Beneath the Tree

Thank you to all of our volunteers who did amazing work decorating, serving, making food for our volunteers and hosting.  It was an amazing effort and well worth it!  Thank you!

Forgotten Virtues

Honor. Purity. Loyalty. Integrity. Gratitude. Are they gone? Did we leave true character behind? Join us as we learn what we can do to reclaim these Forgotten Virtues.

September 9: Honor

September 16: Purity

September 23: Loyalty

September 30: Integrity

October 7: Gratitude

Meal Nights (this fall)

This September/October, groups of 8-10 adults (and kiddos) will be gathering in homes around GR for four consecutive weeks.  The reason?  Simple: food and relationship.  If you’d be interested in being a host for one of these meals, email


From his roots as a farmer, he was called to become a prophet. After being apprentice to Elijah, he became a master in his own right. Come join us as we walk through the life of Elisha.

June 3 – 1 Kings 19:1-21
June 10 – 2 Kings 2:1-18
June 17 – 2 Kings 2:19-22
June 24 – 2 Kings 4:1-7
July 1 – 2 Kings 4:8-37
July 8 – 2 Kings 5:20-27
July 15 – 2 Kings 6:1-7
July 22 – 2 Kings 6:8-23
July 29 – 2 Kings 6:24-7:20
August 5 – 2 Kings 8:1-6


Jesus’ resurrection and ascension set in motion a series of events that literally changed the world. But how?  How did an ordinary, average group of men and women live remarkably purposeful and impactful lives? Maybe it can be boiled down to this: “all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4).

The phrase “filled with the Spirit” comes up repeatedly throughout the book of Acts.Join us as we explore these passages and discover what a life “filled with the Spirit” means and looks like.

April 15 – Acts 1:1-11
April 22 – Acts 2:1-21
April 29 – Acts 4:1-22
May 6 – Acts 4:23-31
May 13 – Acts 4:32-37
May 20 – Acts 9-19
May 27 – Acts 13:44-52

Meal Nights (Version 2.0)

We’ve been sharing meals in each others homes from the very beginning of the Branch.
That tradition continues — only with a new twist.  Here’s the details:
Instead of all piling into one home on one night, now the same four households will meet for four meals over four consecutive weeks.  
As usual, there won’t be an agenda with these meals — just a chance to meet people, build relationships and enjoy great food.
There are three options to choose from (please note: there are limited spots).
Simply email (use subject meal night) and let us know which one would work for you:
Option 1: Friday evenings; meet on April 27, May 4, 11 and 18 (two spots remaining)
Option 2: Saturday evenings; meet on April 28, May 5, 12 and 19 (FULL)
Option 3: Sunday evenings; meet on April 29, May 6, 13 and 20 (FULL)
Final details: kids are expected to be a part of these gatherings; meals will be old-school potluck 🙂  We’ll provide details once you sign up.
Looking forward to it.
Team Branch

Easter Tailgating

Tailgating?  On Easter morning?  Really?
Yep 🙂  We believe that hanging out in the parking lot to share good food, play games, and build community is a great way to enter into the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection.  There will be breakfast sandwiches, fruit, juice, & coffee provided.  Feel free, but not obligated, to bring a breakfast/brunch item to share (yogurt/granola, coffee cake, quiche, pastries, etc).

Good Friday

Church? On Friday night?  Really?
Yep.  It may be a bit out of the ordinary — but this is, after all, an out of the ordinary Friday.
There won’t be a long sermon (try not to shout for joy) — just an hour of music, Scripture, prayer and reflection — all meant to help us consider what the final hours of Christ’s life might mean for us today.
Childcare for birth-K is available.

Q & A: Get your questions answered!

Q: Do I have to be all in or all out?
A: The simple answer is, “no”.  The beauty of MCs is that they allow for people (all people — those at the Branch and those not at the Branch) to participate in a MC at various levels.  Some people will participate in all activities of the MC, but others will engage occasionally — or only in a particular aspect of the MC — and that is ok.  We understand that not all those who are involved in MCs will be at the same place of spiritual development or  life stage.  The important thing is that each person who is ready to be involved on some level is ready to be making forward motion toward living more and more missionally in the world, no matter your starting point!

To get an even fuller understanding about the answer to this question, we strongly encourage you to look at the ‘layers’ documents here.

Q: I am a busy person! Is there a place for me?
A: That depends on you.  This is an important question because most of us feel this tension.  It is the accepted norm in our world today to be busy.  But if we’re honest, it is also one of the greatest enemies of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.  Which is why we regularly encourage people at the Branch to ask, “Why?”  “Why am I so busy, and what am I busy with?”  Ultimately, “In what ways does my busy-ness keep me from faithfully following Jesus Christ?”

As we ask these questions, we believe that the Spirit will show us if anything needs to change: areas that need to be pruned away, decisions that need to be made, priorities that need to be reconfigured.   And once the Spirit has spoken, it is our responsibility to obey.  Ok…now, back to Missional Communities.  Is there a place for people who are busy in a MC?  Yes (see Q&A above), but we want to be clear: in order to live incarnationally — and to be meaningfully connected to others — and in order to be a part of what God is doing in the world — we are going to have to become less busy (whether or not a person may ever join a MC).  We are going to have to say ‘no’ to some things so that we can say ‘yes’ to other things.  We may need to shut off the cable or restructure our weekends or… (you decide)!

So first thing’s first: is our busy-ness keeping us from being a disciple of Jesus Christ?  If it is, what needs to change?  Once we’ve wrestled with these questions, it will be much easier to see how and if we can be involved in a MC.

Q: Does a Missional Community focus only on meeting the needs of the broken?
A: Every MC will have a unique mission focus, but that focus could literally be anything.  The only requirement is that it is a vision for mission that originates from the Holy Spirit.  This means that one MC might focus on poverty in a particular neighborhood or supporting refugees, but another might focus on network of relationships of business executives or suburban high-school students.

In the end, it is most important to understand that our mission is about making disciples by participating in the renewal and redemption of the world around us.  The good news is that God is with us! This will be the underlying inspiration for an MC’s identity and activities.  We may need to be creative about how to stretch outside our traditional understanding of church “missions” in order to see where God is calling us to participate.

It is also important to say that while each MC will have a particular mission that drives it, there are other critical elements of an MC that go beyond mission.  For example, borrowing a family dynamic, every MC will regularly do things that build community and strengthen the relationships of those associated with that MC.   Missional Communities will also spend energy growing in faith and helping others do the same (making disciples).  We strongly encourage you to look at the Rhythms document to get a fuller sense of what MCs will be doing.  Especially note the rhythms of “Eating”, “Story”, “Re-create” and “Listen” as we learn how to live together as a critical part of our participation in God’s mission in the world.

Q: Can I be part of an MC even if I’m not a charismatic leader type?
A: YES. Let’s be honest — few of us are charismatic leader types!  Missional Communities are for all people — people of all personality types — people from all kinds of religious backgrounds (including people with no religious background) — people in different stages of life — etc.   If you haven’t already, we strongly encourage you to take a look at this information on who is in a Missional Community.  Here is where we must all be reminded that our role in a Missional Community is based on the task of incarnational living.  This means that we live our own lives, when we are together with each other and when we’re not gathered, in a way the claims God’s goodness, promises, and call to the Church.  This is about living out a message of good news, “God is with us”.  While this simple task is a stretch for many of us, we can all do it!  We can learn to let the mission of God and our understanding of the great Story form our decisions about where to live, what schools to attend, whether to get married or have children, what jobs to take on, how to eat, pray and live in our neighborhoods…and so on.  These are choices we all make anyway.  Our role as a member of an MC will not require us to be skilled street evangelizers or charismatic people organizers.  Our influence will be personalized to our own lives and personalities.  That’s good news indeed!

Q: Can I help lead an MC even if I don’t have a theological education or leadership training?
A:  Absolutely.  In fact, Missional Communities are meant to be led by ‘ordinary’ people.  Each Missional Community will have three, maybe four or five, people who will make the commitment to provide leadership for the group.  Few, if any, of these people will have formal theological training.  What these people will have, however, is a strong sense of calling to a particular type of mission and a demonstrated willingness to listen to and be obedient to the Holy Spirit.  To get a fuller sense of what we will be asking of those leading MCs, see the commitments “Covenant Members” will be asked to make.

Q: What about my kids?
A: Yes! Kids are welcome, necessary and appreciated in the life of a Missional Community.  There are certain things your kids will get out of being part of this sort of family/community.  And, there are things your kids will bring to life of the MC.  What’s more, there are certain things that your kids will bring to the world through life in an MC.

Check out this link for details and thoughts on all these things!

What is a Missional Community?

What should I do?

More on Rhythms

Sharing Stories:  We are part of the great story of God and the people.  We are part of our own stories and others’ too.  We are part of the story of the world.  As we listen and share, we join our hearts with each other.  And, in listening to the Spirit in the midst of this story we all participate in, from creation to redemption, we become creatures of prayer.

– As people of God, created, redeemed, called, and active, the Story is with us.  In our Communities, we will hear, enact, and dwell in the word of God and the unfolding story it tells.
– We share our own stories with each other as we live together in community, participating in the mission of God in our unique ways.
– As we live missionally, we also must listen for the story of the world we are sent into.  What is the history in this neighborhood?  What motivates these people we encounter?  Where are we coming from and where are we going?  What forms the lives and choices of this person, or the city, or this nation?
– Listening to God is prayer.  Rather than always offering God our words, we will learn to listen to what the Spirit is saying and how we’re being called and transformed.
– As the Spirit leads us and forms us, we will listen both backward and forward. We accept where and who we have been. And we anticipate where and who we will become. We pay attention to that which has come before us and to the generations of the future. God speaks all these things to our hearts and uses our memories, dreams and longings to shape us for God’s mission.

Playing: As a family, we participate in God’s continual creation and renewal, and in God’s rest and joy in what’s been created.  We do this by playing together, creating together, celebrating birthdays, holidays, and other moments of goodness, together.
– We celebrate what God has done in our lives!  God’s work in creating and renewing is always present.  The world is created and renewed out of God’s love and generosity.  God is providing and transforming and we are grateful.  And so we have many things to rejoice in, as people who know God.
– With so much to thank God for, we will make our celebration visible to others in our lives and in our neighborhoods.  They will see the hope of Christ and the joy of the Spirit in our play!
– Not only do we celebrate, we also participate in God’s goodness, through play. We embrace creativity, adventure, rest, and the richness of life.
– Joining in play and celebration together brings us connection, sharing in the abundance of God.  This is an important connection that will help sustain us through times when joy and richness may seem scarce.

Joining: We bless because God blesses us.  We take part in God’s renewing actions in the world.  This is our missional activity to the world, both individually and together.  The story of the redemption of the people and the earth is unfolding all around us.  As those who know God, and follow Christ’s ways, we will find and play out our part in this story.

– It is not so that the church has a mission to bless the world, but that blessing the world is God’s mission and the people participate.  We bless the world by living into redemption and grace.  We bless the world by forming relationships and blooming where we are planted.
– As people of God, we can bless the world and people around us in our own lives on a daily pattern.  Through missional life, we also bless the world together.  By living in community with common focus and vision, we take part in God’s mission of blessing and renewal.
– Often this requires both a financial cost and a commitment of time, as well as an earnest offering of our hearts and our skills.
– In this rhythm, we join with God in promoting hope and love.  We join with each other as we take on these tasks.  And we join with those in the world, across boundaries, who are already doing this work, too!

What is a Missional Community?

Branch MCsbranch-circle

>What is an MC?

Who is in an MC?

What about kids and MCs?

What does an MC do?

It’s a family.

At the Branch, Missional Communities (MCs) are ‘extended family’ like groups (20-50 people) that meet regularly in order to encourage and equip each other to live the kind of life Jesus lived.  When thinking about this, we often use the language of UP, IN and OUT.

UP is about our relationship to God — our identity as children of the King.  Jesus modeled an intimacy with the Father that we want to experience.  And so just as Jesus spent time with the spiritual disciplines (prayer and fasting to name two), so too will MCs spend time doing those things that bring them closer to the heart of the Father.

IN is about our relationship with each other. Jesus was always investing himself in his disciples.  They got away on retreats – ate meals together – prayed – went to synagogue – all of it building community and trust.   MCs will encourage and empower each other in ways that are ‘organized’ (every Monday night meals) and in ways that are more ‘organic’ (let’s head to the beach this Saturday and hang out).

OUT is about our relationship to the world that God so desperately loves.  We see Jesus having compassion for those others ignored and announcing the Good News to them.  Everywhere he went, heaven came to earth.   MCs follow Jesus’ lead by uniting around a common, specific mission and working to discern and proclaim the Good News in that context.

What do Missional Communities do?

Branch MCsbranch-circle

What is an MC?

Who is in an MC?

What about kids and MCs?

>What does an MC do?

In a phrase….practice missional life together.

The following rhythms fit our vision and context as people here in West Michigan. We are asking each MC to embrace these rhythms in their own expression of life together. How these 3 rhythms get lived out will be unique to each MC.

The Rhythms of Life Together

sharing stories:  We are part of the great story of God and the people. We are part of our own stories and others’ too. We are part of the story of the world. As we listen and share in all these stories, we join our hearts with each other. And, in listening to the Spirit in the midst of this bigger story, which we all participate in, from creation to redemption, we become creatures of prayer, contemplation and rich formation. 

playing: As a family, we participate in God’s continual creation and renewal, and in God’s rest and joy in what’s been created. We do this by playing together, creating together, celebrating birthdays, holidays and other moments of goodness, together. 

joining: We bless because God blesses us. We take part in God’s renewing actions in the world. This is our missional activity to the world, both individually and together. The story of the redemption of the people and the earth is unfolding all around us. As those who know God, and follow Christ’s ways, we will find and play-out our part in this story. 

More on rhythms


What should I do?

So where do we go from here?

The Branch is a place where dreams and passions are free to unfold – a place where people are encouraged to explore the ways God may be moving them towards mission. God is already working, renewing and moving in the world and in the hearts of the people. We embrace this and want to participate, as Jesus did, as the Spirit calls us to.

If God has been placing a particular place, network of relationships or activity in your pathway, pay close attention to that.  This is how MC’s begin: the Spirit leading the people. Perhaps you want to share that with us! We would consider it an honor to explore how you and the Branch might join in discovering what this sense of mission could involve, even if it doesn’t end up as a Missional Community.

For all of us, no matter our place on the journey, consider the following pattern as we way to create and deepen your awareness and sensitivity to God’s Spirit:

Not only is this pattern a way of specifically listening for the moving of the Spirit in any one particular situation, it’s also a great practice to keep as a constant in our lives. It can shape our decision making, our dreams and our hearts. We encourage you to practice this pattern in your thought life, your prayer life and throughout your daily activities. God is speaking and nudging, we need only become aware. Let God use this pattern to shape a vision for mission in your heart.

Current Missional Communities

Each of these MCs (and all future MCs) will in many ways look different from one another — with unique missions and distinct rhythms, but at their core they are the same: extended families with a common purpose.

Here’s some details:

Wealthy St. MC

  • When: every Monday evening, 5:45pm.
  • What: Mondays are simple: potluck dinner and conversation — a time for family to be built.
  • Where:  837 Sigsbee SE
  • QuestionsContact Dave at

Madison St. MC

  • When: every Thursday evening, 5:30pm
  • What: potluck dinner (time for family) and a multi-generational practicing of a spiritual discipline (time for our relationship with God and the world).
  • Where: 2020 Madison Ave. SE
  • Questions? Contact Chris at

What’s a Missional Community?
What should I do?
How can I learn more?
Q & A

How can I learn more?

If you’re ready for more, this is the place.  Below are some of our podcasts and links to articles or videos that we’ve found helpful.  It should keep you busy for a while.  But we’ll also be adding more as we go along.

What should I do?

Questions & Answers

Click here to get your burning questions answered!


Branch Podcasts

The first in a series of updates on Sunday mornings: click here

The second in a series of updates on Sunday mornings: click here

The first in a series we did introducing mission circles (missional communities): click here

The second in a series we did introducing mission circles (missional communities): click here

The third and final message in a series we did introducing mission circles: click here


Other Communities We’re Watching

3DM –

Neiu Communities –

Trinity Grace Church, NY –

Church of the Saviour, D.C. –


Reading List

Michael Frost: Re-Jesus, The Shaping of Things to Come, Leap of Faith, Exiles

Alan Hircsh: The Permanent Revolution, Leap of Faith, Forgotten Ways, On the Verge

Lisa Sharon Harper: Left, Right & Christ

Karen Wilk: Don’t Invite Them to Church

David Fitch: The Great Giveaway

Mike Breen: Building a Discipling Culture



– 3DM – – Visit here to learn a bit about some of the roots of Missional Communities, originally emerging in the UK.

– Listen to Alan Hirsch as he explores what community could look like when it is rooted in mission.  Might this be what our community — our lives — would look like in a mission circle?

– Being a part of a MC means re-imagining your every day life and experiences.  Here are 10 Simple Ways to be a person sent into the world by God to bring hope, healing and love.

– Here, Jo Saxton with 3DM answers some questions about the risk and adventure required to live missionally, and what it takes to follow Christ in this extreme way.

Who is in a Missional Community?

Branch MCs


What is an MC?

>Who is in an MC?

What about kids and MCs?

What does an MC do?


Two words: anyone and everyone.

One of the strengths of Missional Communities is that they allow for people to get involved in a variety of ways.  Which is to say, there is no right or wrong way to participate  – each layer of engagement is valued and important.  Plus, the layers are permeable, meaning that people are free to move in and out and between each layer as they choose.  Take a look below for a visual of where you or your family might fit…

















Layers of Belonging in an MC

There are many ways to belong to a Missional Community.   Some may approach the community not knowing God, uncertain if they want to participate at all.  Others will immediately begin on a leadership path.  All are welcome.  There is a place of belonging and a role for each individual and family in the community life of a Missional Community.  Each person, new and old, renews and re-evaluates commitments as time goes on.  All members can move between levels accordingly.


Those approaching MC from the outside may have noticed activities of the group that interest them for some reason but are unsure exactly what a Missional Community is and how they want to participate.  We expect that some of these individuals do not know God at all, or are estranged from life with God.  They do not belong to a congregation or worshipping body.  Perhaps they are not currently interested in God but are a Person of Peace* who wants to see the world or neighborhood renewed and healthy.  Or, the person entering from the edges may know God and affirm the efforts of the Missional Church*, but may not know anyone else in the MC and/or may not know what a MC is or what the mission focus is exactly.  They are just beginning to discover what this community is about and whether or not God is calling them into it.  Either of these individuals can easily move to regular engagement.


This is one who attends gatherings and activities  with some regularity.  This person may have come to the MC from the exploration layer, or they may have come from the outside and immediately committed to regular participation.  Some of these individuals may know God.  Some may not know God but are People of Peace that want to see the world or neighborhood renewed and healthy.  They may be involved in searching for or following through with mission opportunities or activities.  They may be involved in watching the edges of the MC for those approaching and helping to show them what the MC is and what the mission vision is.


The participants in this layer of belonging are regular participants, who may or may not be involved in special participation of the group in some way. Community Members are a part of regular spiritual direction and discernment activities. They are involved in searching for mission opportunities and/or activities. They are involved in watching the edges for those approaching and helping to show them what the MC is and what the mission vision is. They are a part of communicating the Gospel of justice, peace, hope, and reconciliation through Jesus Christ.

Community Members are encouraged to participate in the larger congregational life through worship gatherings. They are also strongly encouraged to consider joining The Branch as a Partner. We are committed to the belonging of the whole Missional Community within the life of The Branch. This means that Missional Communities are at home and supported by the congregational missional church. Regular participation in congregational worship and gatherings leads to strong familial ties between the Missional Community and the congregation.

Community Members commit to the following patterns in joy, freedom and faith:

  1. Regular engagement in MC life and support of the Mission Vision & Focus
  2. 15 min daily prayer/meditation/scripture/contemplation time
  3. Affirmation of Faith and Missional Calling*
  4. Special support and participation in one of the following areas: Mission or Making Disciples


MC members in this layer are regular attenders of events, gatherings and meetings. They are also engaged in leadership roles within the MC life. These members will be an MC Host or a leader for Making Disciples or Mission within the MC. The Host will take responsibility for the environment and hospitality of the group’s gatherings. This may include meal planning, greeting, etc. The two leaders take responsibility for making sure the group observes life-giving patterns of the 3 MC Rhythms. They will also be part of smaller gatherings called Huddles that will further disciple-making, personal growth and accountability.

Covenant Members commit to the following patterns in joy, freedom, and faith:

  1. Regular engagement in MC life and support of the Mission Vision & Focus
  2. 20 min daily prayer/meditation/scripture contemplation time
  3. Affirmation of Faith and Missional Calling*
  4. Accept responsibility for maintaining the 3 Rhythms
  5. Accept responsibility for Hosting, or  leadership of either Mission or Making Disciples
  6. Leaders will attend huddle meetings
  7. Leaders will enter and completing Partnership process at The Branch*
  8. Leaders will participate in creating a system of giving and finances for this MC

Ways to Be Missional (Missional Communities)

As missional communities (MC) embark, one of their first tasks will be to think of creative ways that the MC can engage in mission and connect with their community or network of relationships.  We anticipate this being a fun and fruitful process — with MCs planning events, times of service, and gatherings of all shapes and sizes.  But we can’t forget that while parties are great (and an often central element to MC life), one of the major goals of an MC is to help its participants more and more live missional lives in ordinary, everyday ways.

We want to encourage you to carve out 15 minutes this week to read this short article (on simple ways anyone can be missional).  As you do, begin to think of one way you could be intentionally missional in your every day life — right now.  Thinking through this — and taking steps to see it happen — will prepare you for your time in a MC.  But more than that — it will help you more fully live out God’s dream for you — a person sent by God into the world to bring hope, healing and love.

Getting Started (Missional Communities)

We are so excited to have a group of people ready to move forward with missional communities (MCs).  But how do we get started?  What are the next steps?

You may remember that MCs begin when God stirs in someone(s) heart, giving them a vision — a dream — a mission.  This is the first (and most critical) step.  And so while we might be tempted to launch a number of MCs right away (after all, we have people ready, right?), this phase in the process requires patience and attentiveness to the Spirit.

That said, we have good news to share.  God has been moving.  Currently, there is a small group of people who have felt God uniting their hearts — giving them a shared mission.  This group is working to clarify and specify that mission-vision, and when it becomes more clear we will let the Branch know ASAP so that you can consider if you want to join it.

We’ve also heard from others who are sensing the Spirit stir.  Will an MC sprout from each of these situations?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Again, patience and attentiveness are required (but let’s be honest, we can’t help but be hopeful that another MC will come from this too).

As you read all of this, you may be thinking, “Ok, this is all great.  But what can I do now?”  Here are a few thoughts:

1) Pray for our community.  Ask God to continue to work in and among us so that new dreams are born and new missions brought to life through the Spirit.

2) Pray for the Spirit to steer your heart.  Where and when and in what way is God going to lead you to be involved in a MC?  Ask God to begin opening your heart and mind right now.

3) Pray for the Spirit to stir your heart.  Could it be possible that God has a dream – a mission to give to you?  Might you, in some way, help a MC get off the ground sometime soon?  As you pray, we want to hear from you.  What is God saying to you?  Shoot us an email.  Let’s have coffee.

4) Keep learning.  We plan to consistently post updates and information on MCs in the coming months.  Let’s commit to keep learning together.

We’re looking forward to the journey as it continues to unfold.

meal night

As fall settles in and the temperature dips, is there anything better than a warm bowl of soup with friends?  On Friday, November 18, we’ll be enjoying a variety of soups at meal night (meal night is an excuse to get together, share life and good food).  We’ll be at the Navis’ home.  Everyone, including kids, are welcome.  For directions, email  Come as early as 6PM, or whenever your schedule allows.


Sunday we prayed together for the people of Japan.  But it doesn’t have to end there.  A number of trustworthy agencies are on the ground supplying aid to the Japanese people  The body of churches that we belong to – the Reformed Church in America – is also providing resources and supplies.  You can read more and donate by clicking here.

she::food and fashion

The first ever Branch women’s breakfast is happening January 15 at 9AM here at the building. This is an event you don’t want to miss.

We have an amazing speaker coming in to give us our very own “what not to wear” session. But we don’t want to limit the fun to just Branch women.  Please feel free to invite sisters, moms, friends, and co-workers. This is an easy missional opportunity.

Reservations are a must for this special event and there will be a $3/person charge. To RSVP, contact Kara DelCarmen (; 247-3522) or sign up on Sundays.