by Glen Averill
Business men and women are gathering at a beautiful hotel for a luncheon. In the crowd, you will see the faces of CEOs, accountants, lawyers, doctors, company vice presidents, small business owners, and more. These men and women have a unique enthusiasm as they gather together. They are not going to discuss the latest stock reports. They are not focusing on profits and losses. They are not discussing new tax burdens, or benefits packages for employees. No, these people are excited because they are going to spend some time learning about how to authentically reflect Christ in the business world. They are encouraging one another, listening to each other with an open heart, and they are about to hear a fellow business professional talk about how God’s Word and Christian faith have impacted his business and personal life.
What's happening here?
This is a monthly luncheon meeting of Real Life Downtown in Kansas City, MO. Real Life Downtown is a collaborative effort between The Navigators and New Life Ministries, an urban church. It formally began in April of 2008.
According to co-founder, David Wooddell, Real Life's purpose is to help Kansas City professionals integrate their professional and spiritual lives. Wooddell is also the leader of Marketplace Ministries for The Navigators in the KC Metro Area.
The first Tuesday of each month, a respected business leader from the downtown area shares his/her testimony of how faith and business really can work together. For example, the speaker for March 2 will be Drew Hiss, former president and founder of Checkdate Solutions, an outsourced provider of payroll and HR services. He will share his many challenges in the area of real faith and real life. In the past, business leaders have testified about how straying from biblical principles has led to heartache and misery, and even business failures.
Wooddell explained that the format is interactive but the noon to 1 p.m. time slot is respected because those attending are leaders who have busy schedules. The first 15 minutes are spent connecting. Then the speaker shares for 20 minutes. Those attending then split up into table discussions with a table leader to keep them on topic. The speaker returns to the podium and closes.
The Real Life Downtown idea was conceived by Wooddell and three other men, Dave Gras, Pastor Troy Campbell, and Tony Totta. Gras is The Navigators Metro leader in the KC Metro. The Real Life ministry is thriving and there are plans to start another faith-based business luncheon on the Kansas side of the Kansas City metro area. Wooddell said these men were the initiators of the ministry, but a lot of other people have been instrumental in making it a reality.
He said of the Real Life mission:
"We exist to attract business people in the Kansas City marketplace to Jesus Christ; help them grow spiritually to be like Him, and then reproduce spiritual generations of laborers in the marketplace."
That mission is becoming reality, Wooddell added, because the ministry has spun off into five weekly workplace Bible studies in the downtown area. One of those workplace studies is at Hallmark Cards, one of Kansas City's oldest companies. This group was promoted by Dee Chapin, an executive administrator who is on the "inside" at Hallmark. Chapin began attending the monthly Real Life luncheons and requested that a workplace study take place weekly at Hallmark. Wooddell said this is exactly what he and the other founders wanted to see happen—business "insiders" carrying the Gospel message back to their workplaces.
Wooddell himself spent 40 years in the corporate world as a business leader. He's been with The Navigators since 2007. "I really feel God has called me to work with the marketplace this way, to help business leaders integrate their faith into their personal and professional lives."
Real Life Downtown is just one aspect of Wooddell's marketplace ministry projects in KC. He and his wife Dinah are involved in a lot of one on one discipleship, and he leads the Chief Executive Roundtable, a monthly accountability forum for key business leaders.
He explained that Real Life Downtown is such a key part of marketplace ministry in Kansas City because it fits in so well with The Navigators Metro vision that says:
"Spiritual generations of laborers are working together among diverse groups in the KC Metro. The Gospel is advancing among the lost and disciple-making is becoming a lifestyle. Lives, families, communities and workplaces are being transformed."
For more information on this ministry, contact David Wooddell at 913-669-2896, or email him. You can also visit the ministry web site at www.reallifedowntown.org. You can also donate to the Kansas City Metro Mission here.