In this episode of We Are Vineyard, Jay chats with Geno Olison about growing up as the son of church planters in the south side of Chicago, being raised in an exclusively Black community, and how he was formed by his involvement in church as a young boy. Geno shares how the Lord protected him from a lot of things his neighborhood offered, the culture shock he experienced after joining a small group with white kids at college, and his journey of trying to find himself as an adult while not losing himself as a Black man in a predominately white space. They discuss what it’s like to attend a church where the table has not been set with you in mind, the ways he found to meet his cultural needs while attending the Vineyard, and why he decided to stay even though it was often painful. Finally, Geno shares about how his expectations of church planting compared to reality, and why he’s hopeful about Vineyard USA’s Black Pastors and Leaders Association.
Geno Olison is the leader of the Black Pastors and Leaders Association for Vineyard USA and lead pastor of the South Suburban Vineyard Church just outside of Chicago.
Geno grew up on the south side of Chicago, Illinois, where he came to faith in the Full Gospel church founded by his parents. In 1999, he moved to Urbana, Illinois to attend the University of Illinois and began attending the Vineyard Church of Central Illinois in 2001.
After graduating from the University of Illinois with a B.A. in Communications, Geno worked in the TV news business and spent several years in sales and marketing while attending and serving at the Vineyard Church of Central Illinois. Sensing a call to plant a multicultural, multi-ethnic Vineyard, Geno and his wife, Shannon, began the process of preparing to plant a church, serving in various roles and positions at church, attending trainings, and building an intentionally diverse team.
The South Suburban Vineyard Church officially landed in the south suburbs of Chicago in June 2009. Since that time, the church has become a picture of the vision given to Geno and Shannon – a beautiful, multicultural expression of a Vineyard church. He desires to help other pastors, leaders, and church communities see the value and importance of being a diverse church on mission.
Geno has served on the Vineyard USA Executive Team and has worked with teams of talented people to create the Better Together conference which focuses on race, reconciliation, and the multiethnic church. As a musician, producer and songwriter, Geno’s worked with Vineyard Worship to develop Vineyard Soul, a multi-cultural, gospel-leaning expression of worship music in the Vineyard.
Geno’s most important role, though, is parenting his four awesome boys and husband to his wife, Shannon.
Vineyard USA’s 2023 National Conference “Making All Things New”
South Suburban Vineyard Church
Insider Outsider by Bryan Loritts
Black Pastors and Leaders Association