Church #11. Meet Bonnie Deroski. In the Lutheran world, Bonnie is what we call bi-vocational. She is employed fulltime as a talent agent and works part-time as the Director of Child and Family Life at Grace Christian Church in Tinton Falls, New Jersey.
Deroski says, “My church has been moving towards a place where generations are starting to connect.” What she means is that church is one of the last places where 5-6 generations gather for a common purpose.
But what normally happens in churches is to silo ourselves. Babies go the nursery, kids in Sunday School, youth to the basement, and adults in worship. The problem with this is that the generations don’t know each other. As people, we are created for community, and with faith, each generation has a gift to contribute. But only if they connect and talk to each other.
One Sunday a couple years ago, Deroski brought the Sunday School kids into worship to observe Holy Communion. It was then that she was struck with an Aha! moment. She thought to herself, “Of course, kids don’t understand church, communion, rituals if theoretically they have never seen it!”
It was then that the walls of concurrent Sunday School and worship came down. Under Deroski’s leadership, they started Vivid Worship. Once a month, people would gather for a pizza dinner, storytelling, discussion, hands-on projects, communion and blessing. This was Grace’s first attempt in connecting the generations.
In the end, Vivid Worship was mainly comprised of families whose schedules didn’t allow them to add one more activity to their calendars. But this moved Deroski into another Aha! moment. She learned that to connect the generations she did not need to create more events. But instead to get everyone on the same page.
What Deroski realized in her Aha! moments were that connecting the generations was about a process not a program. Change that would take baby steps of how to integrate children into the life of the congregation. (Read here for a blog about adaptive change.)
While interviewing her, she seemed bold. “God’s story,” she says, “is best learned together.” In worship is where kids can ask the questions of why do we have Holy Communion? Why do we baptize? Why do we sing songs to God? And now at Grace, it has become the responsibility of all the generations to connect and answer the questions of young souls. Not just their parents.
Why does it matter that the generations connect in worship? Because of what it says in Exodus 12:25-27: When you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this observance. And when your children ask you, ‘What do you mean by this observance?’ you shall say, ‘It is the passover sacrifice to the Lord, for he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt, when he struck down the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” And the people bowed down and worshiped. When kids are not in worship with their families and other generations to ask their questions, to observe and wonder about the faith practices, how can we expect them to learn to appreciate them? It is now that we must be ready together to raise faithful and confident leaders of the church. Aha! This is the task of all generations.
For more information on this story, contact Bonnie Deroski at email@example.com or 732-542-7373.