a letter from our founding pastors
It has been the honor of our lifetime to have served the Lord, and our church family as the Founding Senior Pastors of Valley Family Church.
As we look ahead to the next 32 years, we have the utmost confidence in Jesus to continue building Valley Family Church through our new Lead Pastors, our son and daughter in law, Eric and Alexa Jones.
As Founding Pastors and will continue to mentor the next generation, speak at VFC from time to time, teach the Bible basics globally, and oversee future developments of VFC. Follow along at thebasicswithbeth.com.
We wanted to share our "Thank You, VFC" letters, which we shared in-person during our Legacy Sunday service.
Valley Family Church, we will love you always and forever,
Jeff and Beth Jones
Founding Pastors, Valley Family Church
Valley Family Church!"
A Letter from Pastor Jeff
The Bible says a lot about the idea of giving thanks, and as you’ve just heard from Beth we have a lot to be thankful for.
“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:17, NLT
Another translation says it like this:
“Let every activity of your lives and every word that comes from your lips be drenched with the beauty of our Lord Jesus…”
So with that as a foundation, would it be ok with you if I too offered some thanks?
First of all, I am incredibly thankful to the Lord for this journey.
He has been such a great role model to follow… I remember when He challenged me with a single scripture almost 40 years ago that would help shape the course of my course:
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45, NLT
In a lot of ways, I’ve tried to live this way by investing my life into serving the Lord, by serving my wife, our kids and all of you, and I’m thankful to the Lord for the amazing example He set for all of this.
I’d also like to believe that the past 32 years of pastoring has been His idea as well, because I’ve always been compelled and challenged by this verse in Jeremiah:
“And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will guide you with knowledge and understanding.” Jeremiah 3:15, NLT
So really you could say, everything starts and ends with a huge thank you to the Lord Jesus who saved us and gave His all so that we could become His followers. And then he gave Beth and I the ability to tap into his heart for all of you, which was truly a joy.
I’m thankful to my parents who instilled in me a belief that I could do anything, and gave me room to see life without limits.
And even when I came to the conclusion that God was calling me away from business into the ministry, while they didn’t really understand what that meant, my parents still championed the idea.
I’m thankful to my wife and partner in life, Beth.
This August we will be married 37 years and I love and appreciate her more with each year of our lives together.
And as you all know, she’s the real inspiration behind this church and behind our family, and honestly, nothing you see here, would be here, without her amazing faith and creativity.
And of course, our kids would truly be a mess if it wasn’t for her as well.
Beth, you are a remarkable person, a great wife, a great mom and an amazing communicator, visionary, strategist and my best friend, I love you.
I would like to thank our kids, Meghan, Annie, Luke and Eric.
Thanks for not going nuts, and for not falling off the rails.
You didn’t get a vote on your parents occupations, but you bought into it, and you accepted the challenge of being pastor’s kids.
And you’ve made us all so proud. You are all equally independent, you are strong, you all love the Lord, His church, His people and through it all you still love your mom and I, and even your siblings.
When we came to Kalamazoo back in the fall of 1989, we had one goal in mind and that was to raise a family and to raise up a church. It would be a shame if we had failed at either one of those, but somehow by God’s grace, we were able to accomplish both those goals, and even though you kids made a lot of sacrifices, you somehow you allowed your mom and I the room to raise this 5th child, VFC, while we were raising you. So thank you!
Thanks too to all of your spouses, Brodie, Zack, Kelsey and Alexa. You fell in love with our kids, but you got stuck being married to the kids of the pastors of VFC, and you certainly didn’t sign up for that either. You too are equally independent, strong and capable and we appreciate you loving our kids and us and learning to go with the flow as you walked into a life that might just be a little more public than you bargained for.
And, thank you VFC family, we are so grateful for all of you.
You’ve heard me say this many times, but Christianity is not a solo sport and neither is church. We are definitely a team here and God has really blessed us with some amazingly faithful people. When I look around this church I don’t see what “we” built, I see what “we” built, so thank you!!!
We couldn’t have done much without you.
So thank you to our staff, over the years there have been 100’s of you and we’re grateful for the season that you all invested your lives into building this amazing church with and for the Lord. Because we’ll never ever forget…
“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” Pro 127.1, NKJV
So thank you to our current staff, and especially our executive team, now known as our lead team.
All of you have so passionately and graciously led your areas of ministry over the years.
You guys are the best, and we’re so thankful for your faithful service to the Lord and this church. No one…and I mean no one…really understands what it takes to build a church like this one.
Again, I’ve told you this many times, but most people wonder what the lead pastor does all week, let alone all of you…but God does and I know your service to Him and to His people is something that He sees, He appreciates, and He honors you for it.
Thanks, for being in the foxhole with us in the easy times and in the hard times. And for sticking with us when we needed your support the most.
So finally, thanks to all of you who have volunteered to be a part of this church and our lives for so many years.
Here’s where I would like to mention names, but I just can’t because I’m positive that I couldn’t get through it.
You see there have been some of you that have been here from the very beginning of this church, you’ve raised your kids here, you’ve served here, and we’ve been experiencing life together for four decades.
For others it's not been that long, but your sacrifice and your efforts have been equally important and equally appreciated!
You just need to know that we love you and we are grateful for each and every one of you, it’s been our privilege and joy to have been your pastors for all these years.
But life has seasons and we’ve come to the end of one season and the beginning of another.
The Lord used 2 Timothy 2:2 years ago to call me into the ministry, and He used the same verse to let me know it was time to begin the transition that we’ve been going through the last few years.
One summer morning, during my regular devotion time, I read a verse I’ve read a thousand times before, but this time it was different, this time it didn’t speak about the future, it was speaking more about the past and what had happened.
“And all that you’ve learned from me, confirmed by the integrity of my life, deposit into faithful leaders who are competent to teach the congregations the same revelation.” 2 Timothy 2:2, TPT
This verse really struck a chord with me that morning, and it was like the Lord was giving me a heavenly high five, saying, “you’ve done this well for 30 years, and it’s time to let the next generation take the helm.”
And then that same morning the same sort of feeling came over me as I read these words, just 2 chapters later.
“I have fought an excellent fight. I have finished my course with all my might and I’ve kept my heart full of faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7, TPT
While our season here at VFC is changing, we’ll still be around, we’ll still be a part of your lives, but just in a slightly different way and in a different role.
So, thank you, we love you and will thank God for you the rest of our lives!
We have made these changes, by faith, trusting the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and we believe with all our hearts that the best days of VFC are ahead, and for that we are incredibly thankful to our Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the church.
God bless all of you, and may God bless the future of VFC.
Valley Family Church!"
A Letter from Pastor Beth
To Our Dear VFC Church Family – those who have been with us for the long haul, those who are new, and those who have come and gone – we love you ALL.
I have been in happy tears since last Sunday thinking about today and next Sunday.
It has been the honor of our lifetime to serve the Lord by serving you as the Founding Senior Pastors of Valley Family Church.
In June 1991, we had no idea what the Lord would do when Jeff and I sensed God’s call to plant Kalamazoo Valley Family Church, (now Valley Family Church) – and began shopping at garage sales for church supplies, cribs and overhead projectors ... to prepare for the church that would be born.
On September 21, 1991, 120 brave souls people showed up to our Grand Opening and VFC was off to the races...
Fast forward 3 decades, we feel like we hit the jackpot to have served as pastors for the greatest people on planet earth. We’ve experienced so many church services, worship songs, prayer times, outreach events, altar calls, conversations, hugs, laughter, funny stories, epic fails ... and pot luck meals!
So, on June 17, 2020, when I woke up and heard the Lord speaking these words to my heart, “You have laid a good foundation, now another builds there on...” I was pleasantly surprised and knew He was speaking of transitioning VFC to the next generation. For the past 2 years we have been working with our staff and our new Lead Pastors (Eric and Alexa) to have a smooth baton pass of leadership at VFC.
It’s hard to believe that 32 years has flown by! While we are transitioning out of our role as the Senior Pastors of VFC and spending more time in Florida, you’re not getting rid of us completely. As Founding Pastors, we will still be around and involved in mentoring, teaching the Bible basics, and overseeing the future developments of VFC.
For a moment, let me take you back to several months before we launched VFC. I remember driving up and down Westnedge and praying for this soon to be planted church – Jeff and I were rookies but filled with vision to reach people for Christ, and to raise up a church where we would “live by great faith, live for the great commission and live out the great commandment” ... and with fear and trembling I wondered: * Would we be able to pioneer a church, raise our own family and come out alive? * We only knew a handful of people in Kalamazoo, could we actually plant a church and would people come? * How would a husband/wife preaching team would be received? These and so many other questions filled my mind.
While driving that day, the Lord spoke to my heart with this Scripture in Acts 18, words He spoke to the Apostle Paul, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.” I didn’t know how important each word of this Scripture would become over the years ... but one phrase in particular stuck out to me that day, God said – “I have many people in this city.”
I took that to mean the Lord had many people in greater Kalamazoo who were believers and already knew Him but needed a home church and there were many people who didn’t yet know the Lord and needed a church to lead them to Jesus -- we found out, those “many people” are YOU!
It has been our greatest privilege to lead a home church for you, your kids and your grandkids and we have shared the ultimate joy, along with the angels in heaven, to see so many of you come to know Jesus!
Today, Jeff and I want to say THANK YOU – to you the MANY PEOPLE! We hesitate to name names for fear of inadvertently forgetting some (so please forgive me if I miss anyone) but we don’t want to miss this opportunity to thank and recognize specific people ... we truly love and thank you ALL ... so here goes...
-First, Jesus, the Head of the Church and our “wonderful, merciful Savior, precious redeemer and Friend,” Valley Family Church has always been Your idea and Your church and we thank you for the privilege of calling us to pioneer & pastor Your people. We did our best to live a life worthy of You and to fulfill Your specific callings thru the words you spoke to me from Romans 10:13-15 and the words you spoke to Jeff from 2 Timothy 2:2. Your faithfulness to us and the VFC family is evidence that you are truly the Great Shepherd of the sheep and all glory and praise belongs to You.
-Second, my husband, Pastor Jeff – you are a great husband, father, pastor and leader – a true servant. Which means you are great in God’s kingdom. No one has believed in and empowered me more than you -- but not only me, you have empowered so many women – our daughters and other women leaders in this church. You have prayed, preached, married, buried, led and fed countless people over the past 32 years and your fruit ... much fruit ...is fruit that remains. I love you.
-Third, our kids Meghan, Annie, Luke and Eric – you four are the best Pastors Kids we know and you handled life in the fishbowl with grace and humor. We weren’t a perfect family, but when we told you, “We don’t ‘have to’ go to church, we ‘get to’ go to church, God didn’t just call mom and dad to pastor a church, He called our family to do ministry together” you guys accepted that and never complained about the challenges and sacrifices you had to make, and as a result, the Lord rewarded you with many perks and blessings along the way. VFC would not exist or be what it is without the four of you. We are so proud of you, and all of your amazing spouses - Brodie, Zack, Kelsey and Alexa – all stand outs in their own right -- thank you all for loving the Lord and for loving this church.
-Fourth, my family – my mom and dad, Carol Barker and Jerry Shepard and stepdad Jerry Barker (now all in heaven), my stepmom Nancy, ALL my sisters, especially Kelly and Michelle and brother in laws Bill and Craig. – Thanks for believing in us and serving in EVERY volunteer role on the Grand Opening day of VFC in September of 1991 -- and at various times through the years.
-Fifth, all of YOU – THANK YOU...
-To our first 3 church members – Kirk Rettig, Steve and Diane Glas and the 45 people who started this journey as launch team volunteers... we were a rag tag bunch, but ya’ll had faith to move mountains and were in it to win it heart and soul!
-To our faithful Board Members – Patrick Norris, Frank Mumford, Todd Bradfield, and all who served on the Board over the years – your faith, wisdom, common sense and generosity provided the perfect guardrails for us and VFC’s success.
-To our Staff, we don’t know how we got so blessed to have the best staff in the world through the years, so many great people! The Lord has kept good records of your labor of love and the significant roles you played building this church!
-To our Executive Team – thank you to all who have served on this team over the years, we greatly appreciate everyone who has served with us. Today, we recognize and thank Richard Pilger serving at VFC for 19 years; Aaron Johnson serving at VFC for 16; and April Wedel serving at VFC for 25. How can we say thank you? How many hours have we spent together? Tens of thousands at least! Your wisdom, dedication to the Lord, commitment to building His Church, your loyalty to us and the way you have supported this transition have been humbling and appreciated more than you know. We love you all dearly.
-To Tara Farrell, our Executive Assistant of 14 years, and Michelle Wellman, our Housekeeper for almost 20 years – you helped us with so many details and we would not have survived the pace and demands of a growing ministry without both of you. We love you!
-To those of you who have warmly supported me, as a woman in the pastoral ministry of teaching and preaching the Word. You gave me strength and kept me going when I felt resistance and my knees were knocking. It has been part of my particular calling, to teach the Bible basics all these years. When I hear different ones of you repeating the things you’ve learned, I feel like the Apostle John, who said something like, “I have no greater joy than to hear that our church family has gotten a grip on the basics!”
-To all of you who have tolerated my many crazy hair styles ... and Jeff’s crazier hair style – God bless you!
-To all of you prayer warriors who answered the call to undergird us, our family and this church through the years – heaven knows every prayer.
-To all of you who extended consistent mercy, grace and forgiveness when we made mistakes – thank you.
-To Amiq Gill and all of you who have led us in anointed worship over the past 32 years...
-To Tori Pilger, Dana Evey and Katie Johnson, Tara Farrell, Zack Spangler and all of who have served the VFC kids, teens and families so faithfully over 3 decades...
-To Amanda Harrison, Kyle Misak and everyone who helped pioneer The Basics With Beth to take the gospel basics to the ends of the earth ...
-To Joyce Wiles, our resident real estate deaconness who helped us find every church property and to all who gave generously to the building campaigns...
-To Greg Gustin, and the VFC Security Team, thank you for always having our backs...
-To every Guest Speaker who brought a word in season through the years...
-To all of you who have served on the VCrew, led VGroups, helped with Valley Groceries, taught classes, parked cars, helped with guest services, provided security, helped with facilities, audio, video, lighting, social media and IT, served coffee, made phone calls and hospital visits, delivered meals, helped with weddings and funerals, and served at every event...and wore green bandanas to support us and VFC at the controversial Planning Commission meeting...
To everyone who participated in the hundreds of outreach ministries over the years – missions trips, tours to Israel, summer camps, Easter at Miller, Valley Girls events, Fall Family Carnivals, the Skate Park, Teacher Appreciation Sunday, The Retro Musical, the Christmas Bike Giveaways
... and so much more
To everyone who has ever called Valley Family Church home, we say: THANK YOU! WE LOVE YOU!
I like to say, “eternity will tell a great story” – and I believe it is true – eternity will tell a great story of Jesus building His church in Southwest Michigan and beyond in and through all of YOU.
One hundred years from now, we’ll all be sitting around a bon fire in heaven praising the Lord and reminiscing about the wonderful years we shared together at VFC, until then, let me close with the words of the Apostle Paul,
“For what is it we live for, that gives us hope and joy and is our proud reward and crown? It is YOU! Yes, YOU will bring us much joy as we stand together before our Lord Jesus Christ when he comes back again.
For YOU are our trophy and joy.”
THANK YOU! I LOVE YOU ALL!
“And all the people said, Amen!”