Extension Ministry: Rev. Debra Dague, Campus Minister

By Barry Steiner Ball

Rev. Debra Dague (AKA PDeb) is an Ordained Elder who serves as an extension minister as the Protestant Campus Minister for West Liberty University.  Rev. Dague grew up in Dallas, WV, just a few miles from the West Liberty campus.  Growing up in Dallas, Rev. Dague and her family were not active members of a local church, but she does remember that Vacation Bible School was the highlight of her summers as a child.  At the age of 18, Rev. Dague became active in a non-denominational church, and she began to feel God tugging on her heart but had no idea what that meant.  Confused about what a calling might mean and feeling unequipped for such a calling, along with the fact she was female, meant the calling must have something to do with marrying a pastor!

After getting married, but not to a pastor, Rev. Dague became active in a small United Methodist Church (Salem UMC) that was served by female pastor, Rev. Ruth Simmons.  Over time, Rev. Simmons encouraged Rev. Dague to lead the worship services on the Sundays that Rev. Simmons was not present.  Now able to understand God’s call a little better, Rev. Dague completed Licensing School and took an appointment at Pleasant Valley UMC in Weirton, WV.  At this point, Rev. Dague understood that being an ordained minister meant preaching in a church each Sunday behind a pulpit.  The next step was then to attend United Theological Seminary in Ohio.

While in seminary, Rev. Dague began volunteering at a local Hospice and soon helped found and occupy a paid position as Preceptor of Spiritual Care, creating the program as she went.  Rev. Dague’s eyes were opened to extension ministry, and her calling was getting clearer.  Just as a vision was set for Hospice ministry, the UMC let Rev. Dague know that before she could be ordained, she had to serve her probationary period in a local church.  While she hated to leave Hospice, Rev. Dague served several local churches and always felt God had her just where she needed to be.  While in a local church, the opportunity to become the campus minister at West Liberty opened up, and Rev. Dague jumped at the opportunity.

Covid has changed everything, but pre-covid an average Wednesday in the Campus Minister’s office looked like this:  Early morning personal devotional time.  Then check social media and emails for world events and campus events that might need addressing or where a visit might be needed.  Late mornings on Wednesdays were spent preparing for the free lunch that the campus ministry sponsored.  On any given Wednesday, the campus ministry could feed 60-70 students, faculty, and university staff (administration, campus police, and maintenance).  While the obvious mission was to feed, the real agenda was to bring together the campus family and have fellowship. After the meal and clean up, Rev. Dague teaches a 1pm Communications Course (public speaking) for mostly freshmen, which is a great way to meet the newest members of the University’s community.  At 3:30, Rev. Dague loads up some of her campus ministry students and heads off to a local food pantry to work until 6pm.  At 6:30, there is a Bible Study at Rev. Dague’s part-time church across the street from the University, West Liberty Federated Church, a Methodist Presbyterian Church.  The Bible study is made up of students and church members who bring homemade desserts, which of course attracts students!  After Bible study, it’s back to the chapel where students “hang out,” and ministry takes place until midnight. 

Rev. Dague is a spiritual leader on campus, but just as important is her role as mentor to student leaders and future leaders in the church.  Rev. Dague sees every encounter as an educational opportunity and loves to watch students grow in their leadership abilities and their faith.  Just like Rev. Dague was mentored by Rev. Ruth Simmons, Rev. Dague mentors her students to lead the church in the near future.

How we can pray for Rev. Dague and her ministry: Please pray for the students.  So many of them come to campus broken and dealing with a variety of issues. Pray also for the student Christian leaders and a boldness to be Christian in such a secular world.

Addendum: Since the writing of this article, Rev. Dague has accepted a position as a chaplain at Valley Hospice, returning full circle to her initial launch into ministry.

West Liberty Campus Ministry web page: