Lighthouse Youth Center has served Milwaukee’s youth since opening its first location in 2006; two more locations opened in Milwaukee in 2012 and 2020. This April, Lighthouse held a grand opening for its fourth location in Appleton, Wis.—the first satellite site outside of Milwaukee.
The mission of Lighthouse has been the same since the first location opened at Redemption in Milwaukee’s Havenwoods neighborhood. “Lighthouse was formed to create a safe, structured place for kids to gather, have some fun, get some help with their homework, and learn about Jesus,” says James Buske, executive director of Lighthouse Youth Center. The centers are open for free to all youth ages 10-18. Through the years, Lighthouse, in its multiple locations, has served more than 5,500 kids.
In 2020, Lighthouse’s board met to develop a five-year plan and discuss what expansion opportunities might look like. Meanwhile, in the Fox Valley area of Wisconsin, interest was growing for a youth ministry in the community. A plan came to fruition when 922 Ministries (a multi-site WELS ministry in Appleton) contacted Buske with the suggestion that Lighthouse open a location at The CORE in downtown Appleton. “It was totally a God-thing bringing us together,” says Buske.
He continues, “When 922 Ministries reached out to us, they had about 3,500 square feet in their newly renovated building that they had not renovated. The plan was to gut this area and turn it into a place that would have our three major components—recreation, education, and a place for devotion time.”
Tim Glende, a pastor with 922 Ministries, says that the congregation had intended that space to be used for something to bless the community. “When this opportunity presented itself, we believed it was a perfect fit with our ministry values found in our name, 922 Ministries. [Our name] is based on 1 Corinthians 9:22, ‘I became all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.’ Lighthouse reaches people in a different and unique way with the goal of meeting people where they are at and sharing the gospel with them.”
Glende says the hope is that by having members involved in the new youth program that they will be able to connect the youth—and their families—to the church and the saving gospel message.
Josh Fenske, a member of The CORE, was hired as the site director for the Appleton campus. A lifelong WELS member, Fenske says that when he heard a location was opening at his congregation, he knew he wanted to be a part of it. “I enjoy working with youth,” he says, “whether it’s giving them the knowledge of the love of Jesus or helping them with their homework or giving them a safe space and maybe someone else to look up to.”
The Appleton Lighthouse campus officially opened its doors to Appleton’s youth in May. During the summer it will be open four days a week. The plan is to be open five days a week beginning with the 2023–24 school year.
Lighthouse Youth Center continued its expansion in May, opening its fifth location in partnership with St. Paul, Muskego, Wis., which purchased the former Divine Peace church building and renovated it for a community space.
Learn more about Lighthouse Youth Center at lighthouseyouthcenter.com.
Author: Forward in Christ
Volume: 110, Number 06
Issue: June 2023