1. What makes VSF what it is?
Our motto is Knowing God together in honesty and love. The group began out of a desire to be honest about what transpires in our lives, yet believing one could still know God. We also believe that the community of God's people (by this, we mean more than simply Sunday mornings) is the best place for this to happen. Community that is honest and hungry becomes the context in which we work out our understanding of who God is and who we are in relation not only to Him but also to one another.
It is our desire as a group to follow the Holy Spirit's leading, allowing as best we can the wind of God's Spirit to blow in whatever direction He desires. For various reasons, we tend to minimize structure, allowing for what is necessary to function in an orderly fashion.
2. What is the makeup of the group and how is it structured?
Somebody once said that Valley Springs is a big small group. The group numbers somewhere around 125 adults and 50+ children/young people. The age range runs from early twenties to those in their seventies, the majority of which are 40-50 years of age. While age is a factor in who people sometimes associate with, the more defining characteristic is a hunger to know God and an honesty with what is true in our lives that transcends age. We are an independent church with people coming from numerous faith backgrounds.
The structure of the church might be described as decentralized. We formally meet one time a week: Sunday morning. Because of this, time is less of a factor. Our Sunday mornings involve a pre-service for adults and Sunday School for our children and youth. Immediately after Pre-Service is our worship celebration lasting in the neighborhood of an hour and a half.
It was our desire from the beginning not to allow the structure of the church to absorb the majority of our energy. We understand the importance of coming together to worship our God and reorient ourselves to what matters. But equally important is the notion of living in the world as God's people. Other activities do occur on a regular basis, some formal and some informal and occasional: Bible studies, small groups, breakfast meetings, special events, retreats, and church activities for the group as a whole.
3. How does one become a part of the life of VSF?
Because we only meet one time, assimilating into the community of VSF is sometimes difficult for people. Occasionally, we offer formal opportunities for people to come and get to know others. Various church activities typcally occur quarterly, which allow people an alternative way to meet. While effort is made to bridge the gap, we acknowledge that becoming a part of the life of the church takes time and effort on the part of both parties. Our hope is that if you sense something here that attracts you, you will be willing to give it some time and eventually feel a part of our life together.
4. It seems VSF has very few programs. Why is that?
Again, this goes back to our philosophy about how we choose to "do" church. We tend to create only enough structure to be able to accomplish the things we deem important. We do not wish to rob people of their energy to live and be involved in their communities. We also do not wish to narrow the definition of ministry to the activity that happens within the walls of our building. Those programs that do arise often happen because of a need or out of someone's vision. These occasions are encouraged and also allowed to run their course without becoming a static event.
5. What about missions and outreach?
Our approach to missions comes out of a larger understanding that we are already a participant in God's mission. Beyond financial support alone, our desire is to be part of what God is doing locally as well as around the world. God has, throughout our history, given us some unique opportunities to be personally involved with several people who are nationals. We do not have a budgeted category for missions, preferring instead to support these individual situations as they are presented to us and for us as long as God would have us involved. Typically, they have had a beginning and an ending, whether that be one year or ten years.
It has been our privilege to send teams of individuals to places like Mali, West Africa, Germany and Milwaukee. We presently support individuals with whom we have personal connection as well as ministries that God has put on our hearts.
As for our individual responsibility, we prefer the word "mission." It is the mission of each individual member to be involved in the world, reflecting the character of our God in how we care for the world and other people. This starts in the areas in which we live and work, and branching out as God leads. As we each eagerly and honestly seek after the Lord, we will have natural opportunities to communicate the heart of God. We encourage this by the way we live, work, and play without necessarily making it a recognizable program.
6. How does membership work at VSF?
Included within this website is a page outlining our understanding of membership. Membership is an annual event, occurring in the month of January (though one can sign up throughout the year). We ask people each year to consider their commitment to this group of people. To be a member involves signing the membership roster. Before doing so, however, we ask each person to be in agreement with our Statement of Belief, to participate meaningfully in the life of the Fellowship with one's time, energy and financial support, and to be willing to submit oneself to the discipline of this church. By discipline, we imply a meaningful involvement of one's life and heart with the people of the fellowship such that our lives and hearts are challenged and encouraged in our pursuit of God.
7. What about children's ministries?
We offer a Sunday School time each week. We have written curriculum so as to provide a comprehensive walk through God's story. Our children worship with us in our service, though we do dismiss those from 2nd grade down to a Kid's Club halfway through our service.
With regard to our youth, we offer a program that involves occasional activities and a time of instruction on Sunday mornings. Our deepest desire for our young people is not to separate them from those they need most at this juncture of their lives. Many of our activities therefore, are driven by the desire to bring our youth and our adults together (e.g., our annual church camping weekend). We believe that the way we live and the seriousness of our faith is as important, perhaps even more important, than what we provide by way of teaching and activity.
8. How is the leadership of the church set up?
The church is governed by a board of elders, numbering four to seven. These elders are selected by the board and affirmed by the membership for a two-year term. Presently, we have one full-time staff member and he is assisted by a part-time Administrative Assistant. Several individuals provide key leadership in other essential areas.
Part of the initial development of our philosophy involved a desire to honor the priesthood of believers. Because of this, we have attempted to keep staff to a minimum in order to stress the importance of the involvement of individual members in the work of the church. We believe deeply that the life of God exists equally in each person of faith and that it is possible for God's Spirit to use each of us uniquely despite our lack of training or our weaknesses. We affirm an important truth that when it comes to the soul of an individual, there are no experts and thus, we are each dependent upon the leading of the Holy Spirit.
We do offer at least once a year and sometimes twice, a time known as a family forum. At this informal gathering, we discuss pertinent issues pertaining to the life of the group.
Because of our independent status, we are not affiliated with any type of denomination.
9. How important is growth to this church?
Growth is essential to our group. We are interested in numerical growth as God deems best. It is not, however, our primary concern. The growth that does matter to us is in our relationship to our God and with each other. We trust that one's participation in the life of this Fellowship will help the individual come to know God better and deepen their hunger and faithfulness to him. We work hard to encourage people with regard to what it means to work out their salvation with a deep seriousness before God and an honesty with themselves and others. We also encourage people to admit what is true, believing that God is bigger than their sin. The life of God, we believe, is deeper and stronger in us than is our sin. In so doing, we hope to lessen the effects of those things that inhibit community and also interfere with the work of God's Spirit; things like competition and comparison, pretense and denial.
10. What one or two other things might help one get a feel for VSF?
This list could vary from individual to individual, depending on who you talk to and when. Two things initially come to mind. The first is this: we have found that playing together is as important as gathering to talk about serious matters of faith. In fact, we agree that our playfulness with each other is a true act of worship. As part of our playfulness one might experience a group of people who laugh freely and enjoy life together.
Secondly, we have discovered together that our sin is not something to be feared. Instead, by admitting what is true, we have found it to be a path toward deeper relationship and freedom with our God. Because of this discovery, we have come to understand maturity in our lives as a greater awareness of our sin that leads to a deeper appreciation for the mercy and grace of our Lord.
It is our hope that these answers help you get a better feel for who we are as a fellowship. And should this be a place for you to worship, we trust that you will feel invited into a deeper life with our God and find this group a safe place.
Grace and peace to you!