throughout the year via the internet. This list serve is currently housed at Redeemer University College and is maintained by Dr. John Byl.
After nearly fifteen years of hosting successful conferences and publishing several books, there was a strong desire to formalize these professional relationships and establish a scholarly association. Glen Van Andel was asked to coordinate this effort which became officially organized in 2002 when the Articles of Incorporation were registered with the State of Michigan. The official name of the organization, The Christian Society for Kinesiology and Leisure Studies (CSKLS), was a point of much discussion but was finally endorsed because it reflected the scope of disciplines represented by the group without being too wordy. With this incorporation CSKLS also became an official member of the Council of Christian Scholarly Societies, a loose consortium of Christian academic societies that promote faith-based disciplinary study.
A transitional Board of Directors was elected in 2003 to help organize society business including opening a bank account, developing a membership structure, selecting a logo, identifying a slate of candidates and coordinating an election for permanent officers, developing a web site, and coordinating the annual conference. The transitional officers included Glen Van Andel as President (Calvin College) and Tom Visker (Bethel College in Indiana) as Secretary/Treasurer along with Board members Joe Cole (Belhaven College), Chris Milner (Westmont College), Tony Ladd (Wheaton College), Peter Walters (Wheaton College), and Bud Williams (Wheaton College). The first regular election of officers took place in the spring of 2005 with installation at the annual conference at Azusa Pacific University in June 2005.
Throughout its many years of conferences and joint projects, the special bond that has sustained this group of Christian scholars has been the Christ-like spirit and warm fellowship we have shared on so many occasions. We have grown to love and care for each other as sisters and brothers in Christ. Indeed, God has brought us together for such a time as this and we are eternally grateful for His love and grace.
Praise be to God!