Faith Three Lakes Logo

History of Faith Lutheran Church, Three Lakes, Wisconsin

Faith Lutheran ChurchOn a beautiful day in April 1981, the concept of forming a new American Lutheran Church in Three Lakes went into action. This dream had been in the minds of many people. After checking with the American Lutheran Church, the Lutheran Church of America, and the American Evangelical Lutheran Church, we were told we needed to wait a year before becoming a Mission Congregation. The other option was to move forward, finding our own financial support.

Trinity Lutheran Church of Rhinelander, with Pastor Check and their Church Council, gave us untold support. Trinity allowed Pastor Check to serve as our Pastor, and other members of Trinity provided additional assistance. On April 12, 1981, a group of dedicated Christians met in the basement of the Oneida Village. Through a process of elimination, a unanimous decision was made to name our church “Faith Lutheran Church”, as faith was absolutely necessary if our church was to survive, grow, and prosper.

Services were scheduled to begin on Saturday, April 18th, the evening before Easter 1981. We found we could use the Club House at Lake Terrace Estates, free of charge. And Trinity allowed Pastor Check to shepherd us, free of charge. The altar was designed, built, and donated by Jerry Hansen and was adorned with borrowed paraments from St. John’s, Ashwaubenon and beautiful Easter lilies. With God’s help we were on our way; 120 people celebrated the Resurrection of Jesus that evening!

Our first Sunday school class followed worship that evening. The next Saturday we moved the Bible Study Hour ahead of the worship service so it would not be so late for the little ones. After a few months it was necessary to move to a new location. We chose the Three Lakes Community Building as that was available free of charge on Sunday mornings.

Pastor Don White, our first assigned pastor, conducted our first Sunday morning service on November 1, 1981. Worship was at 9:30 with Sunday school at 10:30. With the presence of Pastor White, confirmation classes were started, and he was provided free office space in the Rod and Terri Ingram Building on the edge of town. At the renovation of this building into apartments, Pastor White moved the church office into the Three Lakes Office Center.

In February of 1982, a Men’s Chorus was started and shortly thereafter the women joined in. The Choir first sang on Palm Sunday in 1982. At the same time, Trinity assisted the women of Faith Lutheran as they formally joined the American Lutheran Church Women. In the summer of 1982, Pastor Alan Shaeffmier served as our pastor.

Finally, in February of 1983, Pastor Gary Garnatz became our first installed pastor. We purchased property on Highway 45, just east of the cemetery. We dedicated our ground on April 15, 1984, Palm Sunday….our Third Anniversary. Ground breaking was celebrated on March 27, 1987 and the construction of our building began. With Al Huffman in the lead, members contributed countless hours. On March 19, 1989 the first worship service was conducted in the basement of the new building. And at long last, on July 16, 1989, the joyful members of Faith Lutheran Church gathered to dedicate the Sanctuary of the new building to the glory of God!

We believe that with God’s help all things are possible. All we have to do is look around us to see his handiwork…..with faith in God and dedicated workers, our mission and ministry continue in Three Lakes.

Our History 

April 1981
Congregation organized as Faith Lutheran Church, ALC

April 18, 1981
First worship service conducted

June 8, 1981
Faith Lutheran Church was incorporated

May 23, 1982
First confirmation class of six members was confirmed

February 13, 1983
Gary Garnatz installed as our full-time pastor

July 27, 1986
Building Committee was formed

March 27, 1987
Ground-breaking for the new church building

November 22, 1987
Service of Dedication for the building

March 19, 1989
First worship service in the new sanctuary

July 16, 1989
Service of Dedication for the Sanctuary
Purchased our church parsonage

Our Pastors 

1981 – 1983:  Pastor Jerry Check, Pastor Don White, Pastor Alan Schaeffmier

1983 – 1985: Pastor Gary Garnatz

1985 – 1991: Pastor Glen Enright

1992 – 1997: Pastor Jonathan Schmidt

1997 – 2004: Pastor Sharon Huff / Pastor Tom Huff

2004 – 2012: Pastor Barb Girod 

2013 – 2019: Pastor Ken Ranos

2019 – 2021: Interim Pastor John Kuziej

2021 – Present: Pastor Catie Ford

Our Presidents

1981 – 1984: Arnold Kloes

During Arnold’s term of office the congregation was organized, chartered, and established as a congregation of the American Lutheran Church. The Reverend Gary Garnatz was called and served as the first full time, resident pastor. Land was purchased, a choir organized, regular worship held, and building plans discussed.

1984 – 1987: Jack Tenges

There were many financial difficulties during Jack’s term, from paying the pastor’s salary to making payments on the purchase of land. Bishop Robert Herder of the Northern Wisconsin District of the ALC responded with the promise of financial support. Despite difficulties, building plans were developed. During 1985 Pastor Garnatz accepted a call to Colfax. Late in the year Pastor Glen Enright accepted Faith’s call and joined the ministry in Three Lakes.

1987 – 1990: Al Huffman

In January 1988, the ALC merged with two other Lutheran church bodies to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The ELCA accepted Faith as a mission congregation with the promise of support for three years. In addition, many congregations in Wisconsin and Upper Michigan contributed funds to help us begin building. Al provided leadership in the building program, from the intial drawings to the installation of the light fixtures. Many – men, women, and children – were part of the actual construction, helping in some way – from hammering to staining to cleaning up the mess. In November of 1987 the new building was dedicated. During this time, the first Fish Fry was held to help raise funds for the building program, along with generous commitments from members and friends of Faith Lutheran.

1990 – 1992: Dick Peterson

With the construction of the church building completed, it was decided that the pastor and family needed a permanent residence. In early 1990 a new parsonage on Bonack Loop was completed, again with much help and assistance from many members and friend of Faith. In 1991, Faith moved off of mission support and began to share as a mission partner with other developing congregations. At the same time, Pastor Enright accepted a call to Waupaca. In November of 1991, Pastor Jonathan Schmidt began his ministry with us in Three Lakes.

1992 – 1995: Marge Baerenwald

It was now time to reach out, so Faith created a “Board of Outreach” to give intentional effort to social ministry and evangelism. In addition, Fish Fry funds were now directed for mission outreach, from local needs to across the globe. Pastor Schmidt and several members of Faith Lutheran were instrumental in establishing a new mission in Forest County, with Pastor Nancy Richmond, a member of Faith, as the pastor-developer. Mission partners continued to be supported. Dick Bjorklund was elected to the synod council, and Pastor Schmidt served as the synod secretary.

1995 – 1998: Sara Bredesen

Mission continued to be a high priority. The exchange visits of Jackson Muna from Tanzania and Tom Bredesen in 1996 promoted understanding and development of the educational needs of our companion synod, the Eastern Coastal Diocese of Tanzania. We were a host church in 1996 for the synod’s Lay School for Mission. Marge Baerenwald became our first graduate of the two year program. In 1997, Reverend Paul Otto and Dick Peterson were members of a synod work crew, building a library in Kisaware, Tanzania. Pastor Schmidt accepted a call to Gladstone, Michigan in 1997, and Pastors Sharon and Tom Huff came to serve at Faith that fall.

1998 – 2001: Dick Bjorklund

During Dick’s presidency, the congregation focused on World Hunger. The Diner’s Club continued to grow, encouraging members to get to know one another better. Additional Bible Classes were added to the schedule and continued to grow. The Parish Nurse program was initiated and the Stewardship Committee was active with programming, skits, and a Dessert First Brunch. The expansion of the Sunday morning fellowship following worship provided members additional opportunities to come together as a ‘Family of Faith.’

2001 – 2004: Chuck Radtke

Chuck’s presidency began with the farewell to Pastor Tom and Pastor Sharon Huff and their family. But the members of Faith graciously volunteered to serve in various capacities, including the remodeling of the parsonage. Under Chuck’s leadership, the Council worked through self-study process and the calling of a new shepherd to lead. Pastor Barbara Girod, her husband Paul Johnson, and their children Aaron and Ryan all moved into the parsonage and the ministry and mission of Faith Lutheran Church moved forward.

2004 – 2006: Marge Baerenwald

Faith Lutheran celebrated its 25th Anniversary at the Reiter Center in Three Lakes. Bishop Skrenes preached and a lovely meal followed. The congregation produced a new Pictorial Directory with 77 families participating. Numerous volunteers helped with the celebrations, church clean ups, the new directory, and the church Boards and Committees.

2006 – 2008: Rick Parks

Under Rick’s leadership the congregation walked through the all consuming task of projecting and analyzing church and parsonage maintenance needs and a long term vision for the congregation’s future mission and ministry. The church provided financial support for worldwide mission projects in both Peru and China.

2008 – 2010: Tom Bredesen

As Faith continued to look towards the future, the Council conducted a Congregational Survey. What brings you to Faith each Sunday? What changes would you like to see? Budgeting challenges were proactively tackled and yet ministry and mission went on. It became necessary to replace the church roof and the congregation was able to fully fund the project. The Board of Education was encouraged by the participation in new Bible studies, Book Discussions, and the presenting of movies followed by discussions. Chuck and Pat Radtke, with the help of the Board of Outreach, were able to bring their dream of a Three Lakes Community Garden to fruition. This provides produce for the Food Pantry through the summer months.

2010 – 2011: Ken Huebner

As Ken became president, the Council recognized the limitations of our constitution regarding terms of office. After a constitutional review, the amendments were forwarded to the synod for approval. Maintaining the building meant repainting the outside. Keeping up with the times, we established a beautiful church website. Members of Faith and our friends in the community enjoyed Pastor Barb Girod’s Bible in 90 Days study. Miriam and Tom Bredesen formed the Stewardship Committee and began preparing Pre-Offering Messages for each Sunday. The emphasis on stewardship flowed over into sermons, newsletter articles, and children’s messages.

2011 – 2013: Miriam Bredesen

Encouraging ‘Whole Life’ stewardship continued with a ‘Phone Call From God’ skit, puppet shows, and sometimes a hymn as a Pre-Offering Message. Pastor Barb Girod resigned her position at Faith in June of 2012. Members of the congregation, the Council, and the Boards stepped forward, allowing ministry of many kinds to continue. Purposeful outreach to the victims of both the earthquake in Haiti and Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast were funded through special Fish Fries. The Board of Trustees refurbished the parsonage in preparation for a new pastor.

2013 – 2015: Ken Huebner

Under Ken’s leadership the Church Council continued the search for a new pastor. A recent seminary graduate, Pastor Ken Ranos accepted our call and began his ministry in Three Lakes.

2015: Connie Lyon

Our congregation has continued volunteer work. We hope that we continue to grow – in numbers, in our faith, and in our service to the Lord. We hope that all of us have the opportunity and are able to continue to volunteer and serve, and learn the blessing that service brings.

2016: Larry Roth

Our biggest challenges individually and as a congregation is to keep growing in our faith and our service to others. Another ongoing challenge is making sure that Faith Lutheran is as friendly and welcoming as possible. It is a perfect time to reach out and connect with visitors, new members and longtime church members.

2017: Larry Roth

We need new officers to step forward, as well as additional help in our committees. We discussed and approved our annual budget and found we are facing some tough challenges as a congregation. We ask that our congregation members give some prayerful thought to their time and financial contributions to Faith.

2018: Marge Anderson

We struggled with lack of funds and proactively cut some expenses. We have challenges, but with God’s help we will rise above them. With all of our volunteers who get things done here at Faith, we survive only with your help! With your continued support and help we will accomplish our mission – Working to spread the gospel here and throughout the world.

2019: Marge Anderson

We continued our community outreach with Fish Fries, Fourth of July Pie Sale, Community Garden, support of Caritas and Syndeo, Quilting with boxes being delivered and quilts for baptisms, Worship in the Park, Blessing of the Boats, heading Ecumenical Tea, and visits to shut ins and more. We began our time without Pastor Ken Ranos and the Call Committee has been working hard to complete the paperwork involved in calling a new pastor. We are blessed to have Interim Pastor John Kuziej serve in the meantime.

2020 – Present: Marge Anderson

We survived with more questions and problems but were helped by many. Thank you to everyone that has kept Faith Lutheran as a wonderful place to worship. We continued with our dedicated Interim Pastor John Kuziej, with the assistance of Pastor Grant VanLishout and Karen Carter leading our worship three and sometimes four Sundays a month. We thank them for their help. We continued with our call process, and were blessed to have our new pastor, Reverend Catie Ford accept! Pastor Catie began her service to Faith in mid-November, 2021. She is a breath of fresh air, and a wonderful addition to our Faith family.


Faith Lutheran Church
6995 Highway 45 South
PO Box 436
Three Lakes, WI 54562

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