Bethany, Appleton, Wis., held its first worship service at its second site Easter Sunday, March 31. The service was held at Our Shepherd Child Care and Family Ministry Center, Bethany's child care center located about three miles away. More than 160 people attended, many of them from the child care center and the community.

Rev. Darin Aden, one of Bethany’s three pastors, says he is thankful for the turnout and for all the hard work that Bethany’s members put into the service. “The blessing of having a solid group of mature Christians to draw on for experience, input, and service is priceless,” he says. “Knowing all that went into the service, seeing the many families within whose hearts God moved to bring them to worship, and being able to stand before the congregation as God’s messenger is a humbling and treasured experience.”

Bethany started the child care center in 2000 to serve a growing neighborhood not really covered by any of the seven WELS churches in Appleton; now more than 144 children from six weeks to 12 years old are enrolled. Last summer, with funding help from the Board for Home Missions, Bethany added a third pastor so it can better reach out to prospects and unchurched families at the center—including offering worship opportunities.

Future worship services at the center will be held Saturday evenings and tailored for those who are new to church. Aden says having worship at the center instead of the church helps community members make a connection to regular worship because they are familiar and comfortable with the location.

A recent 14,500 square foot expansion of the center provided the space for worship. The expansion included classrooms; office space; and a Praise Center, a multi-purpose room that can hold 250 people.

“Before the addition, I would come out and do devotions on a weekly basis, but there was not a place to do work—no office, no place for counseling,” says Aden. Now with additional space and staff, Aden’s office is at Our Shepherd, where he can greet the families and work directly with them every day.

Along with its normal child care activities and programs, the building also is used to host parenting seminars, fellowship events, service projects, and other neighborhood programs for those who aren’t using the child care.

Aden says he is excited to see what the future will bring. “As I ponder what God has in mind, I am reminded of the words of a song, ‘Lord, I don’t know what you’re doing, but I know who you are.’ I don’t know what God will do through his people and ministry in northwest Appleton, but I know him. That is what will guide us, inspire us, and give us peace.”