Elmbrook: A Rich History
In 1957, five families joined to pray about a unique vision to form a new church. These five families came from Garfield Baptist church, but felt God's desire for them was to reach the community and introduce more people to the gospel. They had no pastor and no building, but they had hope.
That hope soon grew into First Baptist Church of Brookfield. They met for the first time on February 1, 1958 in Leland School with 30 people in attendance. The church had an annual income of $2,933, which they used to support two missions teams. As they continued to reach the Brookfield area, they hired a salaried pastor, Ted Anderson, in 1959.
Attendance increased to 68 people, with an additional 85 involved in Sunday school. The church now had a budget of $7,306. A sanctuary and Sunday school facility was built on Calhoun Road to accommodate about 350 people, but the church quickly grew past that capacity.
The church dropped its Baptist affiliation and became the non-denominational church we know today as Elmbrook Church. There were now 700 people in attendance. The church hired their first full-time pastor, Bob Hobson, in 1968 and added a second Sunday morning service and an evening service to reach the growing congregation.
Elmbrook Church broke ground on the present Brookfield campus location, at 777 South Barker Road, Brookfield. The church had grown to 1,100 meeting in two locations: its facilities on Calhoun Road and in the Ruby Isle Theater. Stuart Briscoe came to Elmbrook as Senior Pastor in 1970. Under his leadership, 39 acres were purchased for $100,000 and the church moved into its next phase. The church’s annual giving increased to $337,000. 1972 was the first year Elmbrook Church hosted the World Missions Conference that later became what we know as Harvestfest.
The first service in the new location was held, but the growth of the church still surpassed anyone’s imagination. A new, bigger sanctuary had been built, but hundreds more people were flocking to the church. Two weeks after the first service in the new facility, a second service was added. The church also expanded the Library, the parking lot and added a classroom wing. There were now six people on the pastoral staff. Two years later, a third service was added on Saturday evenings.
A third Sunday morning service was added for a total of four services. Billy Graham visited Elmbrook Church. The Study Center began, along with a media ministry. A church survey revealed that 63 percent of the attendants had been in the church five years or less. There were 1500 children and 900 high school aged children. Elmbrook planted its first church, Eastbrook, with pastor Dr. Marc Erickson, and expanded the missions ministry to a budget of $332,000.
During the '80s three new church plants happened in quick succession: Westbrook came first in 1983. 1985 saw the start of Northbrook, and Meadowbrook was started in 1989. Elmbrook also helped found two churches for refugees in Laos. During this decade, south wing classrooms and offices were added, the seating in the sanctuary was expanded and the west wing activity center, including the gymnasium and more classrooms, was added. Elmbrook Church began broadcasting its Sunday service. Faith Promise hit $1 million in 1987, making it one of the largest global missions budgets of its day, enabling Elmbrook to support more than 80 missionaries, ministry organizations and mission apprentices across the globe.
Elmbrook broke ground on a new, 3,000-seat sanctuary and educational wing to accommodate its growing congregation. In 1994, the new sanctuary was complete. By 1996, there was a completed third-floor education addition, Amphitheater and a remodeled Chapel, Library, Bookstore, Fellowship Hall and kitchen. Elmbrook Church now had 6,000 adults in attendance, 3600 members, 125 missionaries with a $1,250,000 missions budget, and a weekly live radio broadcast.
Mel Lawrenz became the new Senior Pastor, as Stuart and Jill Briscoe transitioned to Ministers-at-Large to focus on developing a media ministry and ministering globally to church pastors. With the completion of the outside plaza, “Project Expand” was complete: a doubling in size of the church facility. The church made a new commitment to wide-ranging digital ministry and media integration, intentionally expanding Elmbrook's reach via the internet with uploads of sermons and written media.
The first annual session of The International Center took place this year, with leaders from Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America gathering for three weeks of intensive training. Sunday morning expanded to three worship services.
Elmbrook began a year-long celebration of 50 years of ministry — a Year of Jubilee — with a focus on “The Christ Life.” This focus took the congregation through a year-long study of Luke’s Gospel. The church celebrated retiring its debt from Project Expand.
Elmbrook’s commitment to global mission was reflected in a record Faith Promise commitment of $2.8 million. Elmbrook planted Brooklife Church in Mukwonago, and some of Elmbrook’s daughter churches began planting churches of their own, including Oakbrook and Kettlebrook, with more to come.
Mel Lawrenz transitioned to the role of Minster-at-Large and launched The Brook Network to resource leaders locally and globally. Phillip Griffin was called as Senior Pastor. He instituted Spanish worship translation a year later, in 2011.
Phillip Griffin resigned from his role and Lead Pastor Scott Arbeiter was named as interim pastor while the search for a new Senior Pastor began. Granddaughter churches such as Oakbrook and Kettlebrook began planting church plants of their own, expanding outreach in the Milwaukee area.
Jason Webb, Senior Pastor of Elmbrook daughter church Brooklife, was called to be Elmbrook's new Senior Pastor. The Commons area was completed, which connected the Library and Bookstore resource ministries.
Albo Esilaba of Kenya was called as a Senior Associate Pastor, and the church leadership embarked on a year-long process to clarify the mission of Elmbrook Church. In September the mission statement was introduced during Vision Weekend: "To help people become Rooted in Christ and Released to His Mission."
Elmbrook en Español campus was launched. Paco Cojon was called as Associate Pastor.
Elmbrook Church was approached by daughter church Westbrook about a potential merger. In September 2017 the Lake Country campus of Elmbrook Church was launched in the former Westbrook facility.
A new Executive Team was formed, including Senior Pastor Jason Webb and Senior Associate Pastors Laurie McIntyre, Steve Sonderman and Albo Esilaba, as well as Mark Heckman, Executive Director of Central Support Services. Under the leadership of the Executive Team, Elmbrook underwent significant restructuring to align with its mission and vision.
In August 2017 a historic congregational vote was passed, amending the church constitution to allow full leadership status to women as elders and at every level of church leadership — consistent with and underscoring Elmbrook's long-held esteem of women pastors, preachers, teachers and leaders of the church.