Our History


In 1985, a group of about 50 Christians—seeking a new way to honor the Father in worship and hungering for a better understanding of the Word of God—gathered in the pioneer church at Living History Farms in Urbandale, Iowa. They came together to talk about the feasibility of organizing a new congregation to meet these needs. As these 50 Christians shared their ideas and dreams, an infant church was born! Leadership was put into the hands of 12 individuals who were constituted as the Steering Committee.

As with the early Christian churches of New Testament times, the group initially met in the home of a member. By 1986, Indian Hills Junior High School in Clive was home to the group, and later they moved to Clive Elementary School in Windsor Heights.

Also in 1986, the group called Wayne Hoffman, an ordained Presbyterian minister, to serve as their pastor, to shepherd them through the throes of birthing a new church, and to guide them in establishing a permanent place of worship. On Christmas Eve of that year, the State of Iowa issued a Certificate of Incorporation for a not-for-profit group called the Westkirk Fellowship. Westkirk became a member of the international Evangelical Presbyterian Church in 1987. The congregation continued to grow and moved services to McLaren's Funeral Chapel in West Des Moines while they planned for a permanent facility.

In 1990, Westkirk Evangelical Presbyterian Church formed a building committee and named it the Nehemiah Committee, after the Old Testament prophet who rebuilt Jerusalem. During a site-scouting trip, Pastor Hoffman spotted a sloping patch of land for sale just off of Colby Woods Drive in Urbandale. Owned by the West Des Moines School District, the land was purchased—and to help finance the construction of the church building, a portion of the land was parceled into 16 residential lots.

The design chosen provided for a building almost as it appears at the present time. The setting was readied for church construction and, at last, a memorable groundbreaking ceremony was planned. The tall grass was mowed to allow members to encircle the future sanctuary site. A bagpiper led the Session and the Nehemiah Committee to the site to the tune of “Amazing Grace,” and the congregation then sang “On Holy Ground.” Construction began that same week. Very few delays were encountered during construction, which ended with the raising of the steeple to its final resting place.

The keys to Westkirk were officially presented to the members at a dedication ceremony held October 28, 1992. The towering steeple pointing to God on High introduces one to the symbolism throughout the building that surrounds the Westkirk congregational family. Few churches include as many reminders of their roots as have been thoughtfully provided at Westkirk. (See Symbolism at Westkirk for further insight.)

New members were added steadily until it was apparent that additional space was required—especially to accommodate Sunday School and social activities. The decision was made in 1996 to add a west wing to the building, but only on a pay-as-you-go basis. So in 1997, when funds were available, a groundbreaking ceremony was held and the shell was erected. Many hours of volunteer labor, several fundraisers, and generous contributions later, the debt-free wing was dedicated on May 23, 1999.

A Season of Change

Two significant events in early 2002 marked the beginning of a season of change in the life of Westkirk. First, in early January, Pastor Hoffman announced his plans to retire. Guest preachers would fill the pulpit beginning in March—until a new pastor could be selected. Second, February saw the initial steps taken to sever the relationship with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Mid-America Presbytery. In July, a Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC) was elected. During this interim period, the Acting Moderator and the Clerk of the Session led the church.

On August 5, 2002, the congregation voted to disconnect from the denomination and return to an independent Presbyterian status. Throughout this transition, Westkirk continued its founding principles of Reformed theology and Presbyterian government, and added members who were dedicated to deepening and demonstrating their faith in concrete ways to the world. In November of that year, Wayne Hoffman was named Pastor Emeritus and called to serve as Interim Pastor until a new senior pastor could be selected. The search for a pastor continued through 2003, with the PNC (led by David O. Durlam) patiently searching for the person who would be just the right fit for Westkirk. Michael Mudlaff was selected on February 8, 2004, and began serving Westkirk on March 1.

On March 21, 2004, a beautiful ordination/installation service was held to officially call and recognize Michael Mudlaff as Pastor and Head of Staff at Westkirk Presbyterian Church. With the following words spoken by Chuck Heitbrink, Acting Moderator of the Session, and with assistance from Elder Jason Hoffman, son of the founding pastor, Westkirk received Pastor Mudlaff:
“By the authority of the Session, I declare that Michael Mudlaff has been ordained to the Gospel Ministry of Westkirk Presbyterian Church, and that he has been duly and properly installed as Pastor of this congregation, agreeable to the Word of God and the laws of this Church. As such, he is entitled to be given support, encouragement, honor, and obedience in the Lord. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

A New Era

In 2007, plans were finalized to complete the original dream of Westkirk’s beautiful building and campus. The 3-year FINISH! Campaign culminated with over $425,000 in pledges. The parking lot was expanded, sanctuary seating was added in the mezzanine, and office and education space was created as we expanded our facility toward the east. The newly-formed building committee selected the Pinnacle Construction Group of West Des Moines as general contractor. As Westkirk continued to grow in space and number, a groundbreaking to celebrate the new campus expansion was held on a warm Wednesday evening in September. The covenant family of faith then invited friends and special guests to join them for a service and celebration on Reformation Sunday, October 28, 2007. At this very special service, we celebrated God’s blessings upon Westkirk’s ministry and we looked back at the church’s 20-plus years—and forward to its future. Pastor Emeritus Wayne Hoffman and his wife, Helga, were invited and joined for the event. Construction was finished in August of 2008.

Peace and Purity in the Church

Westkirk Presbyterian Church enjoyed a time of peace and purity as the first decade of the 21st century came to a close.  The ‘east wing’ was a huge blessing to the discipleship ministry of the church and the new office space accommodated a growing staff.  Slowly, the children’s and student ministries experienced revitalization but struggled to maintain critical mass.  Two new initiatives created new opportunities for church growth.  First, in a desire to reach beyond ourselves and make an impact in our community and around the world through the preaching of the Word, service to others, and the sharing of our resources, a new radio teaching program, True Blue, began to extend the teaching ministry of Westkirk beyond the walls of our building.  Steadily, as people tuned in, they also came to visit Westkirk.  And then, to address a need to make more seating available as well as to attract and maintain young adults and young families, Westkirk began a second Sunday morning worship service in September of 2013.

In 2016 Pastor Michael received an invitation to travel annually overseas to train pastors in biblical exposition.  He began with a trip to South Asia in 2018 and added Eastern Europe in 2019.  Simultaneously, the Holy Spirit began to work in the lives of many annual participants of an English-speaking class in Hungary with which Westkirk members were involved. In addition, new opportunities developed with a ministry partnership in Greece supporting a ministry to victims of human trafficking. God was on the move globally and Westkirk was blessed to join him in his work!

As the decade came to a close, we also realized that many of the charter and early members of the church had gone home to be with the Lord, yet a commitment to reformed theology and exposition from the pulpit continued to grow.  Including one staff member, four men entered seminary training over only a couple of years.  Westkirk was encouraged by what God was doing in our midst!

Calm in the Midst of the Storm

As 2019 turned to 2020, we experienced the sudden diagnosis and death of one of our staff members – our part-time Pastor of Congregational Care, Paul Nelson.  And in the midst of our grief, Covid-19 changed the world.  God was gracious and provided Westkirk the resources and skills of a handful of dedicated members to put a high-quality livestream service together immediately.  The Session, along with help from some of our medical professionals, began to plan for a return to live, congregational worship as soon as possible.  Navigating procedures for public gatherings was a daunting task in 2020, but Westkirk faced the challenge well..  

The Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence, along with Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, several other dignitaries, the national media and a select group of spiritual leaders from around the state of Iowa gathered in Westkirk’s sanctuary on Friday, May 8, 2020 to, according to the Des Moines Register, “meet with faith leaders about reopening houses of worship after many had closed during the past several months.”  Images of the meeting, hosted by Pastor Mudlaff, were seen around the world on screens and in print media.  Due to security arranged by the Secret Service, the members of the church didn’t even know about the gathering until they saw it in their local news.

While there was still a long way to go, Westkirk reopened her doors for corporate worship on May 24 – and received visitors!  

Planning for the Future

The ministry hiatus that Covid-19 brought to Westkirk eventually led to the re-imagining of our small group ministry.  As worship, discipleship, and evangelism activities resumed, so did the reintroduction of our Small Groups.  Seven new groups and two resilient and loyal groups from the past launched or began meeting in person once again.  After the resignation of our longtime, full-time associate pastor, Westkirk hired two of her seminarians to replenish the staff and also celebrated the certification of Director of Children’s Ministry, Benae Duff, by CDM, the discipleship ministry of the Presbyterian Church in America.  The congregation was excited to have Nathan Hiatt and Styles Stadtlander become part of her pastoral ministry team!  But the return to corporate gathering also brought about the rescheduling of the first of two significant congregational meetings that would change the direction of Westkirk’s future.

First, after many years of discussion, Westkirk gathered in the fall of 2021 to formally vote to make an overture to join the Iowa Presbytery in affiliation with the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).  After months of informational meetings, the previously scheduled congregational meeting had been canceled due to the pandemic, but it was time to bring the issue to vote.  Eighty-five percent of the congregation voted in the affirmative, surpassing the threshold needed to make the overture – which was accepted by the Iowa Presbytery at their stated meeting in November of 2021.  Pastor Michael and the Ruling Elders all began preparing for ordination.  Pastor Michael was licensed in the PCA in March of 2022, and along with the Ruling Elders, was ordained by the Iowa Presbytery at One Ancient Hope Presbyterian Church in Iowa City in July of that year.  A particularization service featuring Teaching Elders Wayne Larson, Luke Wolfe and Brian Janssen – all of the Iowa Presbytery – was held in August to worship the Lord in celebration.

Second, at the request of Pastor Michael, the Session informed the congregation by letter of Michael’s intention to step down in 2024 to continue his global pastor equipping ministry full-time. A congregational meeting was called and on May 21, 2023 a Pastoral Succession Committee was appointed to serve the congregation to navigate the transition and identify the man who would serve as Westkirk’s third senior pastor.

The Lord has been faithful to Westkirk for nearly forty years. We are grateful for Pastor Michael’s shepherding of Westkirk and we look forward to who the Lord will bring to shepherd her in this next season!

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