Church: Milan Bethlehem Lutheran (New Church Building - 2015)

Contact: Robert Lipprandt 

Surnames: Johnson, Lambrecht, Natzke, Reif, Reynolds, Sliva, Steckelberg

----Source: The Tribune - Phonograph (Abbotsford, WI) 10/21/2015

Bethlehem Lutheran opens new church

Rev. Jeff Lambrecht wore a big smile along with his traditional vestments as he stood before his congregation Sunday at Bethlehem Lutheran Church near Milan.

Pews were filled from aisle to aisle as churchgoers joined with Lambrecht in celebrating their first service inside a newly built 6,900-square-feet church at the corner of CTH E and Fence Road north of Milan.

Congregation president Randy Reynolds said the new building has been nearly 20 years in the making, going back to the initial planning stages. Following a three-year capital campaign to raise money, Sunday’s inaugural service and dedication was much-anticipated.

“We had set this date three months ago, but we had a lot of work to do” Reynolds said. “We tried to face it off the best we could for today.”

Aside from some flooring that still needs to be installed in the fellowship hall and kitchen, the church looked ready for its big debut as a place of worship.

The church’s old home at 2290 Eldred Ave. in Milan has been there since 1911, and there are no definite plans on what to do with that building. Reynolds said. All of the pews, chairs and tables were moved over, along with some decorative crosses.

“We’ve taken a majority of everything,” he said. “There’s still a lot to go through yet.”

There’s plenty of space to fill at the new location. Lambrecht said it is about double the size of the 104 year old chapel in Milan. The congregation, which now numbers about 200 members, has outgrown that location in recent years.

Construction of the new church was done by Laborers for Christ, a volunteer organization affiliated with the Lutheran Church Extension fund, which provided financing for the project. LCEF previously worked with Bethlehem’s sister church, St. John’s near Edgar.

Volunteers from all over the country, including Michigan, Iowa and as far away as Texas, came to work on the new church. Many local parishioners also donated their time and talents “wherever they could,” Reynolds said.

“The Laborers constructed the building but member so the church work with them,” he said.

The church also hired local subcontractors such as CRC, Meyer Building and Jakel Plumbing, Heating and Electrical to do work.

“We’re very pleased,” he said about the end results.

Bethlehem’s new sanctuary features a vaulted ceiling with the church’s signature Star of Bethlehem stained glass window (made by Parrett Windows in Dorchester) directly above the altar. It seats up to 200 people when additional chairs are added.

Sunlight pours into the sanctuary from three of the four walls, with all of the windows featuring a cross displayed prominently in the middle of the panes of glass.

Directly of the sanctuary is a cry room with books for little ones whose parents can still see into the chapel. Across from that is a room with audio equipment that will also serve as an office.

“It’s a multipurpose work room,” Lambrecht explained.

A couple of side rooms were also built directly to the right and left of the altar area with a cabinet for altar supplies and a private bathroom for the pastor.

Designed by Cox and Associates architects of Wausau, the sanctuary takes up about half the square footage, with the other half occupied by a fellowship hall, room for Sunday school classrooms, a kitchen and wheelchair accessible bathrooms.

Dividers were built into the fellowship hall so four separate Sunday school classes can be held at once. It can then be opened up again for dinners, weddings, and other large events.

Reynolds said one of the biggest advantages of the new facility is that everything is on one level, as opposed to the old church where the Sunday school classrooms fellowship hall and kitchen were all in the basement, making it hard for older parishioners to get around.

The narthex area just inside the front doors is about two-thirds bigger than the older one, which didn’t allow many people to linger after services let out, Reynolds said.

“If everyone stood around talking after church, they’d be out in the parking lot,” he said.

Outside the front entrance is a covered carport for easier drop-offs and pickups, especially during rain and snow.

The kitchen is also about 30 percent bigger than the older one, allowing more room for meals to be prepared.

The five-acre plot included a 70 spot parking lot, a retention pond and space for possible additions. The land was sold to Bethlehem Lutheran several years ago by Kay and Duane Natzke, members of a sister church in Athens.

In a story featured on the LCEF’s website, Reynolds said the ultimate goal of the larger church is to serve more people in the area.

“We want to broaden out ministry to our own congregation and expand to others,” he said.

September 2, 2015

Rejoicing in the blessings of a Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF) Capital Funding Services (CFS) stewardship campaign that surpassed their goal, members of Bethlehem Lutheran Church north-central Wisconsin saw an opportunity to “carry that energy to the next level.” They participated in LCEF’s Laborers For Christ to build their new church home in Milan, an unincorporated community near Athens.

“Laborers worship with you, they have fellowship with you,” said Randy Reynolds, Bethlehem’s congregation president. “There’s a sense of energy and the Holy Spirit [with Laborers For Christ], and it was very important to us to continue that energy from our capital campaign into building.”

Steady Supply of Volunteers

Bethlehem’s current facility is more than 100 years old and less than “user friendly.” The kitchen and fellowship hall are in the basement, a challenge for many older adults. With no room to expand in their current location, the congregation is building on five acres a mile to the north.

“We want to broaden our ministry to our own congregation and also expand to others,” Reynolds said of the 6,963-square-foot facility that will enable activities to be on one main level that includes a larger sanctuary, classrooms, fellowship hall and kitchen.

Another advantage will be increased parking and an outdoor breezeway for easier drop- off and picking up.

A steady supply of volunteers is working alongside Laborers, who have been in Milan since the spring. The dedication of the new church is tentatively set for Oct. 18.

“The congregation has been great about helping out – retired folks as well as younger folks, during the week and on Saturdays,” said Bill Sliva, a Laborer and retired college professor from Livingston, Texas.

“A blessing” is what Laborer LeRoy Reif, of Columbiaville, Michigan, calls the congregants. “They are excited about their new sanctuary, and that’s why we’re here,” he said of the Laborers team, headed by project manager Bob Natzke, of Greenleaf, Wisconsin.

This fall marks Natzke’s 19th year serving as a Laborer. The former farmer and lay minister says the opportunity to help strengthen Christian education is one reason he joined Laborers For Christ. “When we help support our churches, we help support Christian education,” Natzke said.
Spurred to action

Bethlehem’s building project has been in the works for more than15 years, but the success of their capital stewardship campaign helped spur the congregation to action.

Members appreciated how their Capital Funding Services consultant customized the church’s three-year campaign to fit their needs, Reynolds said.

“For a congregation our size, we weren’t expected to do as well as we did!” he said.
Along with reaping the benefits of their capital campaign, the congregation used additional LCEF resources to strengthen their ministry as affordably and efficiently as possible.

Dennis Johnson, LCEF vice president in the North Wisconsin District, got the ball rolling on a construction loan that offered a more attractive rate than the congregation could get from a commercial institution.

Any concern about working “from the middle of Wisconsin” with the LCEF headquarters in St. Louis quickly dissolved, Reynolds said, calling the LCEF staff “very helpful and supportive.”
When the congregation was ready to build, participating in Laborers For Christ proved an easy decision. Laborers previously worked for Bethlehem’s sister congregation, St. John “High Steeple” Lutheran Church in nearby Edgar. The Rev. Jeffrey Lambrecht serves as pastor for both congregations in this dual parish.

“We knew they had a wonderful experience,” Reynolds said of St. John’s expansion.

Lord Gives Tons Back

This is the 14th construction project for Laborers Michael and Marcia Steckelberg, of Missouri Valley, Iowa, and Marcia calls Bethlehem congregants “some of the nicest” to work and worship with.

“They are so excited about getting their new church,” said Marcia, who, with other Laborers wives, has gotten involved with congregational activities, including volunteering at the Bethesda Lutheran Communities thrift shop in Wausau, about 30 miles east of Milan.

As members count the days until worship begins in their new church, LeRoy Reif says he feels blessed that Laborers are helping turn Bethlehem’s longtime ministry vision into a reality. “For the little effort we put in, the Lord gives tons back,” said the longtime Laborer. “We’re here to serve Him.”



© Every submission is protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.


Show your appreciation of this freely provided information by not copying it to any other site without our permission.


Become a Clark County History Buff


Report Broken Links

A site created and maintained by the Clark County History Buffs
and supported by your generous donations.


Webmasters: Leon Konieczny, Tanya Paschke,

Janet & Stan Schwarze, James W. Sternitzky,

Crystal Wendt & Al Wessel