the shape of leadership

Rescuing People, Rebuilding Lives, Restoring Dreams

Four questions with Bryan Sederwall

Influence Magazine on June 20, 2017

Raised as an Assemblies of God preacher’s kid from a small town in Illinois, Bryan Sederwall now serves as the pastor and executive director of the Denver Dream Center, where he is building a faith community amidst addicts, gang members, ex-offenders and the homeless.

Influence: What is the Denver Dream Center, and how did it get started?

Bryan Sederwall: The Denver Dream Center was officially launched in 2014 with a vision to “Rescue People — Rebuild Lives — Restore Dreams.” My wife and I moved to Denver in 2007 and began a process of doing ministry and building relationships in the city. What started with one relationship with a guy I met coming out of prison 10 years ago has now become a massive ministry wrapped around re-entry and work with ex-offenders. The DDC works with about 300 ex-offenders a month.

By reaching the kids, youth and families in Denver, we are helping to break the cycle of incarceration, addiction and homelessness. Our Adopt A Block programs are reaching thousands of kids and families through the largest and poorest housing projects in Denver.

Building trusting relationships with gang members and ex-offenders is not easy. How have you accomplished this?

Consistency has been the greatest value in building relationships with gang members and ex-offenders. I’ve literally spent thousands of hours sitting in correctional facilities, going to court hearings, visiting gang members in the hospital after a shooting, checking on children of incarcerated men, or grinding out hoops any place guys are hanging out. Trust takes a long time to establish, but once it’s created, it gives you credibility and a pathway into people’s lives.

How does an isolated and displaced population find a fit within the faith community?

I believe God creates each of us with a desire for relationship and community. Guys from gangs and those coming out of prison value community. The problem is we try to fit these displaced individuals into our programs and ministries rather than build relationships into their world.

“God creates each of us with a desire for relationship and community.” — Bryan Sederwall

The faith community should be a displaced person’s greatest support system — helping them find jobs and housing, providing care to their kids, wives, and girlfriends, and walking the journey with them as they transition back into society.

Describe a model the faith community can create that will serve the homeless, addicts, gang members and ex-offenders.

Faith communities need to identity concerns in their cities and then establish a cause. In Denver, we saw a huge need to create a wrap-around support system for those re-entering society and to create solutions for kids and families to prevent further high-risk situations.

The greatest opportunity for the faith community is to connect with those already providing services and find ways to add support. Collaboration with these solution providers is key. Identify government programs and agencies, local nonprofits and organizations, businesses and partners, and other faith-based partners.

In Denver, we work closely with the mayor, the police chief, the deputy director of Parks and Recreation, and the staff of Denver Housing Authority. I have coffee or meetings with these key leaders monthly. We also work closely with Denver’s professional sports teams and athletes to run sports camps and clinics.

Faith communities need to develop relationships, be consistent and serve like crazy.

This article originally appeared in the June/July edition of Influence magazine.

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