By: Svetlana Papazov
A Real Life Story
I believe that if the church embeds itself in the community as the incarnate love of Christ, it will see those waiting to be reached. The majority of the people in our church startup have joined because of faith and entrepreneurship integration. Terry is a freelance photographer who one Sunday came on our property to take pictures of his client. As my husband and I approached him, he thought he would get in trouble because of trespassing. To his surprise, we welcomed him to utilize not just the outside of our property, but the business incubator we had established as well, by doing photoshoots in one of our vacant offices. That deeply impacted him, and Terry and his wife came back to Real Life, this time to church, and there they found a genuine church family that has welcomed them home. Terry’s photography business has also expanded since joining our Real Life church community.
Restoring the Connection
During my years as a small business owner, I had become keenly aware that most of my clients never asked themselves which local church they will go to on Sunday morning. Talking about church and God were conversations that many of them carefully avoided. Since then the desire to find effective ways for the church to reconnect or possibly connect for the first time unchurched people to God has been my ministry goal.
Right before I transitioned from a small business owner to a pastor, during a lengthy session of prayer, I had a vision of something that on the outside looked like businesses but on the inside looked like a church—it was a vision of the marketplace and the church was placed in the middle of it. What God showed me was a confirmation of what I had begun to understand—that whole-life discipleship integrates faith into work and economics. If we separate biblical principles such as creativity, human dignity, and stewardship from the workplace, we set our cities up for failure. Although I had never seen anything like my vision, I knew that God was calling my husband and me to meld church and work, economics and entrepreneurship, in a practical way.
Embedding the Church in the Market Place
In our desire to be embedded in the economy of our city and bridge the sacred and secular divide in a practical way, Real Life Church opened Real Life Center for Entrepreneurial and Leadership Excellence—a business incubator that prepares people for their occupations. The Entrepreneurial Center trains in leadership and entrepreneurship to give unchurched people the opportunity to experience God and faith outside of Sunday as we lift our community economically, socially, and spiritually. We care for our community and contribute to our local economy by guiding people to identify and develop their gifts and skills in order to lead well at their jobs, hire new employees, or start new businesses.
In addition, we do business incubation, offer co-working space and private offices for work, business consulting, networking to identify new job opportunities, educational workshops, and adult and next-generation entrepreneurial training. Most of these functions are facilitated by church volunteers skilled to equip in these various ways.
We have found that developing people’s entrepreneurial skills sets them up for success and unleashes their potential. Having a problem-solving mentality, with a growth-oriented mindset, one can do well anywhere: at home, at school, at work, in government, and in business. For that reason, we have created faith and entrepreneurship programs for kids, teens, and adults. The programs of Real Life KidPreneurs and Real Life TeenPreneurs as summer camps, beyond VBS, and school classroom curricula have been effective in fostering next-generation creativity. The Real Life AdultPreneurs program trains in business and entrepreneurial skills for adults interested in starting their own businesses and also for those affected by the opioid crisis and in at-risk situations. During our Kid, Teen, and AdultPreneurs programs, we have repeatedly discovered and unleashed others ability to dream, create, and contribute.
We thrive to be a church that equips for Monday by fostering the creative streak placed in every image bearer and to help them seek sustainable ways to flourish the communities around them spiritually, socially, and economically.
How are you and your church engaging your community and embedding yourself in the marketplace?
An Excerpt from the book, “Church for Monday” by Dr. Svetlana Papazov.
Svetlana Papazov is Lead Pastor and Founder of Real Life Church, President/Founder of Real Life Center for Entrepreneurial and Leadership Excellence, a first of its kind model of church and business incubator that educates in entrepreneurship, leadership and faith praxis.