About

Our Story

George Brader, Founding Member

“We have God to thank for the way people were interested in growing together, studying the Word, and worshiping … We were really, truly blessed.”

On a Wednesday evening in the fall of 1963, a small group of families from Bethany Evangelical Free Church on the east side of Madison, began meeting together in a west side home for connection, bible study, and prayer. After nearly two years of meeting, this small group of families was encouraged by the leaders of Bethany to purchase a newly vacant church building on Madison’s near westside with proximity to the University of Wisconsin campus. Trusting that God was guiding, the families took the leap and held the first official service of Blackhawk Avenue Evangelical Free Church on May 2, 1965. Nineteen people signed the original charter to incorporate Blackhawk Church.

Though Blackhawk has grown since its first service in 1965, the ethos of that small neighborhood church has remained – that’s why you’ll find things like venues at our Brader Way site, our Downtown and Fitchburg sites nestled in local communities where Blackhawkers can go to church near their neighborhoods, a variety of small group options so people of all ages and stages (even kids and students!) can engage the Bible and do life together, and culture-specific spaces where people can connect with God and each other through their “heart language” and shared cultural rhythms. We have long been grounded and guided by a desire to “build a community to reach a community” and, while that has taken various forms through the years, consistent threads regardless of season have been a commitment to the Bible, a passion for local and global service, and a love for the city and University.

As founding member George Brader once said, “We have God to thank for the way people were interested in growing together, studying the Word, and worshiping … We were really, truly blessed.” Yes, indeed – to God be the glory.

Invisible

1965

Blackhawk Avenue Evangelical Free Church incorporates and holds its first service. Myron Higby is the first pastor.

1986

After outgrowing the original location, Blackhawk relocates to a near-westside church building on Whitney Way.

1994

Chris Dolson becomes Blackhawk’s Senior Pastor.

1997

The Whitney Way building is expanded to accommodate the growing ministries.

2007

After outgrowing the Whitney Way location, Blackhawk builds and relocates to a far-westside church building on Brader Way.

2010

With a desire to stay connected to the University and downtown Madison, Blackhawk’s first site – Blackhawk Downtown – opens in rented space at the Majestic Theatre.

2011

Responding to the growing number of Mandarin speakers attending Blackhawk, the early development of what is now Blackhawk Chinese Ministry begins.

2013

Noticing how God is drawing many from greater Fitchburg, Blackhawk’s second site – Blackhawk Fitchburg – opens in rented space at Savanna Oaks Middle School.

2015

Blackhawk Downtown relocates to its current home, Upper|House, and becomes the church in residence there.

2019

Responding to a shared desire with a predominantly African-American Church in Madison, Blackhawk takes another intentional step toward pursuing God’s vision for a multicultural kingdom by uniting with that church and developing Blackhawk African American Ministry. In early 2020, the Gospel Fusion Venue results from that partnership.

Blackhawk Fitchburg builds and relocates to its current home at 5935 Astor Drive.

2021

Chris Dolson retires, and Matt Metzger becomes Blackhawk’s Senior Pastor.