Bethlehem Lutheran Church is located on Highway E north of Milan. Upon entering the church, you will notice the atmosphere of small-town warmth and welcoming. The church building may be small in size, but don't get the wrong idea, the members of the church are big on holding fast to their religion. From the sound of hymns being sung, to the echo of Pastor delivering the service, Bethlehem Lutheran is a strong based congregation with a lot of history.
The Transforming Church Network or otherwise known as TCN is a program that comes from the Missouri Synod Ablaze initiative. The TCN program was created to revitalize churches that have plateau or are in a declining membership. Revitalization is turning an inward focus to an outward reaching to the community church. This can best be explained in The Great Commission, Matthew 28:19, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." The North Wisconsin District supports this program by working with interested churches. A TCN staff from the District visited Bethlehem in January 2010 to make an assessment and presenting 5 prescriptions in moving forward in TCN. In March 2010 at a special Voter’s Assembly, the congregation in attendance voted to accept the 5 prescriptions and to continue the journey of revitalization.
Bethlehem features two women's organizations. The first is the Ladies' Aid, first organized on October 4, 1914 with eight members. Through the years, the Aid has served the congregation with acts of service, in meal preparation and serving for funeral services, as well as supporting synodical charities. Throughout the years the Ladies' Aid has also been instrumental in funding building improvements and has furnished the church as needed. The Ladies' Aid became a member of the Lutheran Women's Missionary League in 1953 and by 1957 had grown to 23 members. The second women's group was organized on January 21, 1982 under the name "Christian Women in Action" (CWIA). The mission of the CWIA is to meet monthly and hold Bible Study, to do projects that benefit the church and local community, participate and support the LWML, and support a missionary abroad.
Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Milan, Wisconsin, had its beginnings on Easter Monday in 1904 when the Rev. Joseph Oesch of the Town of Wien preached for several Lutheran families in the Town of Johnson. Those present at this service then requested Pastor Oesch to establish a preaching station in this area. Pastor Oesch, who recognized in this request a mission call, honored the request, with the permission of his congregation in the Town of Wien.
A tentative organization to become a fully-fledged congregation followed during the time that services were held (in the home of Ludwig Bradow Sr.) After this, the place of assembling was changed to the public school house on the corner of the Abbotsford-Milan Road. The services were continued at the school for more than a year, but were transferred during the winter of 1905 to the second floor of the Milan general store operated by Paul Benzmann.
In 1907, the services were again held in the public school where they were held for several years. Formal organization of the Bethlehem Lutheran congregation took place on December 31, 1907, when 13 charter members signed the proposed constitution. Pastor Oesch continued to serve Bethlehem as Pastor until 1909, when he asked to be released.
He was succeeded by the Rev. Mr. Schiemann, and in turn by Rev. William Knauff. During Rev. Knauff's pastorate, the present church building was erected on land donated by M.C. Ellingson, and built in 1911.
In 1915, Bethlehem united with St. John Lutheran, Town of Holton. The joint congregation then secured the Rev. Ihno Janssen as the first resident pastor and built a parsonage. Unfortunately, the union didn't last, and the two congregations separated at St. John's request in 1920. Around the same time, Rev. Jannssen left to take another call.
It was in 1947 that Bethlehem extended a call to Rev. E. Malueg, pastor of St. John Lutheran, Town of Wien. Bethlehem's parsonage was sold and the two congregations have shared a pastor ever since. Bethlehem today remains relatively small in numbers (approx. 200 members), we walk, as always, by faith.
1901-1909 Joseph Oesch
1909-1913 Friedrich A. Schiemann
1913-1915 William Knauff
1915-1920 Ihno Jannssen
1947 Emanuel Malueg
1947-1956 Harold Malotky
1956-1960 Frederick Kempfert
1961-1967 Ferdinand Timler
1967-1972 David C. Schroeder
1972-1980 Mark J. Nicolaus
1981-2003 Roger Moldenhauer
2004-2009 Matthew Christians
2009-2018 Jeffrey A. Lambrecht
2019-Present Chad Schopp