Small beginnings, growth through faith.
Bethany Church began as a ministry to the people on the north side of La Crosse in 1932, when a small group of 14 people, led by Rev. Otto L. Larsen met to worship. What began as the Bethany Gospel Mission, then the Bethany Gospel Tabernacle became Bethany Evangelical Free Church in 1951. Under the ministry of Pastor Larsen the church grew as many came to Christ, forcing the remodeling of the first building, a move to another location and it's remodeling. Throughout those first twenty-seven years many ministries were developed to present the gospel and to build up believers such as a Young Peoples Society, Ladies Aide Society, Women's Missionary Circle, stringed band, orchestra, junior and senior high choir, male quartet and ladies trios.
In 1959, Pastor Larsen retired. The next ten years were filled with unrest and pastoral change. In 1969 Pastor Larsen returned from retirement to be Visitation Pastor. In early 1970 there were discussions to either merge with First Evangelical Free in La Crosse or to disband. But God had different plans for Bethany.
In September of 1970 Pastor David Martin accepted a call to minister at Bethany. With the arrival of the Martin family, who were talented musicians and singers, attendance grew to a standing room only "crisis." Expansion plans for the facility were deemed inadequate for God's plan and the congregation felt led to look for a new site. After more than a year of searching, the present site on County Highway 'B' was purchased. On September 1, 1974 the move was made from the "northside church" to the new building.
Under the leadership of Pastor Martin the youth choir, called "The Enthusiastics," grew to more than 120. A television and radio ministry were started and used to reach out to the community.
Along with the outreach of his musical family and the Enthusiastics, many people were drawn to Christ and to the congregation. Average attendance grew to 500 on Sunday mornings and 250 on Sunday evenings. There was also the adding of an associate pastor with primary responsibility for youth ministry.
In 1979 Pastor Martin accepted a call to a congregation in the Chicago area and in November of 1980 Pastor Joe Bubar accepted the call to Bethany. The church continued to grow necessitating the construction of an education wing and gym which doubled the square footage of the existing building. Under the leadership of Pastor Joe, significant singles and college ministries sprang up. There was also the development of a strong missions emphasis through a new Faith Promise Missions Program with several of our own families and individuals going out into the mission field. There were some major adjustments to strengthen the adult and children's ministries as well as the worship ministry of Bethany. During this time there were a number of pastoral and program staff positions added in the areas of Adult Ministries, Children's Ministries, Music/Worship, administration and office staff.
In the summer of 1997 Pastor Joe accepted the call to an Evangelical Free Church in California. In the fall of 1998, Pastor John Splinter became Bethany's new Senior Pastor. Pastor Splinter ministered to our congregation, keeping our focus on missions and outreach as well as maintaining energetic worship and Christ-centered preaching formats. A sister church relationship in the Ukraine developed, family camps grew, a divorce recovery program began and the youth ministry continued to grow. At the end of 2003, Pastor Splinter resigned his pastoral call at Bethany.
In September of 2004, Associate Pastor Corey Sateren, who had been Bethany's Associate Pastor for 3 years serving with responsibilities in Missions, Evangelism, and Fellowship, began to fill the role as Acting Senior Pastor and was confirmed as Senior Pastor in mid-2005.
Today, Bethany has many specialized ministries including: Women's, Men's, Seniors, Students, Children, Music, Missions, and Grow Group Bible Studies. Above all else, Bethany strives to pursue and equip families to passionately follow Christ and values being a warm church where all may come for spiritual growth.