Rev. David P. Baak appointed Executive Pastor

Monday, September 15, 2014

It is with great joy and a deep sense
of spiritual calling that the Personnel
Committee presents to you:

Rev. David P. Baak
for Executive Pastor of
Westminster Presbyterian Church
Grand Rapids, MI

"I am so very thankful that the Westminster congregation and staff will continue to be such an important part of my life and I am humbled and excited by the opportunity to develop this role, especially within a new, exciting staff configuration as we all grow into the future."
-Rev. David P. Baak, Executive Pastor

Personnel Committee Chair Introduction of Rev. David P. Baak as Executive Pastor

Announcement Text


Rev. David Baak has extensive administrative experience in the life of the Church, including here at Westminster, where he has served as the Designated Associate Pastor for Mission and Pastoral Care since January 2012.  He served in two similar roles for Westminster in 2005-2006 and again in 2008.  From 1983 – 2007 he was the Executive Director of the Grand Rapids Area Center for Ecumenism (GRACE). He also served congregations in New York City and Flint, Michigan and worked as an administrator in criminal justice system pre-trial alternative programs in Flint and Salt Lake City, Utah.

During this interim period Dave has led the development of the Pastoral Care Team and the Hospitality Committee and has provided staff support for the Deacons and for the several mission committees as they explored new “participation” opportunities. He is the WPC representative and the convener of the Food Club collaborative development team and is the facilitator of a committee currently exploring counseling services available to our members. He has preached 10-12 times a year, including at Porter Hills and Camp Henry; has been a regular sanctuary worship leader; and, has worked closely with the administrative and facilities staffs. 

Rev. Baak is active in the community as a member of the planning committee for the “Interfaith Understanding” effort in Grand Rapids and has been the convener of its Congregations Council. He is a member of the Community Relations Commission of the City of Grand Rapids and of the Kaufman Interfaith Institute Advisory Committee (at Grand Valley State University).  He served two terms as an ecumenical appointee to the General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical Relations of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

David is a past moderator of the Commission on Christian Unity for the Reformed Church in America (RCA) and served as one of its delegates to the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA and several of its committees for a number of years. In 2010 he assisted with local arrangements for the Uniting General Council of the World Communion of Reformed Churches. He has long worked with the issues of racial justice, particularly through the GRACE Racial Justice Institute, its Summits on Racism and the Partners for a Racism-Free Community (PRFC). He is a 1994 graduate of Leadership Grand Rapids and received its Distinguished Community Trustee Award in 2003.  In 2008 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Partners for a Racism-Free Community, in Grand Rapids.

David has served in Interim Pastor assignments with several congregations since 2004.  He is ordained clergy in the Reformed Church in America (RCA) and holds interim ministry credentials in several denominations. He is a graduate of Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary and received training in criminal justice administration at the University of Detroit; in ecumenical studies through Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan; and, in intentional transitional ministry through the Interim Ministry Network, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Dave is married to Betty Zylstra who is a member and Deacon of Westminster and who is the Director of The Salvation Army Social Services.

Rev. David Baak's New Role

The Executive Minister position at Westminster Presbyterian Church is a three-quarter time contract staff appointment reporting to the Senior Pastor with primary responsibility for the administrative, communication, and support components of the church's life.

The areas of responsibility include:


Leadership of the administrative team; maintaining successful relationships with our core missions; serving as WPC representative to the Food Club; leadership in strategy and planning with the Head of Staff; and, serving as staff liaison to the Board of Trustees.


Providing leadership with the Communications Committee and the staff team for the effective communication of the mission and messages of Westminster; the coordination of communications policy, strategy, and planning; providing counsel to staff, session, trustees, and other lay ministries in communication; and, facilitating the free flow of information within the membership; to external audiences; and through social media.

Staff Support

Participating in worship leadership; providing pastoral care as needed and serving on the Pastoral Care Team; serving as head of staff when necessary; and providing informal mentoring for staff.

The Personnel Committee has created this position in response to the increased numbers, participation and complexity of the ministry of Westminster and the need to restructure our communications functions. The Personnel Committee and Rev. David Baak have agreed to a three-year contract for this appointment.

On Rev. David Baak's appointment...

"Dave has a deep and valuable understanding of our congregation and we are thrilled to have Dave providing leadership to our Communications efforts at Westminster."

~Peter Larson, Chair of Communications


"Dave's wealth of experience as a pastor, administrator and community leader coupled with his devotion to and knowledge of Westminster make him ideally suited for this new role".

-Ed Vander Ploeg, Chair of Personnel


"The great success of the Ministry Task Force to 'put our arms around Camp Henry, WCDC, and the Food Pantry,' and our bringing a lot of their administration in house, combined with our adding program staff over the last five years, has increased the administrative load significantly. Personnel rightly perceives some of Dave's many, many gifts in that area. And our communications folks say that there is great wisdom in putting that 30,000 ft. view part of the communications responsibilities into his hands. I couldn't be happier. I trust Dave with my life. He is a calm and gracious mentor to many on the staff, and I am very, very glad that he will still be a part of the team."

-Rev. Chandler Stokes, Senior Pastor & Head of Staff