Huddle FAQ

We’ve put together this resource to help give more context and understanding to this new tool we’ll be using.  We know that there may be other questions out there – so please contact one of our staff (click on “Team Branch” in the Who We Are tab at the top of the page).

Huddle FAQ

Learn more about how the Branch is both a church gathered in worship and scattered in mission.

Vision (part 2)

Yesterday, we looked at how the first half of our vision statement is connected to the biblical theme of covenant.  Today – let’s look at how the second half is rooted in Kingdom.

in the renewal of all things through Christ = kingdom

As we embrace the covenant God has made with us, and the covenant we make with each other — the world begins to change.   Our lives start to undergo transformation.  Relationships begin to heal.  Our character deepens.   Our passions align more with God’s.  And that personal transformation ends up spilling out onto the people and places and things that we interact with.   Over time, we start to see God at work in us and through us to renew all things.   This is Kingdom.   This is God’s will being done on earth (on earth = your commute, trips to the grocery store, soccer games, work, etc) as it is in heaven.

One of the things that the Scriptures teach us about this is that God is already and always at work in the world.  God goes ahead of us and moves, transforms, prepares.  This doesn’t mean we sit on the sidelines and just watch God go.  Instead, God invites us — no…calls us — to discern where God is at work and join in.  This is our role.  Our responsibility. Our joy.

And it’s one of the craziest truths of Scripture.  God chooses to work in and through us to bring renewal to all things.  Why?  To be honest, I’m not sure.  It certainly seems like it would be easier to just bypass the stubborn, often-dull human race.  But God doesn’t — God won’t.  Let that sink in for a moment.  Seriously.  Stop reading and think about that.  God chooses and desires to involve you in the renewal of all things….

It’s crazy, right?  Like…amazing-crazy.  As we go about our lives God’s power is alive in us.  Which means that every day — every place — every person — is ripe with possibility for transformation and renewal.  And we get to be a part of it!

And in case we might be tempted to save the world on our own (a ridiculous idea, of course, and yet so many of us try it from time to time) — we added a simple reminder at the end of our vision statement about where this all begins and ends: through Christ.  The renewal of all things doesn’t happen through Sue or through Matt – you or me.  It happens through Christ.

We are a community united with God (Covenant) in the renewal of all things through Christ (Kingdom).

So…is there a part of this vision statement that is more difficult for you to live into?   Do you more easily embrace covenant or kingdom?  What step do you need to take to bring balance?  Do you need to remember and rest in your identity (covenant) or do you need to begin to live in greater obedience, surrendering your life so that God bring renewal through you (Kingdom)?

This Sunday we’ll be talking about our strategy.  More to come…

Vision (part 1)

Vision: A community united with God in the renewal of all things through Christ.

This past Sunday (10/20) we began a three week series about our vision, strategy and values.  And while we hope that these messages are super-duper-amazing, we know that we can’t cover it all in 30 minutes.  That’s why we’re writing this post.  It’s not only a chance to tease out the ideas shared on Sunday, but we hope it will also spark dialogue — that you’ll comment below — or even better — set up a time to have coffee.

Ok.  This week: vision.  Andy broke this statement into four parts on Sunday (if you missed it, please listen here).  I want to break it into two.

A community united with God = covenant

This past spring we spent a fair amount of time talking about two themes we see woven throughout Scripture: Covenant and Kingdom.   I don’t want to consider all that those two words hold here, but I do want to remind us that they are absolutely foundational to understanding our place in God’s story.  And so as we considered our vision for the future, we wanted to ensure that these elements were present.  Let’s start with covenant.

“A community united with God…”   From the start we are reminded that our vision is rooted in togetherness.   No one is expected — or meant — or able — to ride solo.   Yes, God works through our individual lives and obedience — but at the end of the day, following Jesus isn’t sustainable alone.  There’s no way around it, we need each other.   Now…let’s hit the pause button for a moment because we all know this is true.  We’ve heard it before and it probably resonated.  But what is also true is that every day we are pulled by life’s demands and culture’s influences towards an isolated life.   Have you ever found yourself there?   I have.  One day it suddenly hits you: except for maybe an hour on Sunday morning, you’re pretty much following Jesus alone.  And it’s not that you intentionally choose that path — but here you are.  Doing the best you can to follow Jesus, but doing it alone.

Now…will a vision statement magically help us live lives in covenant with each other?  No.  But we do hope it serves as a clear and constant reminder of who we are called to be.  That it will call us back when we wander out alone.

Our covenant with each other is central to following Jesus.  But it is only possible because of God’s covenant with us.

Our church’s vision (shoot…our very lives) finds its beginning in our identity as God’s covenant children.  We are daughters and sons.  You are a child of the King, and nothing you can do, or not do, will change that.  You are firmly in God’s grasp.  No. Matter. What.   And because you are a member of God’s family, God invites you to join in the work God is doing.  Let me say that again.  God invites you to join in the work God is doing (more on that tomorrow).  And you did not receive this invitation because of something you accomplished or because of your stunning good looks, but simply because of who you are in Christ.  You are a child of God.

If the Branch is going to see this vision become a reality it will begin with us remembering who we are and who we belong to.  We are a community united with God.

Tomorrow, we’ll hit Kingdom.  Until then.

Missional Communities

If you’ve been around the Branch lately you’ve probably heard us talking about Missional Communities (MCs). But maybe you’re wondering just what exactly MCs are — or why we’re planning to start a few. This page has been created to help answer basic questions about MCs and paint a broad picture for what God is doing through these communities.

Right now, there are still a number of questions about what exactly missional communities will look like at the Branch. But we think that’s ok. In fact, we think this provides a unique opportunity for you to learn with us and add your voice along the way.

So have fun exploring the resources below — and as you do, let us know if God begins to stir your heart. We’d consider it joy to have you lock arms with us.

the Basics (understanding the what and why of missional communities)

  • The summary from Wikipedia is a helpful place to begin:  Missional Community (also called Clusters, Go Communities, Mid-Sized Communities, Mission Shaped Communities, MSCs) is a group of anything from 20 to 50 or more people who are united, through Christian community, around a common service and witness to a particular neighborhood or network of relationships. With a strong value on life together, the group has the expressed intention of seeing those they impact choose to start following Jesus, through this more flexible and locally incarnated expression of the church. The result will often be that the group will grow and ultimately multiply into further Missional Communities. Missional Communities are most often networked within a larger church community (often with many other Missional Communities). These mid-sized communities, led by laity, are “lightweight and low maintenance” and most often meet 3-4 times a month in their missional context. For the full Wikipedia Article, click here.
  • Missional Communities adopt certain values and rhythms that guide their life together.  In the coming months, the Branch will identify what values/rhythms will guide us.  In the meantime,  here are the rhythms of a church we’ve been learning from.
  • Jeff Vanderstelt: Rhythms [VERGE 2010 Main Session] from Verge Network on Vimeo.

Examples (so what do MCs look like?)

  • Here’s a video that tells the story of missional communities in one church in Tacoma, WA.

    Soma Communities – Tacoma, WA from Verge Network on Vimeo.

  • Here’s an example of a specific missional vision that fueled a MC: Beth’s group is a women-only MC, since that is what she felt the Lord was calling her to build. Naturally, they have sought to do mission activities related to women, but the breakthrough for a sustained approach came when Beth began connecting with a ministry that fights human trafficking. The city where she lives is located at the intersection of two major highways and is a significant hub for this horrendous problem. A local non-profit runs houses of refuge for women who escape or are rescued by the police, but this is very resource-intensive as the women arrive traumatized and with few possessions. Beth, who loves parties, wanted to find a creative way to both fundraise and also to draw women together in positive relationships. So she founded WRATH – Women Rallying Against Traffic in Humans. Her idea was to host great parties for women, where as part of the evening everyone brings a certain thing that the rescue house needs (whether it’s shoes or toiletries or food or whatever). As part of the evening, there is a short presentation and then people are invited to host their own WRATH parties with their own circles of friends. Beth’s aim is for her and the MC to educate , equip and empower women to do this, so that they can build an ever-widening network of women, most of whom are successful and prosperous but together can support some of the most vulnerable and abused women in society.
  • Pam on an MC Serving an Disadvantaged Single Mom: When our church moved to its present building, we had a God-given vision to impact our local area zip code, which is known for high crime, drugs and gangs. We wanted to help break this cycle and the many strongholds Our missional community (MC) is heavily involved in this through Whiz Kids, a faith-based literacy program that allows us to connect with families of elementary aged children and take the light of Jesus into their homes. This past summer, a young couple in our MC felt God challenge them to give their car away. They contacted me and I suggested giving it to one of the single mothers with whom we have regular relationship through Whiz Kids. She had two daughters in Whiz Kids and two sons in prison. She worked hard at her job, but needed dependable transportation. The resource staff at church helped to manage the process of transfer of title and I had the privilege of taking her to get her insurance started. After procuring the license tag, I picked her up at work, brought her to church and watched a great big smile appear on her face. You would’ve thought that we were giving her the biggest and best BMW. As we pulled out of the parking log, she pulled up beside me, looking like a teenager who just got her first car! With a BIG wave and huge smile she was off, all the time know that Jesus had sent a big blessing her way.

We’ll be adding more resources in the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you’re ready to learn more, just let us know and we’ll point you towards the most helpful resources we’ve come across.

CREATE registration begins!

CREATE is our arts camps to Grand Rapids budding artists, August 8-12.  Registration is up and running.  Spots are limited. We also have a convenient paypal button allowing you to pay with a major credit card. If you notice any bugs with our form or process please let us know:

To register, click here.

If you’re looking for info on how to pay for registration, click here.

To see a fun trailer for CREATE 2011, click here.



CURRENT SERIES: Chances are good you’ve heard the Christmas story.  You know it involves a manger, some angels and sheep, and of course, the drummer boy.

But while the iconic characters may be familiar, it’s easy for the deeper themes and promises of Christmas to get lost in the chaos of the season.

And so this Advent — instead of adding more glitz, glamour and noise — we’re choosing simplicity and consistency.  We want to carve out the space needed for our hearts to be able to hear again the depth and beauty of that first Christmas.

Towards that endeavor, we are committing ourselves to read the Bible every day of Advent — following the lectionary.  Our hope is that this ancient and widely used way of reading the Bible (millions of Christians every week use the lectionary) will keep us rooted in the preparation, hope, joy, and love of Christmas.

For a link to a lectionary, click here.

We hope you’ll join us this Advent.

Want to get to know us better?  Click around … you’ll see what we’re all about.


location-bricksThe Branch gathers every Sunday morning at 11:00 AM.

973 28th Street SE, Grand Rapids

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We Heart GR

we-heart-grWe believe that God calls all his followers to be missional.  God desires us to look around and love the people we see.  Since our zip code is 49508, we are looking around Grand Rapids and loving its people.

Our mission plays out in many scenarios.  It’s as basic as feeding the homeless and as organized as running an art camp for kids.  It includes neighborhood barbecues and teacher appreciation nights for Alger Middle School.  The experience varies, but the motivation is constant:  we want to see our city transformed by the love of Jesus.

To learn about how we’re serving our neighborhood and city, click here.

Sunday Morning


Sundays — 11AM

The Branch is committed to knowing God better and loving others more.  We believe, wholeheartedly, that gathering together can be transformational.  Group worship offers an unique opportunity to live into the body of Christ.  Sunday morning isn’t everything, but it is a cherished experience at the Branch.

We worship with rhythm and flexibility.  We approach God with expectancy and questions.  Our community is authentic and interested.

We look for God through teaching, music, art, film, design and food.  We seek God in weekly communion, and we respond to God with our hands, our mouths, and our feet.  Our people love creativity.

Worshippers at the Branch are invited to participate.  However, there is always space to sit and watch.  Our style is relaxed and intentional.  Come in jeans or your favorite dress.  But, definitely drink coffee.

Interested in when and where?  CLICK HERE FOR A MAP.

The Team

From the beginning, the Branch has been relational.  College roommates became copastors.  Church planters formed out of small groups.  Church bodies agreed to be “mothers” and “sisters.”  It’s natural that our leadership is team focused.  Together, we celebrate our different strengths and our need for each other.

Our staff is made up of individuals who serve as point people for the rest of us.  They will lead, design, and dream – but not by themselves.    And, definitely not without coffee.  Meet them.

Andy Dragt (

andy-webThere is just no simple way to sum this guy up.  You name it, Andy’s done it.  Or, at least he’s googled it.

Andy is usually sitting in front of his Mac or squinting behind his camera.  He is often barefoot.  He knows the Grand Rapids bus lines as well as anyone.  Looking for a good, local restaurant in GR?  Ask Andy.

As a Branch co-pastor, Andy leads in areas of mission and culture.  He helps us ask “what should we be doing?” and “how do we engage those around us?”  On Sunday mornings, Andy might be preaching, running a video, or holding a baby.  He prefers not to sing into a microphone.  But, yes, he does love a good cup of coffee.

Andy has been married to his wife, Gina, for 13 years.  They have 2 daughters, Haeli and Maya.  When not serving the Branch, Andy is running his video and web design business.

Chris DeBlaay (

chris-webChris’ life is defined by the days of the week.  On Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays he is a wellness guru, helping people live better, fuller lives.  Some evenings and afternoons he is a stay-at-home-dad, fulfilling his role in the school car-pool, while not forgetting to pick up milk.  On Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays he is a branch co-pastor.  With such a complex schedule, you might imagine Chris has the ability to create excellent Excel spreadsheets.  You wouldn’t be wrong.

As a Branch co-pastor, Chris leads in areas of community and transformation.  He helps us ask “with whom are you connected?” and “is Jesus more obvious in your life today than he was yesterday?”   On Sunday mornings, Chris might be preaching, playing his guitar, or teaching a kids’ class.

Chris has been married to his wife, Bethany, for 11 years. They have 4 children: Raya, Zeke, JP, and Ruby.  When not serving the Branch, Chris is … oh yeah, you already read that stuff.  What you don’t know?  He manages it all with a double-tall, white chocolate mocha in his hand.

Nate Winkleman (

Profile: Love God, Love my beautiful wife Elizabeth, Love my two crazy cool boys Ammon and Eli. Son of Robert and Carol.  Friend to people, enemy to all super villains. Creative arts and worship at the Branch..

Experience: I was raised by wolves till the age 5.  I was abducted by aliens till the age of 10.  Trained by ninjas till the age of 21.  Now I do art & music stuff for churches.

Education: I watched the Discovery Channel once, and Sesame Street as much as possible.  I have a doctorate in groove.  Central Michigan is a cool place. They gave me pieces of paper to say I am smart.

Skills: I can curl my tongue.  I can also lift a lot of weight.

Referrals: My mom can vouch for me.  Andy and Chris like me.


If you find community at the Branch, we invite you to become a Partner.  Partners make a year long commitment to intentionally live out the Branch values together.  It’s that simple.  No dues to pay or vows to take.  No special outfits to wear or fancy perks to receive.  Partners simply decide to lock arms and love others in the way of Jesus.


We identify a few individuals at the Branch as Stewards.  These leaders offer their time, discernment and skills to the Branch to care for its people and its resources.  The Stewards are always up for conversation about the Branch.  Contact any one of them if you have questions or a need:


small-group-picJesus definitely thought community was important.  He included his friends throughout his ministry: they traveled together, ate together, and served together.  Like Jesus, we prioritize togetherness in everything we do.  The Branch is led through community, worships in community, and serves a community.

People at the Branch love to be together.  Some like to join groups who follow a planned schedule and have a defined purpose.  Others gravitate to spontaneous gatherings which form out of shared hunger (“who wants to get pizza after church?”) or hobbies (“anybody want to go for a run?”).  Click on the links below to find out where you fit.


Meal Night

Small Groups

Small Groups

1133109_11968610How do we stay connected to God and others in our fast-paced world? Where do we find strength and encouragement? Who will help us stay focused on the things that matter: transformation, mission,and love? Small groups are one of the places at the Branch where you’ll find people committed to these very things. And while each group is unique, each are pursuing the same hope and dream: to better love God, love others and follow Jesus.If you’re interested in joining a group, click on the “contact” link at the very top of this page and we’ll get in touch pronto.


branchkidsGod has hopes and dreams for the future of every child.  Which is why we gather kids every Sunday and invite them to learn about their God; to live into the story of redemption; to experience the joy of community; to learn, laugh and play.

Sprouts: Birth – 24mos

Sprouts: 2year – 3year

Buds: 4 – 1st Grade

Twigs: 2nd – 5th Grade

Got questions before you come?  Wondering how you can help make an impact? E-mail

Parents: we are in the process of registering all children as a new school year begins.  Please click here to complete the registration form.