In 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. It was a time when it was difficult to get religiously-oriented papers accepted at secular professional conferences or published in scholarly journals. Finally, in the summer of 1989 about twenty Christian educators and scholars were invited to Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan to share their research on work and leisure. Dr. Glen Van Andel, Professor of Recreation at Calvin College, hosted two more annual conferences (1990, 1991) in what was initially called “The Symposium on Christianity and Leisure.”
The following year the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), a large consortium of Christian colleges and universities from around the world, agreed to host a more comprehensive conference at Northwest Nazarene College in Napa, ID that included the disciplines of physical education, health, and sport. This expanded multi-disciplinary focus became the new template for all future conferences and served as the historical roots for an inclusive society that would be formed some ten years later.
In 1993 the conference returned to Calvin before moving to Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania in 1996 and 1997. 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 College (Ontario, Canada) in 2003; and Baylor University (Texas) in 2004 where the Christian Society for Kinesiology, Leisure and Sport Studies (CSKLS) was officially organized.
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, 2006). Subsequently, another book, Physical education, sports, and wellness: Looking to God as we look at ourselves, was published in 1999 and a third volume, Christianity and Leisure: Issues for the Twenty-first Century was released by Dordt Press in 2017. Over the years the focus of the conference was expanded to include topics on kinesiology, sport, and wellness so that by 1999 the conference was referred to as, “The HPERD Conference on Christianity, Sport, Leisure and Wellness.” A list serve was also initiated in 1997 to better link Christian scholars throughout the year via the internet.
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.
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 election of new officers took place in the spring of 2005 for installation at the annual conference at Azusa Pacific University in June.
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!