It has been said before that without its people, a building is merely bricks and mortar. When you fill a building with people, they become vibrant places from which to come and go, or in the case of Bethlehem Lutheran Church…a place for its ministry to grow.
Recently, the congregation completed a $743,077 capital campaign to update and replace important components of the physical plant. The renovations included: reframing the stained glass windows in the sanctuary, replacing the HVAC system, replacing all the windows in the Sunday School wing, and establishing a building fund balance to meet future needs.
“When it comes to our ministry here at Bethlehem, we know people come before buildings, but this project has removed many uncertainties we had about our aging physical plant,” the Rev. Tom Peterson said. “The response to this project was incredible, and we are grateful.”
Beyond the building, the congregation is now set to focus solely on the growth of its ministry. Youth, outreach, and personal faith development are three core focus areas.
The church makes it a top priority to employ a full-time youth director to lead its youth initiatives. “We have a full calendar and lots of options for our senior high, middle school, and upper elementary youth,” faith formation director Ken Dessellier said. Activities range from age appropriate youth groups, after school programs, mission trips and other fellowship opportunities like bible camps, national youth gatherings, ski trips, Valleyfair, and houseboat trips just to name a few. “Our youth engagement is really strong, and we encourage our kids to invite their friends,” says Dessellier.
Bethlehem sees community outreach as an important part of its mission. “We have really increased our activity in this area and it has many in our congregation excited,” operations director Amy Fronning said. The church provides monthly community meals, operates a “Deacons Fund” to assist anyone in the community with an urgent need, support other local organizations like Mahube-OTWA, and engage in national and international projects, such as Lutheran Disaster Response and world hunger. “It’s really looking for ways to love our neighbors, and lift people up with compassion and respect,” says Fronning.
When it comes to personal faith development, Peterson’s hope for all is that we might make the time to refuel our own spirits in worship, prayer, and intentional faith development. “So often when we make personal time to learn, grow and worship in the presence of God, we get a clearer sense for how we can serve, witness and be present for all God’s people.”
The congregation held a celebration worship service and picnic on Sunday, Sept. 29 as a time to come together as a congregation and share the successful completion of the building campaign.
Bethlehem Lutheran Church was established in 1872. It was destroyed by the Fergus Falls cyclone of 1919, and then immediately rebuilt. For the past 147 years Bethlehem has been a steady symbol in the downtown Fergus Falls landscape, celebrating the good news of God in Jesus Christ and welcoming all into its ministry and mission. www.bethlehemff.org.