The Branch Staff

From the beginning, the Branch has been relational.

College roommates became co-pastors. 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.

Chris DeBlaay, Lead Pastor (


LIZZ3579Chris’ life is defined by the days of the week. On Mondays 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 Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays he is a Branch 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 Pastor, Chris leads in areas of vision, community, leadership development 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 16 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.


LIZZ3606Nate Winkleman, Worship Pastor 


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 of 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. Chris likes me too.


Teresa Kinnear, Equipping Pastor


Teresa is a relatively new transplant to Grand Rapids. She has been here since the summer of 2015 and has been busy helping her family settle in a new city. She is married to Kyle and they have 2 kids, Zach and Molly. Outside of The Branch, she loves to gather and feed people, volunteer at her kids’ school, play the piano, and tackle any project on Pinterest!

Teresa has the great privilege of supporting people as they take steps of faith into what God is calling them to do in their lives. A big part of that is equipping volunteers to lead BranchKids on Sunday mornings. It also involves equipping others to take those steps of faith in their own homes, neighborhoods or other spheres of influence. It is a joy for her to encourage people along their journey!


Mara Bergman, Admin Leader     


Mara and her family have ‘grown up’ with the Branch. Arriving when the Branch was almost 2 years old, she and her husband Fred had only one child at that time. They’ve now grown to a family of 6 in the time they have been here and have integrated their lives with the Branch. Their children (Esther, Phoebe, Eli and Fin) have known no other church family. Having recently moved out to the country, they love that they can still call the Branch home.

Mara loves to sing, write and read (though she has little time for it between her roles as admin and as mother/homeschooler). She dreams of turning their new country home into a beautiful homestead and sharing it with those she loves. She’d love for you to visit!

Mara has embraced her role as administrative assistant, utilizing the skills she has learned as a stay at home parent of four. If you have a question about how something works or need details about an upcoming event – shoot Mara an email.


One Comment

  1. Our family has great respect and gratitude coupled with an abundance of admiration for you Chris and Bethany!!

    We want to extend you sincere prayers and well wishes as you head into your sabbatical journey.

    Because of the roots that you have deeply established, The Branch will continue to bear fruit! Blessings!

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