The Little Church in the Vale is governed by a plurality of elders. You can read about our elders here, or click on a link to contact one of them.
Andrew Shanks is the Lead Pastor at The Little Church in the Vale. He began his ministry at the Little Church on October 1, 2017, following the retirement of Pastor Bob Sandham. Andrew comes to us from Martinsville, Virginia where he pastored a Southern Baptist congregation for nine years. Andrew and his wife Laura have been married for 15 years and have four children: Julienne, Evangeline, Ransom, and Sophia. Since moving to the Cleveland area, Andrew has adopted wholesale all of the Cleveland sports franchises, though he remains mildly dubious of the Browns. He holds a Master of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry from Southeastern Theological Seminary. His first book, Echoes of the Messiah, is available here, and he blogs semi-regularly at AndrewShanks.com.
Bill Beers serves as the chairman of our elder team. Bill and his wife Carolyn have been members of the Little Church in the Vale for over thirty years. They grew up on farms in South Dakota and moved to the area after Bill completed his doctoral work at Iowa State University. Their three children, Christopher, Rebecca, and Elizabeth, grew up in the church and are now active leaders in their own local churches. Bill has had a successful career as a chemist developing new materials in the lighting industry. He will also gladly talk about gardening, home projects, and grandchildren, which occupy his spare time.
Tom Polley has been a member of Little Church for twenty years. He came to Cleveland from Wisconsin in 1981 for work and has been here ever since. Tom is now retired, following a very successful 35-year career in sales. His wife Carol grew up in The Little Church in the Vale and currently works in the corporate headquarters of University Hospitals. She enjoys photography and scrapbooking. Both Tom and Carol like to spend their free time dabbling in home projects and are avid foodies.
Dale Van Niel
Dale Van Niel is serving his second term on our elder board after being an active member here at Little Church for the past ten years. Dale has been married to his wife Caitlin for nine years and they have five children: Lucas, Nathan, Jack, Katherine, and Samuel. In addition to his full time job of managing a performing arts center near Cleveland, Dale is working to complete a Master of Arts Degree in Theological Studies through Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Dale’s passions include his family, adoption, cooking, running, and baseball.
After serving for 17½ years as our pastor, Bob Sandham retired in 2017 and rejoined our elder team as a lay elder in 2018. He graduated in 1980 from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with the Master of Divinity degree and has pastored five churches over the course of his career. He and his wife, Kathy have seven grown children. Their family has been involved in all aspects of community theater projects, including acting, managing, props, sets, photography, directing, costuming, sound, and lights. Kathy loves the kids and grandkids and does theater photography. Bob builds and plays guitars and loves to listen to the Indians games while in his workshop.
Dennis Jensen is a retired dentist and has been a member of the Little Church in the Vale for twelve years. Dennis and his wife, Karen, live in Chardon Township and have seven children: Corey, Eric, Valerie, Ryan, Joe, Jeff, and Rachel. Ryan serves as a missionary in China and Corey serves as an elder at NEO church in Cleveland. Karen is a nurse manager at The Cleveland Clinic and an active member at Little Church. Dennis and Karen enjoy playing golf on Sundays after church, as well as their annual mission trips to southern Mexico.