Each week, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week, we are excited to introduce Anita Laffoon.
Anita, tell us about your ministry journey, the places and ways you have been serving and are serving.
I have a very ecumenical background which has had an obvious impact on my ministry. I have served in non-denominational, United Methodist, Episcopalian, and Baptist churches. One of my seminary friends once called me a denominational chameleon, and I have always loved that term and wear it with pride. But no matter where I have served, my heart and my passion have always been for youth ministry. Along the way, I have also developed a love for Christian Education and multigenerational ministry. All of this seems to have prepared me for my current position as minister of church life at First Baptist Church in Kernersville, North Carolina. I jokingly call myself the minister of etcetera, because that’s what my job description looks like on paper. But I love it—I get to work primarily with youth, but I also get to blend into many other areas of ministry within the church.
What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
My greatest joys have always been little moments – things that could easily get overlooked if I wasn’t being present in the moment. Like the first time the super shy student in the youth group comes in and voluntarily tells you about their day. Or driving home from a mission trip and listening to the only student who is still awake talk about what they learned on the trip. And even the silly moments where five students in the church van are trying to out-do each other in car karaoke. In those moments, I’m absolutely convinced that I have the best job in the world.
What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?
The challenge of working with youth is that they all become “my” kids, but they’re only mine for a little while. I celebrate with them and grieve with them, laugh with them and watch them grow. And then they go off to college or I am called elsewhere, and my heart breaks a little every time. I am constantly having to remind myself that God is watching them when I can’t, and loves them more than anyone on earth ever could. But a part of me always prays for them and thinks about them.
How do you stay healthy, physically and spiritually?
I’m an introvert, so I had to learn quickly how to balance the very busy, people-oriented job of ministry with my own need for quiet and solitude without hiding on my couch all the time. I adore the mountains, and so the best way for me to stay healthy and restore my soul is to go hiking. There’s something about pushing yourself to reach the top of a mountain, and then being able to enjoy the open space that is incredibly calming. Thankfully, I don’t live far from some great trails that offer amazing views.
What is the best ministry advice you have received?
When I was ordained, the association’s ordination council had ten ministers—only two were female. One of those women told me something I have never forgotten. When I confessed that preaching made me nervous, she said, “Enjoy where you stand. Be proud of where you stand. Not many women have stood there before you.” I remember that every time I stand in front of my congregation, and I’m always hit with this mixed wave of humility and courage – which I think is exactly what I need when I stand there.