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History of Bethel

Bethel Lutheran Church and School building
Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church, WELS

Bethel Ev. Lutheran Church, WELS, was founded in 1994, but the history of the current church and congregation began many years before that...


Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church, ELS

On August 24, 1941, a small group of people interested in founding a church affiliated with the "Norwegian Synod of the American Evangelical Lutheran Church" held its first service in the home of Mrs. Martha Steen.

The first year of Bethel's existence, the congregation was served by various pastors. On August 2, 1942, Pastor Nils Oesleby became Bethel's first Resident Pastor and served the church until 1946. He and his wife resided at the first parsonage located at 2124 S. Duluth Ave.

The congregation began construction of a chapel on October 26, 1942, and was ready for dedication on January 17, 1943.

A Ladies Aid organized on February 3, 1943.

In April, 1947, Pastor T.N. Teigen was installed and became Bethel's second Resident Pastor. He served the church until 1958.

As time passed, the congregation became increasingly pressed for space, especially for Sunday School facilities.

On June 10, 1951, ground was broken to construct a new building.  The winters of 1951 and 1952, the congregation worked hard on their new church.  On August 23, 1953, a new church was dedicated.

November 18, 1956, a new Allen Model S-10 organ was purchased and dedicated. It included the console, two full five octave manual and a twenty five not pedal board.

Bethel's third Resident Pastor was Pastor Victor Theiste.  He was installed on June 7, 1959 and served until 1972.

October 29, 1961, Bethel celebrated its 20th Anniversary.

In September 1966, a new lighted sign was constructed of Georgia Marble. Bethel also celebrated its 25th Anniversary that same year.

October 27, 1968, ground was broken for a new addition. It was dedicated on September 28, 1969 and gave Bethel four new Sunday School rooms, a pastor's study; the fellowship area was also increased.

Pastor Walter Gullixson received the call to serve as pastor of Bethel and was installed November 19, 1972. He was the fourth Resident Pastor.

Pastor John Moldstad was ordained and installed on July 20, 1980. He was Bethel's fifth Resident Pastor and served until 1984.

Several organizations were active including the Ladies' Aid, the Men's Club, two Circles, and the Lutheran Youth Society.

January 29, 1984, the members of Bethel dedicated a new bell and bell tower.

August 19, 1984, Pastor Russell Halverson was installed as Bethel's sixth Resident Pastor. He served the Lord's flock until 1988.

June 5, 1988, Pastor Paul Madsen was installed as our seventh Resident Pastor. He served the Lord's flock until 1994.

July 20, 1990, Bethel is transported to its new location. The church stood for 40 years at 1200 S. Covell Ave. It was moved to a 5 acre sit at 26th and Valley View Road. A new fellowship area was built and dedicated on January 13, 1991.

In May of 1994, merger talks began with St. Paul Ev. Lutheran Church and in August the two churches were united as one. The celebration of the merger of Bethel (ELS) and St. Paul and the installation of Bethel's (WELS) first Resident Pastor, Pastor James Bolda were held on September 11, 1994.

St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church, WELS

On October 24, 1971 after much thought and prayer, eight families decided to extend their church and form another Wisconsin Synod church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
The first place of worship was the Seventh Day Adventist Church on 10th and Spring in Sioux Falls. The congregation rented the church until 1973.
Sunday School Classes began on October 31, 1971.
The Church’s Constitution was ac accepted by the Synod and charter was granted on March 6, 1972.
Pastor Robert Krueger was installed and ordained as the first Resident Pastor on July 6, 1972. He served the church until March, 1973.
March 10, 1972 – 10 acres of land are purchased on the southeast side of Sioux Falls.
In 1974, the Congregation decides to purchase its own church at 610 S. Dakota Ave. Dedication was held on September 8, 1974.
Pastor Thomas Schmidt is welcomed to the church as the 2nd Resident Pastor and installed May 25, 1974. He served the church until July, 1983.
The summer of 1980 the church paves a new parking lot and puts in a new fence on the south side of the property.
October 25, 1981 – St. Paul has its 10th Anniversary.
July 24, 1983 Pastor Douglas Free accepts the call to the church and is installed at St. Paul’s third Resident Pastor. He served the church until August 1989.
Many renovations were made to the church building:
-Fall of 1983, the church is blessed with the installation of new window.
-October of 1986, the church is insulated and new doors are installed.
-Re-stuccoing the church and hanging new lights was completed in May of 1987.
-In 1988 repainting of the interior of the church, new landscaping on the church’s west side, a ramp was constructed and a new door was installed on the church’s north side.
In December of 1989, Pastor James Bolda is installed as St. Paul’s 4th Resident Pastor.
During this time, St. Paul has had an active Sunday School, Ladies Guild, Church Choir, Confirmation Class, Adult Bible Class and Lutheran Boy & Girl Pioneers.
Membership grew from eight families in 1971 to seventy one in 1988.
St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church had a history of 23 years in the WELS.
In May of 1994, talks of merging with Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELS) began and in August of 1994 a new congregation was formed.


Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church, WELS


September 11, 1994 - Dedication of Bethel WELS and installation of James Bolda as pastor of the new congregation

July 7, 1996 - Pastor James Janke installed as the second Resident Pastor of Bethel

April 7, 2002 - Dedication of Bethel’s classroom and multipurpose addition
October 2008 - Congregation votes to begin building a new sanctuary on June 1, 2009
April 2009 - Congregation votes to donate church building to McCrossan Boys Ranch
July 19, 2009 - Last service held in the old Bethel church
July 30, 2009 - Old Bethel church building removed and donated to McCrossan Boys Ranch
August 9, 2009 - Groundbreaking held for new building
May 16, 2010 - 1st service held in new building

July 11, 2010  - Dedication of Bethel’s new church

Facts about Bethel’s New Building
         The new church building totals approximately 5,500 square feet (4,650 on the main floor and 850 in the balcony). 
         It includes seating for approximately 220 on the main floor and about 50 more in the balcony.
         In addition to worship space the building contains a cry room, an audio room, a sacristy and office space.

October 2012 - Pastor Janke accepts a Call to Janesville, WI. A farewell is held on October 28, 2012.

Pastor Andrew Martens serves as Interim Pastor November 18 - January 20,2013

January 20, 2013 - Pastor Benjamin Tomczak is installed as the third Resident Pastor of Bethel Ev. Lutheran Church.