A note from Kelly King: Each month, we will feature a leader who ministers to women, either through the local church, a non-profit organization, or in the marketplace. In today’s leadership Q & A, we’re featuring Denise O’Donoghue. Denise is a new LifeWay Women trainer, and we’re excited for her to join us in the coming year at You Lead events.
Who has been most influential in your ministry leadership and how did they influence you?
There are two women I would credit with greatly influencing my ministry leadership. The first would be Chris Adams. When I first took on the role of women’s ministry director at our church, I went to the staff pastor I was assigned to work under to ask what I should do in my new role. (I was the first at our church.) His only advice to me was to go to LifeWay and read all the books I could find on ministry to women. I followed his advice, and bought all four books that were available! One of them was Chris’ original book, Women Reaching Women. Soon after, I learned of the Women’s Forum. As Chris taught and introduced me to other godly women in ministry, I was given a clear picture of what this calling was all about. I felt encouraged in the work, but I also felt the strength of other women traveling this path too. The other person was a Bible study leader who taught me how to really study the Bible, how to pray and lead others in corporate prayer, and some wonderful principles for leading a group. Many years later when God called me to teach women seminary students, I drew on the valuable lessons both of these amazing women taught me and passed them along.
How do you practically spend time with the Lord each day? What is your normal practice?
First, I make sure my space is prepared. I have the luxury of having a wonderful corner in my bedroom with a chair and side table. I keep all the things I might need in this place. This includes my Bible, of course. Other things I find essential for making the most of my time with the Lord include having a pen, highlighter, notepad, and my prayer list. By having all these things together, I can avoid interruptions to go look for whatever I need. So, when I wake up each morning, I head straight to the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee, then back to my bedroom chair in my space that has been prepared. What do I study? I have found that for me, I need variety in the way that I approach studying the Bible. So, for instance, I may pick a book of the Bible and read it verse-by-verse, taking notes and praying about what I am reading and the things the Holy Spirit is teaching me. Other times, I might use a guided Bible Study such as No Other Gods by Kelly Minter or a devotional book like New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp or Valley of Vision edited by Arthur Bennett. I find that having variety keeps me excited and eager for my time with the Lord.
What is your best piece of leadership advice to another women’s ministry leader?
It is hard to limit to one thing, but I’d have to say the most important is to recognize that you can only lead from the overflow of your heart. Your leadership lifeline is directly connected to your time with the Lord each day. It is during this time that He will prepare you for the things you will face in the hours to come. He already knows what your day holds, and He is willing to prepare you; don’t pass up the opportunity!
What is your current leadership struggle?
That’s a very interesting question. Recently, the Lord totally pulled me out of my comfort zone by calling me to work in a non-profit serving refugees with the hope of the gospel. This is a people group totally unfamiliar to me, yet I am in the role of both leading and serving alongside women who have been in the ministry for years. I have to squelch my impulse to come in and make big changes that seem necessary to me and instead take the time to listen to the seasoned members of my team. They have a much better grasp of the many cultural aspects of the ministry than I do. The Lord is growing me through learning from these much younger women. It has been a great joy!
What “new” thing are you trying this year that is requiring faith?
I feel like almost every aspect of my life is “new” this year by the Lord’s design. This includes not only my career change, but walking through a repeat cancer diagnosis with my mom as well as welcoming our daughter and her family into our home as they transition from living overseas to being in the states. All of these “new” things are requiring more faith and dependence on the Lord as I adjust to a new normal.
Denise O’Donoghue has served as the Director of Women’s Life and Assistant Professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where she taught graduate courses in ministry to women. Prior to serving at Southeastern, Denise was a student there and earned both her MA in Biblical Counseling and Doctor of Education. Denise’s dissertation for her doctoral degree was on Critical Success Factors for Creating and Sustaining an Intergenerational Women’s Ministry. She has spoken on the topic of intergenerational ministry across the U.S. Denise also served as Women’s Ministry Coordinator at Bay Leaf Baptist Church. Currently, she is enjoying serving her church, Imago Dei, as a member of the biblical counseling team and Refugee Hope Partners as the Director of Ministries. She has two married daughters and seven grandchildren. Denise and her husband Rod live in Raleigh, North Carolina.