Redeemer Covenant Church pastor represents community in Los Angeles

2012-01 BP in LA-1 cropSteve Larson, pastor of Redeemer Covenant Church in Brooklyn Park, MN, was part of a five-member team of elected officials, civic leaders and businesspersons representing the city and making a presentation during the Community Engagement Leadership Institute, Jan. 9-14, in Los Angeles. The city’s invitation for Larson’s participation in this event is a sign of the noteworthy role Redeemer Covenant Church has in serving its community.

“One of the five ‘best practices of effective evangelistic churches’ is ‘community connection and credibility.’ The church must develop a theology of the city that sees the church as an agent of change for the good of the community (Jer. 29: 7),” said Jon Kramka, director of congregational vitality for the Northwest Conference. “We should always ask ourselves the question: ‘How can we bless our community?’ Redeemer is a wonderful example of a church living this out!”

During the annual conference sponsored by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, Larson presented tangible ways that communities, school districts and agencies can begin partnering together to help children and their families. Brooklyn Park Police Chief Michael Davis, another team member, shared that the work in his city could not be happening without a commitment of all stakeholders, and the church has been a significant part of that work.

Within a relatively short time, Brooklyn Park, a northwest suburb of Minneapolis, has become one of the most diverse communities in America. One in three children now live under the poverty line. However, also within a short time, the crime rate has dropped significantly. This has been attributed to the city’s Community Engagement Initiative.

Larson explained, “The Go BP (Brooklyn Park) Coalition has been working to bring about renewal in our city through engaging all residents in the process of change, which was an initiative started by our former mayor Steve Lampi. (Lampi died of cancer last year, but the initiative is carried on by the people of the community.) Brooklyn Park was one of six U.S. cities chosen by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation to send a team of people to Los Angeles for the Community Engagement Leadership Institute to share the process we have been following. I was asked to go with the team from Brooklyn Park because of the significant role the faith community has had in the process and the work that I lead to connect the churches to the community.”

A large part of the strength in the community’s fabric is the collaboration of the faith community and the places where churches step in to serve. This is an outgrowth of Larson’s leadership of the Brooklyn Area Ministers Association (BAMA). This past year, BAMA mobilized resources with the churches, school districts, the county, and the area communities to begin addressing the rising homeless population in Brooklyn Park.

The W. K. Kellogg Foundation has founded the national program to be modeled on Los Angeles’ Empowerment Congress, which was started in 1992 following unrest in the 2nd District of Los Angeles County. The foundation’s mission statement explains that it “supports children, families, and communities as they strengthen and create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success as individuals and as contributors to the larger community and society.”