Our History


40 acres of landing along the Rock River in Watertown, Wis. were donated to Bethesda.


Bethesda was officially founded in Watertown, Wis. by concerned Lutherans and opened its doors to five people. Bethesda focused on Christ-centered training and Lutheran education while providing people with a loving, supportive home.


Bethesda lost its lease in Watertown so the school relocated to Milwaukee, Wis.


Due to overcrowded conditions and a long waiting list, Bethesda built the first building on the 40 acres of land that was donated in 1903. Back in Watertown, Wis. individuals who received support and services helped with the farming, gardening, and tending of livestock while also helping to take care of those less able.


The school adopted the name Bethesda, taken from John 5:2-9 meaning House of Mercy


More than 270 people called Bethesda home. The first full-time chaplain was called and workshops began.


During the depression of the 1930s, Bethesda sold wool batts and thistle tea to raise money. Of the 368 people living at Bethesda, 245 received no financial support. Money was a problem, so the staff took a pay cut. Then God blessed Bethesda with two bequests and numerous other contributions, making the building of a new chapel possible.


Bethesda entered a period of expansion which began with renovations and still continues today with the expansion into community settings.


The first Bethesda thrift shop was opened in Watertown, Wis.


Between 1961-1968, Bethesda started occupational therapy, music therapy, speech therapy and physical therapy departments.


Camp Matz was opened. Today it is a fully accessible camp for people with developmental disabilities.


Bethesda began expanding its services across the eastern half of the
United States.


Bethesda's National Christian Resource Center (NCRC) opened.


Corporate members voted to change the official name of the organization to Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services, Inc.


The organization made a greater commitment to serve people in the community when it created new Ministry Consultant (MC) positions. MCs work directly with families, teachers and pastors, ensuring that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities receive the Christian education and spiritual nurture they need. All of their services are free of charge.


Bethesda signed an alliance that established a partnership, Impact, to assist individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities worldwide. Impact partners are v. Bodelschwingh Institution of Bethel, Germany; Bethesda Lutheran Communities, Inc., United States of America; the Deacony Foundation of Northern Norway; Mosaic, United States of America; and Bethphage of Great Britain.


Bethesda celebrated its 100 year anniversary. Expansion into community-based homes and services led to a decrease in the number of people living on the campus in Watertown, Wis. For those people continuing to live at the Watertown campus, a $25 million dollar campus remodeling provided private rooms and more individualized living spaces.


Good Shepherd Communities affiliated with Bethesda, expanding our services to the western part of the United States.


Bethesda’s Board voted to officially adopt the name Bethesda Lutheran Communities.


Bethesda officially launched the Bethesda Institute. The Bethesda Institute recast the NCRC and expanded its focus.


Lutheran Disability Ministries and Lutheran Disability Outreach, both of Indiana, became part of Bethesda


© 2015 Bethesda Lutheran Communities
600 Hoffmann Drive, Watertown, WI 53094 Phone: 800-369-4636