Spreading God's Word

Since 2003

Our pastor started Westside Church on the first Sunday of September 2003, with 7 people in attendance for that first service. He dreamed of building a church with a simple goal; reaching those far from Christ. With the help of people committed to seeing that dream fulfilled, the church has experienced significant growth.

Our Leadership Team

  • Barry Benard — Senior Pastor

    Pastor Barry has been the primary spiritual leader and caregiver at Westside Church since its founding in May ‘03. Before that, he was the Senior Pastor of Grace Community Church of Chowchilla for five years following his graduation from Fresno Pacific University in 1998. 

      Over the years, both he and his wife Tricia have served in a wide variety of ministries – including youth, college/singles groups, discipleship/mentoring, Sunday school, music/drama, evangelism, Children’s Church, and even the Nursery! As a result, they now have a strong grasp of how healthy congregations should look, function and grow. They’re also both lifelong Madera residents – which means their knowledge of and passion for the community they serve runs deep.

    The Benards have been married since March of ‘88, and have three wonderful children – daughter Kelsey (now married to husband Alec), and sons Phillip and Jackson. Pastor Barry’s hobbies include guitar, muscle cars, pro sports and of course, cherry cola.

  • Steve Thornton — Elder

    Like Pastor Barry, Steve was born and raised in Madera, graduating from Madera High School in 1983. As a child, he grew up going to church and quickly developed a faith in Christ that was as real as it was deep. Later on, while earning a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from BIOLA (Bible Institute of Los Angeles) University, he began to sense God’s call into the ministry and served as a youth pastor for thirteen years (’88-‘01) at churches in Wasco, CA (near Bakersfield) and Sheridan, Wyoming, before returning to Madera. In 2001, the Lord transitioned him into public education and thus he taught English and Social Studies in Le Grand, Planada, and Madera High School.

    Sadly, in the years that followed, Steve’s faith would be stretched to its limits and beyond with the stunning collapse of his first marriage. During this tumultuous time, God stripped away every façade he’d unwittingly constructed and forced him to both seek and discover a deeper, more meaningful relationship with His Creator. Thankfully, the people of Westside were there to help guide and support Steve through this dark season with unconditional love and prayerful encouragement, thus allowing him to rediscover the compassion and strength of our blessed Savior.

    Today, he proudly works for Madera Unified School District as the County’s BTSA (Beginning Teacher Support & Assessment) Director. He has also experienced even more of the Savior’s kindness and mercy in the person of his best friend and now second wife, Rhianna – along with their blended family of five precious children (Joshua, Christian, Maison, Ashley, and Emma). To quote Steve, he considers it “…an honor to serve among the people of Westside. Through all my experiences with various congregations, I’ve never felt the depth of love and acceptance as I have here in this fellowship!”

  • Matt Schoettler - Elder

    Matt is also a longtime Madera resident and graduate of MHS who, beginning as a young boy, grew up working for Schoettler Tire – a seminal local business jointly owned and operated by his father and uncle (Dave and Tom Schoettler, respectively). It was during his tenure there that he developed the trade and professional skills that eventually allowed him to start a company of his own, California Tire Solutions, in Fresno.

    Following college and the painful dissolution of his first marriage back in the early 80’s, Matt accepted Christ as His personal Lord and Savior and began regularly attending church in Fresno. Not long afterward, he unexpectedly ran into a girl he’d known since high school (Pastor Barry’s sister, Denise) and learned that, like himself, she too had recently given her heart to Christ and was also attending a church. Sensing the Lord’s hand at work, they began to date and soon fell in love and were married in ’86. Today, they have two children – son Stephen and daughter Kristen – and one grandson, baby Emmit. 

      The Schoettlers are charter members of Westside and Matt was part of the original elder board that founded the church in May 2003. He also has a great deal of lay ministry experience as part of FCA, YFC, High School/Junior High Youth Staff, and church leadership. His hobbies include football (playing, coaching and/or watching), history-related books or documentaries, and playing with his grandson.

  • Robert Adams -Elder

    Robert is a native of Fresno who – after beginning a career in journalism (both he and his wife Donna once worked for our local newspaper, the Madera Tribune) – felt called to change gears and move into education. Thus, he returned to college and attained a teaching credential before being hired by the Madera Unified School District and instructing multiple grade levels for the past 17 years. He and his wife Donna have been married for 23 years and have a grown son, Brian (with wife Amy) and two grandchildren, Bryce and Abigail.

    Robert has been a Christian for 40 years and an elder at Westside for seven. In his free time, he enjoys exercising.

Our Beliefs

At our church, you will hear the word “gospel” repeatedly because it is the most important truth that we can know and experience. The gospel is not merely a message that needs to be shared with non-Christians, but also with Christians. It is not something that mature Christians move on from, but rather something that they move deeper into. The gospel is the lens in which we should view theology, ministry, and all aspects of life.

The Apostle Paul defined the word “gospel” concisely in 1st Corinthians 15:3-5 when he wrote, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” Simply put, the gospel is all about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, and the implications it has for us.