Church Staff

Youth & Family Ministry

Youth Director Gary with Children during Children's Sermon | Abiding Grace Lutheran Church

Gary Knutson has been in youth ministry for over 16 years. He came to Abiding Grace during the summer of 2019 from Colorado; where he was the Dir. Of Youth & Family Ministries in a suburb of Denver. Gary has a wonderful wife, Helen, who he has been married to for 18 years. He has 5 children (Colleen, Cameron, Kaitlyn, Matthew, Christopher), and 4 grandchildren (Maci, Jensen, Henry, Claire). He also has two dogs (both rescues), Jazzy and Brittany. Gary grew up in Great Falls, Montana, and got his Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from the University of Maryland. He served as a Military Policeman in the Army from 1982-1992. He enjoys golf, fishing, and is an avid Alabama football fan. Gary’s passion for youth ministry is second to none. He wants to bring the Bible alive for all youth, and walk side by side in each youth’s faith journey. His favorite quote is, “Incarnational Relationship’s Are It.”

Music Ministry

Vanessa directs the Choir and Ensemble | Abiding Grace Lutheran Church

Vanessa Crixell is a Grapevine, TX native and has served as the Director of Choral Ministries and office manager at Abiding Grace Lutheran Church since 2017. She has a Bachelor’s of Choral Music Education from Baylor University, where she met her husband James. While attending Baylor, she served as the music director at Speegleville United Methodist Church. She has found great joy and spiritual fulfillment developing the music ministries at Abiding Grace, and she looks forward to its continued growth. Vanessa and James recently bought their first home in Justin, and they live there with their goofy Bull Terrier rescue Chico. Vanessa is delighted to serve at her home church!

James Crixell directs the instrumental ensembles at Abiding Grace Lutheran Church. He is also entering his fifth year of band directing and his first year in Keller ISD after teaching in Mansfield ISD for four years. James, a Brownsville, TX native, graduated from Baylor University in 2014 with a Bachelor’s in Music Education with distinction (Cum Laude). James is very grateful for the countless performance opportunities that the Baylor School of Music had to offer, including the Baylor Golden Wave Band, Baylor Wind Ensemble, Baylor Symphonic Band, Baylor Symphony Orchestra, Baylor Trombone Studio, Bearbones Trombone Quartet, and Baylor Jazz Ensemble.

Roger Burnell is a native of central Kentucky. He studied both piano and organ at the College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati, earning BM and MM degrees. After receiving the DMA in Organ Performance from Texas Tech University, he did post-graduate study in Poland and in Riga Latvia, where he had lessons with cathedral organist Larisa Bulova on the great 19th century Walcker organ. Dr. Burnell has performed organ recitals in Germany and Slovakia. He is now organist and collaborative pianist at Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Southlake, TX.


Pastor Rev. Nick Billardello
Director of Youth and Family Ministries Gary Knutson
Office Manager and Director of Choral Ministries Vanessa Crixell
Director of Instrumental Ministries James Crixell
Organist and Accompanist Roger Burnell
President Kristin Bergstrom
Vice President April Dobbs-Petersen
Secretary Alayna Payne
Treasurer Shirley Glazier Ministry Area
Council members
Paul Harrington Youth
Kristin Bergstrom Personnel
Jonathan Kraatz Worship and Music
Kelcey Drapp Communications
Pete Marquart Stewardship
Debbie Kelly Outreach
Mark Saunders Fellowship
Shirley Glazier Finance
Alayna Payne Property
Dianna Trang Christian Education