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d-MinLead-TheDanielWhy thousands of churches follow this roadmap to wellness—and how yours can too

Pastor Dave Barr and his congregation at New Hope Windward Church in Hawaii managed to get their entire congregation of 900 into small groups for The Daniel Plan. The weekend attendance during the campaign exceeded the previous Easter and Christmas services and continues to grow.

The six-week study launched more than 100 groups that began a vibrant small-group ministry. The Daniel Plan series was a huge attraction point in their community, as it was with the initial rally at Saddleback, because it focuses on a huge felt need but ultimately fulfills the deeper needs that we all face.

The Daniel Plan was inspired through Saddleback senior pastor Rick Warren’s vision to provide a practical program for people that would restore their health and prepare them to fulfill God’s purpose for their lives. During an afternoon when he baptized more than 800 people, he came to the conclusion that his congregation was overweight!

He confessed that while he gained only three pounds per year while leading the church, he had also been their pastor for 30 years! He said he needed to improve his health as well.

“With diabetes at epic levels in the U.S. and one in three adults tipping the obesity scale, this is no longer an option but a mandate,” Rick said. “We now have as many people in the world that are battling obesity as we have battling malnutrition.” And the people in churches are no exception.

Rick announced that The Daniel Plan would serve as the platform for the broader Decade of Destiny 10-year vision. He enlisted three world-renowned physicians to help launch the 52-week program and create an unrivaled strategy for success. They are brain expert Dr. Daniel Amen, functional medicine pioneer Dr. Mark Hyman and heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz.

During the kickoff rally in January 2011, Rick and his team anticipated that a few hundred people would sign up. Instead they witnessed an astounding level of interest: 6,000 people participated, and an additional 5,000 joined online. 

The program grew exponentially during the first year. More than 15,000 people representing 190 countries participated, releasing a combined 260,000 pounds.

Beyond the weight loss, the participants reported incredible beneficial side effects ranging from improved energy and better sleep to lowered cholesterol levels and reduction of medications.

The Daniel Plan focuses on a few key elements:

Churchwide 40-Day Campaign. Whether it is a few members of a daytime Bible study or the entire church that participates, doing this together is a key to success. We have a saying that everybody needs a buddy, as lifestyle changes are best made within community.

DVD Small-Group Study. This serves as a catalyst to get started, with teaching from Pastor Rick and practical “next steps” to help move you forward.

Experts and Resources. Our three founding physicians—Drs. Amen, Hyman and Oz—and additional wellness experts provide ongoing online inspiration, instruction and practical tips. The website has hundreds of articles, videos, recipes and fitness tips. Go to danielplan
to see more. 

Whole Person Health. The Daniel Plan is based on five pillars of health: faith, food, fitness, friends and focus. Churches of all shapes and sizes and in every region of the country are introducing The Daniel Plan, many in their existing small groups; others with a churchwide launch.

The Daniel Plan has gained national recognition and has been featured in USA Today and Time magazine and dozens of other magazines and publications, and on TV networks such as ABC and CNN. Pastor Rick has the dream that God would use the local church to be a catalyst for improving health throughout the nation.

An updated version of The Daniel Plan DVD curriculum and churchwide campaign kit are due for release in January. Go to to sign up for our newsletter, which includes practical tips on good health, as well as the latest health news to inspire and motivate you, and your congregation, on your journey to health.

Dee Eastman has a Bachelor of Science in Health Science, with a focus on prevention and long-term lifestyle change, and is an experienced leader and wellness coach. Her health background and passion for transformation are invaluable tools for helping her direct The Daniel Plan at Saddleback Church.

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