New Parish Grand Rapids

We have always been committed to helping people be the presence of Christ in one of the most important places of their life: their home and surrounding neighborhood.  Because of a grant from the Lily Foundation, we are blessed to be able to provide a free training that equips any and all people who want to join in what God is already doing where they live, but need some practical tools and help.

Click here to learn more and RSVP!

Branch Adventures: February

Branch Adventure’s next outing will be indoor rock climbing February 19, 2017 at Inside Moves Climbing Gym.  We will meet there at 6pm, have a lesson for those who need it, and climb for 3 hours.  No experience necessary.  This will be for ages 5th grade and up.  We will have the gym reserved for our group only and we are allowed up to 35 people. Please RSVP to Marc Karel (

Unity, Liberty, Charity: Week 3

Love of God and neighbor fulfills all of God’s Law — it is the thing on which everything else hangs.  Chris discusses what this means for our relationships with each other and with the world.


Unity, Liberty, Charity: Week 2

In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, LIBERTY. In all things, charity.
This week we look at how to allow freedom of thought and freedom of will in things that are non-essential.

Please utilize the handout below to fully engage with this message.

Liberty Handout Web


Unity, Liberty, Charity: Week 1

We begin this series by looking at Christ’s unmistakable call to unity.  We also work to reclaim the often forgotten truth that there is much more that binds us together than separates us, even in this debate.

We also strongly encourage you to engage with these questions and readings this week to further reflect on this issue and prepare you for the next week:



Current Series: The Places of Jesus

It’s easy to take for granted just how remarkable is the earth-bound rootedness of Jesus.  Consider it:  His feet touched this earth.  He breathed this air. He called this place home.  The places of Jesus both formed him and were transformed by him.

Through Lent, we’ll explore some of the key places of Jesus’ life, as well as our own places; together we’ll discover the ways that God is using those places to form us, and the ways God is using us to transform those places.

March 5 – The Power of Place (with special guests Tim Soerens and Paul Sparks)

March 12 – Nazareth

March 19 – Capernaum

March 26 – The Mountainside

April 2 – The Table

April 9 – Jerusalem

New Year’s Breakfast

Welcome the New Year with us as we share breakfast before worship. Come anytime after 8:30am.

Sure, it’s a bit early, but we’re keeping things low-key and simple.

Click here to sign up for something to bring.


Merry Christmas!

Over the last month we’ve been humbled and grateful as the Branch has repeatedly been an extension of Christ to the world. Here’s a snapshot of ways in which God has worked through us to spread the Good News:

In the last month, our kids gave offerings totaling $175 to purchase 5 pairs of shoes, 3 mosquito nets and 1 set of new bedsheets & blanket for kids with Kenya Matters (we know that many of you also purchased items from the gift catalog)!

We came together to ensure a Congolese refugee family of six had all the winter gear they needed.

We were approached by a school social worker about a GR mother of four who was in need of basics (bedding, underwear, socks). We used resources from our Helping Hands Fund (a fund completely supported by your gifts) to provide the needed items as well as a gift card that would give her the ability to purchase gifts for her kids.

And, this week we’ll write year-end gifts to our two ministry partners: Frontline Recovery and Kenya Matters.

We use the pronoun “we” throughout this email because each expression of love was possible because of God’s work through us.  This wasn’t about individual efforts or solo heroes, but a community of people doing their best to listen to and respond to what God is doing around them.

Thank you for being a part of the Branch and making a difference in the world around you.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Eve Service

Our Christmas Eve Service will be held from 5-6pm on Saturday, December 24th. (Please note that we will NOT be worshipping on Christmas morning.) We are hoping to provide childcare for children 4 and under so stay tuned for more information on that. If not, we’re hoping the little ones will enjoy the service with you (and allow you to enjoy it, too). If you’d like to be involved, please see below.

We believe very strongly here at The Branch in utilizing multiple voices and leaders in worship. We’re kicking that up a notch for our Christmas Eve Worship service. There will be creative opportunities for both adults and kids (preschool age and up) to participate through art, dance, drum circle, choir or readings. Rehearsals will be the next two Sundays (11th & 18th) from 11 – noon. Email Teresa if you haven’t signed up yet.

Refugee Resettlement

We are helping a Congolese family of six get settled in America after arriving just a few weeks ago.  A major needed item are winter books.  Boots do not have to be new, but should be in good used condition. You can click here to find details of what exactly is needed.  If you are able to donate something, please indicate this on the spreadsheet by filling in your name next to the name you are donating for.

We would like to deliver these boots as soon as possible due to the changing weather. Please deliver to 2020 Madison by Friday, December 9.


Recently we shared the exciting news that we have received a Lily Grant to fund a 2017 sabbatical for Chris. We made a video that shares details about what that means for the Branch and for the DeBlaays.  Give it a watch by clicking here.

Branch Retreat Timeline

Branch Retreat

This weekend (9/24 & 9/25) is the Branch Retreat, starting at 2:00 pm on Saturday. It will be held at the DeBlaay-Oeverman homes (2020 and 2030 Madison). This event is completely free of charge!

Here’s a rough timeline of events (emphasis on ‘rough’…it’s a flexible time together and we may move things around as needed).


  • 2-3pm Kick-Off and Connect
  • 3-5pm Games and Serve (we’ll have some planned activities, including a way to serve others half way around the world)
  • 5-6pm Connect
  • 6-7:30pm Dinner
  • 7:30-?pm Games and Smores
  • You are welcome (dare we say encouraged!) to set up your own tent and join us for a camp out Saturday night or you can head home, sleep in your own bed and join us again in the morning. 🙂


  • 7:45-8:00am  Time of prayer in park
  • 8-9am Breakfast and Clean Up
  • 9:15am – Worship at the Branch building

Saturday dinner and Sunday breakfast will be a planned potluck – everyone bringing something specific to contribute.  Please sign up for food this week!

Autumn for the Kids

Sept 11 – BranchKids Kick-off

  • Nursery: Infants – 24 months
  • Toddler: 2 – 3 year olds
  • PreSchool: 4 – 5 year olds
  • Grade School: 1st – 4th grades

Join us as we begin a new year and new curriculum in BranchKids. Nursery, Toddler and PreSchool classes meet downstairs in their rooms at the beginning of worship. The Grade School class starts out in worship and is dismissed to their room before the sermon. In each room, the kids will learn about and experience God’s love. After worship, you can pick your kids up from their rooms downstairs.

Sept 18 – BranchStudents Kick-off

Students and parents, join us at our first meeting of the year for food and fellowship at Brian and Laura Workman’s home. The rest of the year, we will meet (without the parents!) on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of each month. We will share a meal, play games, and study the Bible. When there is a fifth Sunday, we will gather together for a special activity. More details on those events coming soon…

Sept 25 – Family Day

PreSchool and Grade School classes will not on the last Sunday of each month. Instead, they will join us for corporate worship. Coloring pages and other age appropriate activities will be available in the back of the sanctuary. We think it’s important for the kids to experience corporate worship. We also recognize that they are kids and we don’t expect them to sit quietly for the entire hour. It’s ok if we hear them and it’s ok if they have to walk out and use the bathroom. They are part of our family and we love them just the way they are.

Oct 2 – BranchKids Offering Kick-Off

We will begin collecting money for Kenya Matters in the PreSchool and Grade School classes. For more information on that organization, visit We will encourage kids to collect their spare change at home or bring money as part of our weekly collection so we can help feed kids in another part of the world.

Autumn at the Branch

It’s hard to believe that Autumn is near, isn’t it? Kids are going to be starting school, the air around us will be cool and we’ll either embrace or avoid pumpkin flavored everything. We have big plans at the Branch for this Autumn and we hope you’ll be able to join us for a lot of it, all if you can. Our focus, as always, is getting more connected to our Branch family, our extended communities and to God.

So, what’s happening?


BranchStudents Kick-off!

Joins us September 18 for the BranchStudents kick-off. BranchStudents is for those in 5th grade and up, and this kickoff week we want parents to come too! (sorry, no siblings). Updates and details are on the BranchStudents Facebook page. You can RSVP there.

Rice & Beans

The week of September 19-23 we will be inviting everyone to eat rice & beans for dinner (or use only items in your pantry, or pick another way to lower your eating costs for the week — be creative!).  The point is to spend less on food, make a sacrifice by changing your normal routine and preferences, and then give whatever you saved on food as a gift to Frontline Recovery. Frontline Recovery is a southeast Grand Rapids nonprofit devoted to working with those who struggle with substance addiction.  They are a light and we are excited to partner with them this fall.

All Church Retreat

September 24 & 25 is the All Church Retreat, starting at 1:00 pm on Saturday. It will be held at the DeBlaay-Oeverman homes (2020 and 2030 Madison). This event is completely free of charge!

Here’s a rough timeline of events (emphasis on ‘rough’…it’s a flexible time together and we may move things around as needed). Please sign up today by emailing “I’m/we’re in!” to


  • 1-2pm Kick-Off and Connect
  • 2-5pm Games and Serve (we’ll have some planned activities, including a way to serve others half way around the world)
  • 5-6pm Connect
  • 6-7:30pm Dinner
  • 7:30-?pm Games and Smores
  • You are welcome (dare we say encouraged!) to set up your own tent and join us for a camp out Saturday night or you can head home, sleep in your own bed and join us again in the morning. 🙂


  • 7:45-8:00am  Time of prayer in park
  • 8-9am Breakfast and Clean Up
  • 9:15am – Worship at the Branch building

Saturday dinner and Sunday breakfast will be a planned potluck – everyone bringing something specific to contribute.  We’ll have sign ups for food the week before once we have numbers.

Get Connected Lunches

September 25th (and the last Sunday of every month going forward): If you’re new to the Branch or newish and looking to get more connected, we’d love to have you join us for lunch (our treat). We’ll head to a local restaurant and take some time to listen to your story and share the story of the Branch. Kids are welcome.

Beer & Hymns

The fourth Tuesday of every month we sing hymns and drink beer (or your chosen beverage) at the Last Chance Tavern & Grill on Burton in Grand Rapids. If you have yet to make it to one of these events, we hope that you’ll come soon and add your voice to the chorus (and the verses, too). Follow us on Facebook!


Small Groups

Starting the week of October 9th and going for 6 weeks, we will be having another round of small groups to follow along with our sermon series. More details and sign-up sheets to come!

Marriage Retreat

The weekend of October 28 & 29 Drew & Hanna Brennan will be leading a Marriage Retreat for Branch couples. The weekend will start on Friday (6-8:30pm) with dinner and continue on Saturday (9-2pm).  Sign ups will begin the week of September 11. We’d love to have you and your spouse (or spouse-to-be) attend this empowering weekend.

Thanks for reading! We hope we made it onto your calendars for Autumn 2016!

Our Story: Tools for Week 2 (and week 1)

Every week we’ll be posting some ideas on how you can more deeply engage the Old Testament. Parents: these tools will be written in a way so that you can use them with your kids.  If you do use them with children, it may work well to pick one question/activity per day.  This will keep things short and simple, while giving you a touch point each day.

Week 2 – June 13-18

We covered some ground this week, moving from Adam and Eve’s decision to choose their own way, through Cain and Abel, Noah, long genealogies and Babel (missed the sermon? You can find the podcast by clicking here). Here are some questions to help you go deeper this week — knock them all out in one sitting — or reflect on one each day.

  1. This week, memorize the names of the first six books of the Bible in order (Genesis, Exodus…Joshua).  We’ll add three more books each week so that by the end of summer you can have all of the books memorized.
  2. Read Genesis 3:1-5.  Today — this week — how are you being tempted to choose your own way vs. God’s way? (if you’re breathing, you’re almost certainly facing this temptation).  Be on the lookout today.  Watch for those places and times when another way ‘looks pleasing to the eye.’  Spend a minute praying, asking God to give you strength in those moments.
  3. The serpent questions God’s ways (vs. 1), says that God can’t be trusted (vs. 4) and that God’s ways are restrictive (vs. 5).  At first glance we may say that the serpent’s accusations are ludicrous — but pause for a moment and ask yourself, have I ever been tempted by the same thoughts?  Are there times when you doubt God — or doubt God’s ways — or believe that God’s ways would hold you back from really living?
  4. Every relationship was fractured when Adam and Eve chose to go their own way:  Their relationship with creation itself, with each other, with God and personally are all impacted.  Take a few minutes to:
    • Reflect on the world at large.  Where do you see the most brokenness (i.e. in humans relationship with each other or in or relationship with creation, etc.)?  Spend a few minutes praying for that area.
    • Reflect on your life.  Which of these relationships (with creation, each other, God or yourself) would you say you are experiencing the most brokenness? Take time to pray, asking God to heal and restore this part of your life. What step could you take today to move toward healing?
  5. Read Genesis 11:1-4.  The people of Babel continue the pattern of humanity to this point: choosing autonomy and their own way instead of God’s.  Specifically, the people of Babel want to “make a name for themselves.”  Take a few minutes to survey your life. Where are trying to make a name for yourself?  What might God be asking you to change?
  6. Read Colossians 1:15-20.  Jesus is the image of the invisible God.  He perfectly reflects God to us and us to God.
    • What does Jesus show us it looks like to perfectly live in the image of God? (vs. 20).
    • What is one concrete thing you could do today to follow Jesus and lay down your life?



Week 1 – June 6-11

This week we looked at Chapter 1 of Genesis (next week we’ll cover chapters 2-11!).  The story of Creation isn’t just the story of how things were.  It’s also the story of how our world should, and one day will, be.

For reflection:

  1. Genesis 1 shows us that God is before and above all things.  Think about the splendor, complexity and beauty of creation.  Take a 3-4 minutes (by yourself or with others) to list as many things as you can from creation that tell you about how great God is.
  2. On Sunday we talked about how we are created for each other.  What is one relationship you could invest in this week?  How could you do that?  One idea could be to write a note of thanks to this person (handwritten, text, Facebook).  Another idea  could be to invite someone(s) over for dinner this week.  Be creative!
  3. Read Genesis 2:1-3.  Consider (or discuss with others): why you think God rested.  Did God have to rest?  What do these verses mean for us?
    • Do you/your family have a rhythm of work and rest?  Are you currently all work — or all rest?  Do any changes need to be made?
    • Pick a day (or, part of a day) this week that you can declare a day of rest!  Decide ahead of time what you would do…and then do it 🙂  Enjoy the day and at some point in the day, take a minute to thank God for the way in which he restores us through rest.
  4. Read Genesis 1:1-25.  Repeatedly God declares that creation is “good.”  What does that word mean, in this context, do you think?  Is God saying that it’s “fine” — “ok”?  What might be the full, deeper meaning of that word?
  5. Read Genesis 1:26-28 and 2:4-20.
    • What are the responsibilities given to humanity (1:27, 28, 2:5, 15 and 19-20)?
    • What does this tell you about God’s intentions for our lives (hint: it’s not to sit on the sidelines)?
    • What are some of the ways that you see God giving you, and others, significant responsibility and meaningful work?
    • To bear God’s image (1:27) means that we have the chance every day to use our gifts, resources, intellect and energy (to name a few) to bring more and more “good” to the world.  How might you bring “goodness” to the people/places you will go today?
  6. To do throughout the week: memorize the names of the first three books of the Bible in order (Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus).  We’ll add three more books each week so that by the end of summer you can have all of the books memorized.


Current Series: Our Story

This summer we’ll move through the entire Old Testament, from Genesis to Malachi.  Our hope is that on this epic journey, we’ll discover that the Old Testament isn’t just a collection of ancient stories, but it is our story.  And the better we understand it’s beauty, truth and depth, the better we will understand the New Testament, Jesus, ourselves and our place in the world.

To listen to past podcasts from the series, click here.

To access tools you can use during the week to go deeper, click here.

Worshipping Together! — 11am!

This Sunday, May 22nd the Branch church and Comunidad Cristiana de Grand Rapids (CCGR) will be worshipping together at 11 am (Branch-ers, you get to sleep in a little!). Please join us to celebrate our partnership with our CCGR family! We can’t wait to see you!

(we will have all Branchkids rooms up and running this Sunday)

Spring/Summer Community Service Opportunities

Alger Heights Canvassing

Neighborhood Listening Opportunity – Jenn Reidsma, Community Coordinator, is currently looking for church members to help with community canvassing on Saturday, May 14 from approximately 9:30-noon. Volunteers will be asked to knock on doors and conduct short interviews. Training will be provided in the evening before the canvassing and there will be a debriefing meeting after the canvassing is complete. The approximate time commitment will be 5 hours between training, canvassing and debriefing. To sign up contact Jenn Reidsma at or 988-9268 ext 205.

Garfield Park Neighborhood Association Community Garden

Garfield Park Neighborhoods Association is continuing to work with Community Partners on a Community Garden at 1714 Madison Ave SE. Our hopes are to contribute to community transformation, neighborhood revitalization, and ecological restoration of the area through the active participation of neighborhood Gardeners.

If you are interested in gardening and providing healthy food for your family, GPNA is excited to offer Community Gardening in the Garfield Park neighborhood.

We encourage anyone interested in gardening to join us for the 2016 growing season (Mid-April through Mid-October). You do not have to live in the Garfield Park Neighborhood to Participate.

The Community Garden includes two levels of involvement. We have 5’ by 12’ plots available for rent for Garden Members. Plot use fee is $35 (with a $10 refund at the end of the season). We also have garden space dedicated to Community Space Gardeners where you can come help in the garden during Community Space Open Hours in exchange for garden produce. The Community Space Garden could provide a grocery trips worth of seasonal vegetables a week when harvest begins.


The week of June 20-24, 2016 we will hold our 6th CREATE camp — a week long arts camp that matches students with skilled teachers who will engage their imaginations and dirty their hands.

We are passionate about helping kids bring life to the world around them through their creations. In past years we have had hundreds of kids, ages K-8th grade join us.

It is an amazing week in which we hope to see child after child discover their unique creativity and find the confidence to share it with others!

To sign up to volunteer:

Registration for students begins May 1st.

If you’d like to learn more, be added to our email list, or become one of our sponsors, email us at

Don’t forget to follow our journey on Facebook.

We can’t wait for June!

Current Series: Love Does

Love.  Is there another word more widely used in our world today?  We say we love hot dogs or Dora, and a short time later pledge our life-long, unconditional love to another.  It’s a word we use to describe our feelings or what we think.  But love, in its fullest, truest sense, is infinitely more.  Love is action.

And when Love Does, life becomes an adventure.  And not a surviving-the-grocery-store-on-Saturday kind of adventure, but the kind that is full of enlivening twists and turns, beauty and joy.  This is the kind of life we are meant to live.

During this six week series, we’ll look back at ancient stories of Peter and Moses (to name a couple) to see what can happen when Love propels someone to step boldly.  We’ll also consider the many forms of Love’s greatest deterrent: fear.

It’s time to live.  It’s time to do.  It’s time to love.

If you’d like to join a small group during this series (groups start the week of April 10), please email


April 3: Love > Fear

April 10: I’m With You (Freedom from the fear of “what if…”)

April 17: Free To Fail (Freedom from the fear of failure)

April 24: Audacious Love (Freedom from the fear of not mattering)

May 1: Be Not Afraid (Freedom from the fear of not having enough)

May 8: Follow Me

New Stewards

The Branch has three Stewards of Care and and three Stewards of Resources.  Each serve for a three year term, which means that every year one Steward of Care and one Steward of Resources rotates off.  This year, Carrie Elzinga (Care) and Jeff VerKaik (Resources) will be stepping down.

The process for adding Stewards begins with our Partners offering nominations for each opening.  The Steward team then takes those nominations and creates a ‘single slate’ that is then voted up or down by the Partners.

Stewards play a key role in the Branch’s life, which is why we ask Partners to give careful thought and prayer as they make their nominations.  Stewards must believe deeply in and be committed to the vision and mission of the Branch.  They also must demonstrate the character and skill needed to be able to contribute to the responsibilities of being a Steward.

Before making nominations we ask that Partners carefully read the “job descriptions” to ensure that they understand the role well.

Steward of Resources Job Description

Steward of Care Job Description

Nominations can be emailed to by March 20.