What’s the Vine’s Purpose?

The Vine Church desires to be a Spirit-filled family that seeks to make disciples and plant churches among neighbors and nations through declaration and demonstration.


We're a simple church--centered on three pillars: Gospel, Community and Mission.



The Gospel is the good news that through Christ the power of God’s kingdom has entered history to renew the whole world. This renewing work of Jesus saves us from our sin and transforms us into people who desire to live like him. The Vine is a church where the Gospel is not merely a message for people who don’t know Jesus, but also a message for believers that shapes every facet of the church.

Our value for Gospel-centered ministry drives us to preach, teach and sing about the grace of God that can save those who don’t yet believe and empower believers to live in obedience. This Gospel-centered vision also expresses itself as we conclude our weekly community services by celebrating the Lord’s Table, remembering Christ’s body that was broken and blood that was shed, and proclaiming the Lord’s death until the day of his return.



The Gospel is not just a message to be believed, but a power to be experienced. The Gospel shapes a new community as those who were formerly God’s enemies are reconciled to Him and adopted into his family. We are not a place, but a people—a community—continually being reformed, renewed and reproduced by the transforming power of the gospel.

Our value for community drives us to be a simple church that resists complicated program-driven ministry models. Because of this, our community is expressed in primarily two forms, the community worship service and City Groups where the church is the church to one another and the city. Our City Groups are smaller communities that live out Gospel, Community, and Mission together.



The Gospel doesn’t merely call us into a relationship with Christ and one another; it also sends us out into the world on mission. We seek to both embody and proclaim the Gospel winsomely in the city of Madison. The embodiment of the Gospel will be expressed in our love for the city as we seek to meet its various needs. The proclamation of the Gospel will be expressed through our intentional relationships with people who don’t know Jesus. We will seek to love them and share Christ with them right where they are in our own network of relationships.

Our value for mission drives us to develop future leaders for the purpose of releasing them to become tomorrow’s ministers, missionaries and church planters. Our vision is not only to build one church, but to build a movement of the Gospel expressing itself in the reduplication of both disciples and churches both locally and around the world.


"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8



Neighbors are those geographically close to us—our family, friends, co-workers and those with whom we share other hobbies and interests. Our desire is that every member of The Vine be investing their lives as a light of the Gospel to those within their spheres of influence by being intentional “witnesses” to his goodness and message of salvation. This happens as we both demonstrate the Gospel through loving acts of kindness and declare the Gospel verbally to those we know and love.



Nations emphasizes those who are geographically distant. We care deeply about Jesus’ mandate in Matthew 28:18-19 to go into all the nations making disciples (followers of Jesus). In the early years of our church, we focused on building a long-term relationship with several couples, church planting in North Africa. So far we’ve been able to take several vision and service trips to support the leaders who are sharing the Gospel with this largely unreached population of the world.

We are also developing a long-term partnership with Steve and Sandi Youngren who are planting churches and training leaders in Quito, Ecuador. Every year, we take several trips to Ecuador, so our congregation can learn how to better pray for, encourage and support Steve & Sandi in this ministry.


Church Planting

The most effective and biblical method of advancing God’s mission both locally and around the world is to plant new churches. Ten percent (10%+) of our resources as a church are, and will always be, dedicated to this purpose. This is why in 2014 we sent out a team of nearly 30 people from our church to plant Redeemer City Church in Fitchburg and all of our nation’s outreach is directly tied to church-planting works in other countries.


Working together for the gospel to make Christ known.


Elders & Staff

Zach Nielsen, Lead Pastor and Elder
Zach is a teaching pastor and elder who oversees leadership development and preaching. Before joining Scott to plant The Vine, he was a worship pastor in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Christian singer/song-writer in Nashville, Tennessee. Zach and his amazing wife Kim have four children: Taylor, Autumn, Emery, and Mya. Zach is a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa and Covenant Theological Seminary.

David Jordan, Elder
David, a project manager at a technology company in the Madison area, became an elder at the Vine in 2014. He and his wife, Jacklyn lead the Elver Park City Group in the southwest corner of Madison. In the spring of 2015, David and Jacklyn welcomed a new baby boy, Matthias, into their home.

James Davenport, Elder
James has served as an elder at The Vine since 2017 and has since become our NextGen pastor, providing oversight for our children from birth through high school. He and his wife, Emily, have one daughter, Lucy, and help lead the Waubesa City Group. James is a graduate of Iowa State University and Moody Bible Theological Seminary and also currently works for a student mission’s organization – Next Step Ministries - as their Discipleship Coordinator.

Laurel Eccles, Care and Discipleship & Administrative Coordinator
Laurel provides care and discipleship for women and serves as the church coordinator. Along with her husband Justin and two children, Hannah and Asher, Laurel recently re-located to the Madison area after serving for 12 years in Istanbul, Turkey. Laurel is a graduate of Iowa State University and has her Master's in Biblical Counseling from Southern Seminary. She has worked in the areas of cross-cultural women's ministry, refugee ministry, arts and worship ministry and counseling. She is a wonderful addition to the staff at The Vine.

Michael McKittrick, Pastoral Resident & Elder Candidate
Michael is a pastoral resident exploring the call to church plant in the Madison area, and he also teaches at Charis Classical Academy in Madison. Before coming to Madison, Michael served for two years as a pastoral resident at College Church in Wheaton as well as an intern at Crossway Community Church in Bristol, WI, where he met his wife Heather. They now have three girls, Eliza, Gloria and Fiona. He was born and raised in Sudbury, Ontario, but came to the US to attend Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Despite losing most of his Canadian accent, he can still be found cheering for Canada in hockey.



Elder Team

  • David Jordan - Elder
  • Zach Nielsen - Staff Elder
  • James Davenport - Elder
  • John Cintineo - Elder Candidate
  • Michael McKittrick - Elder Candidate


  • Michael McKittrick - Pastoral Church Planting Resident
  • Laurel Eccles - Gospel Care / Administrative Coordinator
  • Justin Eccles / Mike and Jan Wheeler - Facilities

Connections Team

  • Jamie Chong - Young Professionals Connection and Deaconess over Communications and City groups
  • Jonathan Burditt - Greeter Team Lead
  • Kelsey Andres - Celebration Coordinator and Deaconess over Next Gen Scheduling
  • Robb and Jessie Stankey - Coffee Coordinators

Communications Team

  • Justin Eccles - Director of Design
  • Laurel Eccles - Design Coordinator / Weekly Email
  • Jamie Chong - Deaconess over Communications and City Groups
  • Emily Davenport
  • Ben Camp
  • Ashley Lawlor

Finance Team

  • Stan Van Aartsen - Deacon over Finance
  • Jonathan Burditt
  • David Jordan - Elder

Next Generation Team

  • James Davenport - Team Lead and Elder
  • Kelsey Andres - Deaconess over Next Gen Scheduling
  • Marie Van Aartsen - Curriculum Coordinator
  • Marcus Geishert - Middle School
  • Amy Anderson - HS Girls
  • Joe Gehrmann - HS Boys

Outreach Team

  • Sarah Allen - Badger Rock Team Lead
  • James Garcia - Deacon over Ecuador
  • Bryan and Kylie McGinn - International Leaders
  • Julie Speth - Omega School

Operations Team

  • Scott Welch - Facility Team Lead and Deacon over Facilities
  • Alan Byington - Security

Gospel Care Team

  • Laurel Eccles - Team Lead and Staff Director

Worship Service Team

  • Scott Sterner - Music Team Lead and Elder
  • Hans Hinrichsen - Technical Team Lead and Deacon
  • Olivia Mueller - Communion Team Lead


We are overwhelmed by God's faithfulness and grace.



In the summer of 2008 the Lord began stirring the hearts of Scott and Carrie Sterner that church planting may the direction in which He was leading them for their future. After eleven years as Worship and Arts Pastor and, most recently, as Pastor of Programming and Operations at Parkview Church in Iowa City, the Lord began clarifying this direction toward planting in the Midwest through the Acts 29 Network.



In early 2009 Scott and Carrie connected with good friends Zach and Kim Nielsen, asking if Zach would consider planting with Scott as co-lead pastor. Zach was previously on staff with Scott at Parkview Church and was then the Pastor of Music and Worship at Desert Spring Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Zach and Kim agreed to begin exploring this vision for planting with Scott and Carrie. The Lord confirmed this calling in May of 2009, and soon after, plans began developing for relocation to Madison, Wisconsin in the summer of 2010.

Not long after the planting vision became public Nate Hobert, the University Pastor at Parkview Church, was welcomed with his wife Amanda to also join the planting team for what now had become The Vine Church. This name is based on the Bible verse from John 15:5 where Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Nate and Amanda had long felt called to church plant and joined the team with the idea that they will be the first to plant a second church from The Vine within the first 2-3 years of its launch.



After assessing and becoming candidates with the Acts 29 Network the pastoral team relocated to Madison the summer of 2010. The pastors immediately began part time jobs in various locations throughout Madison, knowing that they wanted to be bi-vocational by both working for the church and also within the community. Part of this vision flowed from the desire to both practice and model for the church what it means to live missionally among people outside the church and outside the Christian faith.

The vision of the leadership was to plant this church and to let it grow organically through relationships. This is primarily because The Vine leaders were (and are) committed to a church environment where people are making their spheres of influence (job, hobbies, neighborhoods, etc. . .) the primary location for ministry and mission. Though planting churches with a focus on programming and marketing has it’s place, the desire from day one was to not become another transfer church for Christians, but to become a church intent upon reaching people who were previously unengaged by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In July of 2010 the core team began a Sunday gathering at Warner Park and, soon after, relocated to Lapham Elementary (one mile east of the Capital) in September. Three city groups (our smaller home based communities, where mission is lived out in the context of relationships) were launched in September and our first membership class was offered in April and May.



In 2011 we became a full member of the Acts 29 Network and began "Sync" meetings to train and support the City Group leaders and apprentices who oversee our City Group ministry. City Groups are groups that meet in various homes throughout the city on a weekly basis. In September of 2011 we expanded from 3 to 5 groups meeting in homes in Madison, Fitchburg and Middleton.



In 2012 we became a "full member" church of the Evangelical Free Church of America and, in July, transitioned to a new worship service location at 121 Nob Hill Road, right off the belt line in Madison. In October we sent our first leadership team to North Africa as we began scouting the city where our long term church planting emphasis will begin. In November we announced plans to plant a church in Fitchburg with Pastor Nate Hobert and Pastor Casey Johnson who relocated from Daytona Beach, Florida, in 2013.



In 2013 Pastor Casey Johnson joined Pastor Nate Hobert as co-planter for our first church plant, Redeemer City Church. A City Group was assigned to Casey and Nate that became their core group. While worshiping at The Vine they spent the year investing in this core group and mobilizing them for mission in the Fitchburg area. The Vine continued expand it’s global church planting partnership by becoming strategic partners with leaders in the country of Ecuador. Toward the end of 2013 David Jordan was added to the Elder team as an Elder candidate. We also continued to expand our emphasis to develop leaders with Porterbrook and Equipped to Counsel courses, intended to help future leaders grow in their knowledge and application of the Gospel and God’s Word.



In 2014 The Vine became a self-sustaining church, which means that we were no longer supported by outside donors but were financially sustained by attenders and members within The Vine. This year we also expanded to 8 City Groups and more formally launched our deacon ministry, giving us the ability to empower more leaders to begin the development of ministry teams to support the work of ministry. Late summer we commissioned Redeemer City Church with approximately 50 people (including children) and they began public worship gatherings in the Fitchburg area in October. James and Emily Davenport were added to The Vine's staff team as College Interns and David Jordan became an elder on our leadership team.



In 2015 we continued to expand our deacon and ministry teams to better equip the saints for the work of ministry. Our desire was to not only better serve those within the Vine but to more effectively meet the physical and spiritual needs within our city. Our work in North Africa has become more focussed as two families from a partner church moved to a specific city within the region. In August we sent a team of 17 to Ecuador to do medical and construction work in the city of Lasso and a village within the Amazon jungle. At this time we also formed a future facility team which began the work of researching future worship locations for our congregation within the city of Madison.