I fell into the program in the midst of a headlong sprint having just completed my Master of Divinity degree in 3 hard years and passing the 5 required ordination exams for my denomination. I figured; ‘Why stop now? Might as well keep pushing and get the doctorate knocked out too.’ In hindsight a brief pause for air was probably in order.
The LGP program fell out amongst several other options as the one that seemed to be leading in the direction I felt I desired to head. That sentiment has proved to be salient as the initial advance in Cape Town, the connection with the LGP #8 cohort, the weekly Zoom meetings, faculty advisor correspondence, guidance of the lead mentor and even the uncomfortable introspection required to complete the PLDP have coalesced into an experience that has helped alter my perspective toward ministry, broadened my understanding of the world God created and shaped my own spiritual growth in unanticipated ways.
The biggest surprise in this first year was how personally invested I would have to be in the lives of others in this cohort model. As a true introvert in an extroverted profession I take refuge in reading and study but don’t usually expect to have to divulge my personal thoughts regarding academic challenge in a group setting. In reading, posting, responding to the posts of others and then meeting weekly in Zoom meetings I have found it necessary to more than simply maintain an academic approach to learning but had to learn to listen to others and be heard by them in ways that, though often uncomfortable, proved to be deeply meaningful.
The academic process has been much as I anticipated, though the weekly readings have come a lot quicker than in any previous study I have done. I still prefer to read a book cover-to-cover but have learned to develop the discipline of reading for content and utilizing a text for my own purposes. This has proven to be incredibly helpful in preparation for my research as well as reading for curriculum development as I teach or message preparation for sermons or speaking engagements.
Balancing some hectic life struggles with consistently high intensity work life has not been conducive to facilitating significant change in leadership style despite the encouragement afforded by the program. Growth in the area of leadership has occurred mostly around the idea of taking a step back and allowing others to stretch their wings with only periodic assistance from me. This has been due as much to time demands as any purposeful change on my part but, I have sensed a greater comfort with leading from behind and witnessed significant growth in others who have been allowed to experiment with their own leadership opportunities.
I had anticipated development in my writing as I was pressed to formulate ideas surrounding a potential dissertation. I was not expecting such growth from the wide variety of assigned readings and the challenge to approach texts in a different manner than in any previous academic setting. Each book brought new insights into my thinking regarding academia, culture, ministry, leadership, theology and personal growth. Many books were assigned that of which I had no knowledge while others I possessed some familiarity but had not studied personally. The distillation of these texts into weekly blog posts relevant to each cohort member’s area of interest consistently amazed me. Texts that to me seemed unconnected to certain areas of interest were read with that lens in mind generating unexpected insights. I looked forward each week to read cohort member’s blog posts as I pondered how they would bring a text to bear on their interest area. Sometimes it was a stretch, but often there was clarity and insightfulness that helped me see a text from a different vantage point.
For me, the most challenging and surprising aspect of the first year in the LGP program has been the growth and introspection required to complete the PLDP assignments. These have forced personal reflection that likely would not have occurred without such an assignment. They have generated acknowledgement of leadership attitudes, idiosyncrasies of thought and insight into personality type through the use of Enneagram and Myers/Briggs personality types. I am not a naturally self-reflective person. I prefer to deal with what each day presents and often feel frustrated by the need to consider how my personality shapes my own responses. The PLDP exercises have forced me to contemplate these things and evaluate alternatives to my natural tendencies.
Personally, the LGP program has come during one of the most challenging periods of my life. I am not certain at this point whether commencing a doctoral program was the catalyst for chaos or a haven of relationships and insight that aided me in weathering the storms. Maybe it was both. I am thankful (most of the time) for what has transpired through this program since August. Though I am sure my cohort members and mentors frequently find me disengaged I cherish the connection I feel with them and the encouragement that I have received this year. I anticipate meeting in person again at the next advance and strengthening the bonds that have developed this year. In hindsight, I am grateful for each and every person, and even most of the assignments, that have been a part of my journey through this initial year. The future may be uncertain, but the growth experienced this year will continue to ripple through my life. For that I am immeasurably thankful.