Bittenbender Transition at Chapman Nazarene Church

Pastors Dave Downs and Wes Bittenbender at the Chapman Memorial Church of the Nazarene.

By John Fulton

Pastor Wes Bittenbender of Chapman Memorial Church of the Nazarene in Vicksburg is expecting his title to change from executive pastor to Administrator and Director of Encore Adult Ministries.

“I am not retiring, but taking on a new ministry that will reach senior adults that are 55 and older,” he said. The move should be a reduction of work time, but Pastor Wes will remain a vital part of the leadership.

Pastor Wes has deep roots in Vicksburg. He grew up here and graduated from Vicksburg High School in 1964. After graduation he attended Olivet Nazarene University where he received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music. He then attended Michigan State University for some post graduate courses and received a Master’s Degree from Saginaw Valley University in Administrative Leadership.

He spent much of his adult life around the cities of Warren and Adrian. He had many titles and vocations during this time such as, K-12 music teacher, youth pastor, worship leader, and elementary principal.

Pastor Wes first met his wife, Marcia at the Indian Lake Nazarene campground. He was from Vicksburg and she from Muskegon. But they both attended Olivet Nazarene University where their relationship really began and married in 1968.

They had two children together, Brent and Amy. Brent has recently moved back to Vicksburg after some missionary work in Detroit. Unfortunately, Amy passed away after a car accident four years ago. Their children have given them six grandchildren and one more is on the way. As a result of their daughter’s fatal accident they’ve acquired four step grandchildren.

The Bittenbenders chose to return to Vicksburg in 2005 to retire, to a home Pastor Wes’ parents owned at the Nazarene campground. They have since built a home on the site where he was raised.

It was not long after returning to Vicksburg that Senior Pastor Dave Downs of Chapman Memorial Church of Nazarene wanted to meet with Pastor Wes to discuss a job offer as executive pastor. He has held this position now for 11 years.

Much of the position has required overseeing the day to day operations of the church which frees Pastor Dave to be the Senior Pastor and shepherd the flock.

The church became focused on reaching out to children, students and young adults and young families a few years ago. The church has been growing as a result of these initiatives. Pastor Wes said, “We have been fortunate to hire qualified people with a passion to reach people of all ages.”

The new ministry is called, Encore and the whole community is invited and welcome to participate. “The idea for the name is based on concepts like “play it again” or “we’re not done yet” or “the part after the main show”, said Pastor Wes.

“So far, Encore Adult Ministries has focused on activities for the different needs of this age group including daytime activities, trips and times of fellowship. Encore will be adding other more meaningful and spiritual challenging activities a time goes on,” he emphasized.

For more information on Encore please contact Pastor Wes at Chapman Memorial Nazarene Church 649-2392 or visit their website, They are located at 7520 East U Avenue near Indian Lake.

Leave a Reply