Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry features a fabulous minister on this blog. This Friday we are pleased to introduce Deirdre LaNoue. Deirdre IS what a minister looks like!
Deirdre, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
I felt God’s call into some kind of ministry when I was in middle school. I wasn’t quite sure what that would look like because, as for many girls in my era, there were almost no female role models in my Baptist bubble. But as I look back on it, my wonderful church began my development for ministry, even then, through the opportunities they gave me. I was often invited to give the devotional during the opening assembly of our ADULT Sunday school department. I spoke at Acteen’s events as well as GA and Acteen camps and retreats when I was in high school. I learned to play the guitar, and I was the soloist for a band that participated in worship and traveled to other church events. I describe these beginnings only to say that God had already instilled a real passion in me to help others know and follow Jesus, and I tried to walk through every door that was opened. Perhaps this could encourage us all to pay attention to the young ones around us and give them opportunities to develop!
My initial phase of professional ministry was in the area of church music and discipleship for new church starts. Because my bachelor degree was in music, and my seminary degree was an Master of Divinity., I was prepared to work in a variety of areas as these mission churches could not afford much staff. These were kind of a “boot camp” experience, but goodness did I learn a lot! I’m also grateful that these church families gave me the opportunity to use my gifts even though, at that time, it was VERY ODD to see a woman leading in a Baptist church.
After completing my Ph.D. in Religious Studies, my ministry changed from church staff ministry to the academy. I taught at Dallas Baptist University, The College Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati, and then most recently as an adjunct professor for Logsdon Seminary, Dallas-Fort Worth campus. I’ve also had the occasional joy of teaching at Northeast African Theological Seminary in South Sudan and Uganda. While my doctoral work is in Church History, at least half of my teaching ministry or more has been in the area of Spiritual Formation. Training new pastors, whether in the United States or in Africa, is an incredible privilege.
Right now, I’m entering a new phase of ministry. I am spending a great deal of my time working with other Christian leaders, helping them to see the importance of tending to their own souls in the crucible of ministry. I meet with some individually, and I am working with the entire staff of a few organizations. Some are church leaders. Others are missionaries or non-profit leaders. I am enjoying a new role of becoming a minister to ministers.
What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
Working with people is a great source of joy and an immense privilege. Another source of joy is just the fun of getting to use my God-given gifts to somehow contribute to the work of the Kingdom. This brings fulfillment and meaning beyond description. Is there anything better than seeing people connect in a meaningful way to their Creator and Redeemer and learn to radiate His goodness to others?
What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?
Certainly, being a woman in ministry in Baptist life has been a great challenge. While I have had many very positive experiences, some have been frustrating and hurtful. I’ve done my share of wallowing in my own anger and pain. There’s no doubt that some peoples’ attitudes and use of power seemingly caused hindrances and limitations for me. But more importantly, this challenge consistently drives me to trust God. The One who called me is faithful, and this brings an overwhelming sense of gratitude. It also challenges me to keep laying down my own ambitions and follow God wherever God leads.
What advice would you give to a young seminarian who is preparing for ministry?
Because I have met and worked with a number of ministers who were on the edge of burnout and considering leaving ministry for good, my advice is to learn early how to be attentive to your own soul while you are taking care of the souls of others. As Ruth Haley Barton writes, “The best thing you bring to those you lead is your own transforming self.” Your own authentic (notice I didn’t say “perfect’) life with God must be the well from which you draw your sustenance for ministry. Connected to this is my encouragement that you be very intentional in developing spiritual friendships. You will need friends who understand your calling, who can encourage and bless you, but who also have permission to challenge you and keep you accountable.