Valley Forge Christian
College: An exciting place to be
Horn with Katy Attanasi
An unseasonably brisk wind greets
President Don Meyer and me as we walk across the campus of Valley Forge
Christian College on a sunny April morning. As Meyer warmly greets students
and workers it becomes clear that this is a campus with no wall of separation
between leadership and student body. Indeed, it is a place where servant
leadership is a reality, not just a catchword.
VFCC is also a campus in metamorphosis,
and excitement fills the air.
The school is located on 84 acres
of land in Phoenixville, Pa., a former steel town that has become a
bedroom community of nearby Philadelphia. Two hours from New York and
three from Washington, D.C., Phoenixville offers accessibility to major
urban centers in a small-town setting.
This is an area saturated with history.
Nearby is Valley Forge National Historical Park, a monument to George
Washington and the troops that helped birth this nation during the Revolutionary
War. VFCCs history is rich as well. Started in 1931 as a summer
Bible school under the leadership of J. Roswell and Alice Flower, the
college was chartered in 1939 as Eastern Bible Institute with the purpose
of training pastors, evangelists and missionaries. A series of mergers
led to an increase in enrollment, and the name was officially changed
to Valley Forge Christian College when the former Valley Forge General
Hospital became the new campus in 1977.
An enrollment decline coupled with
a rise in expenses caused many to think the school would have to close.
But VFCC stayed open, thanks in part to J. Robert Ashcroft, late father
of U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, who served as president without
pay from 1982-85. Don Meyer became president in 1997.
Today the student body has about
as many men as women and there is a growing population of ethnic minorities.
The curriculum for each of the schools 17 majors is crafted to
integrate academics and spirituality. Last year, 77 percent of students
were in church vocation programs. The remaining 23 percent were in education
A preaching class is being held
in the memorial chapel. A student presents his assigned message to a
congregation of classmates sitting in pews. A video camera tapes his
sermon, which tackles the subject of the image of God and the fall of
When he finishes, his classmates
and professor offer constructive criticism. These are burgeoning preachers,
far from polished, but improving their ability to communicate the gospel.
In a class on the prison epistles,
Dr. Bruce Marino takes about 20 students through a PowerPoint presentation
on Ephesians 6.
"Its not how many Scripture
verses youve memorized," Marino tells the class, "but
how much these verses have penetrated you. The fundamental idea of spiritual
warfare is that the battle has been won in you before you go out and
win against others."
At 10:15, classes empty and students
filter into the chapel. With its open beam ceiling, hanging canister
lights and glass-front walls on either side of the platform, an abundance
of natural light showers in. As praise music fills the auditorium, students
sing, clap and raise their hands in worship. The chapel speaker this
morning is Rusty Williams, a 24-year-old senior, who challenges the
students to have genuine zeal in serving the Lord. As he concludes in
prayer, the worship team makes its way back to the platform. Close to
70 students remain behind in prayer as music continues, kneeling at
their chairs, in the aisle or at the front. Extra time is allotted after
every chapel service to allow students adequate time for this before
their next class.
Ministry is one of the schools
top priorities. It has been intentionally woven into the fabric of chapel
services, classes, off-campus activities and residential life.
A third of the student body participate
in L.I.F.E. (Leadership, Integrity, Fellowship, Evangelism), on-campus
groups that adopt four things: a missionary, a local pastor (to pray
for and serve), an on-campus service project and an off-campus outreach.
There are voluntary ministry groups
for the whole student body. Up to 100 students minister in major cities
each week. Music and drama teams travel during summers. Ministry is
also built into more than 70 of the academic courses. Philosophy students
are required to talk with atheists, and other classes feature ministry
overseas or in Teen Challenge centers. Even athletic teams are involved
in ministry. Head mens basketball coach Jon Mack, a four-time
NCCAA All American, has taken players on outreaches to other countries.
All students are required to complete an internship and a leadership
project in a local church or para-church ministry. Music students are
encouraged to move beyond just learning music into developing sensitivity
to the Holy Spirit.
Lee Rogers, 22, just graduated from
VFCC. He studied pastoral ministry and is headed into youth work. When
he was in the seventh grade, Rogers learned to juggle, and honed his
talent working at Hershey Park as an entertainer during the summer.
VFCC ministries have given him plenty of opportunities to use his skill
gathering crowds and teaching Bible and life lessons at college-sponsored
outreaches. "Comedy is a great communicator between Christians
and non-Christians," he says. "If people are open, then they
are willing to hear what you have to say, even if they dont agree
Eventually, he plans to train a
street ministry team to juggle. "My calling is youth ministry,
but one of my visions is to use my talent in my calling," Rogers
Students agree that one of VFCCs
greatest assets is its faculty. Professors have formed a tight-knit
team that strives for close relationships with students.
"The faculty is very friendly,"
says Larissa Harrison, a senior elementary education major. "Its
almost a family atmosphere, not just with the faculty but also among
For Jessica Yeager, 24, teachers
have become a strong Christian influence. "It has been really great
to see the life of Christ lived out through our professors," she
says. "In their day-to-day life I can see their passion. The leadership
at VFCC really cares; they want to help you, to serve you."
Faculty members are very involved
in ministry as well. Director of Church Relations Donald Hawkins heads
Shepherd Staff Ministries, educating congregations about the challenges
of a pastors life and role. Others travel in a variety of ministries.
Progress seems to be written across
the face of the campus, which, in the past few years, has seen massive
development and a 30 percent rise in enrollment.
"We are in the middle of a
miracle," Meyer says. "None of us could have, in and of ourselves,
made what has happened in these last four years take place."
Since Meyers arrival, the
school has remodeled five dormitories and a student center, built a
research center including a new library, demolished 27 old buildings,
and doubled the size of the cafeteria and chapel. The Pennsylvania Department
of Education recently certified their education program. This year they
are offering new majors in Christian ministries, theological studies,
counseling and psychology, and music education.
Though campus developments are exciting,
VFCC is more concerned with its mission than its building projects.
"We are committed to quality of excellence in every area of the
institution," Meyer says. "We are committed to our students.
Our mission is to prepare individuals for a life of service and leadership
in the church and in the world." In that way, the vision passed
down from the founders has remained unchanged.
At VFCC students are really mentored,
rather than simply taught and because of this, servant leaders
are being reproduced. These, in turn, are carrying servant leadership
into the church and the marketplace. The quality training and relationships
that characterize Valley Forge Christian College are paying dividends
for Gods kingdom all around the world.
Ken Horn is
managing editor of the Pentecostal Evangel. Katy Attanasi is
a staff writer.