This has been quite a journey and quite a year! I did not know really what to expect when I began. I would describe my academic journey as a “treadmill experience”. It began in September being a bit overwhelmed because we were dropped in the deep end. It eased with the advance, only to increase speed quickly with the weekly reading, writing, and chatting. Each semester was concluded with a paper deadline, that seemed to loom over me at times. However, I keep on the tread. I took it one week, book, blog, and chat at a time. Over time, just like on the treadmill, I found myself making real progress. This progress has created momentum that has propelled me through my first year.
What surprised you?
My biggest surprise was the volume of reading. Not just occasionally, but week end and week out. I found it almost overwhelming at times, especially in light of other personal and professional responsibilities. I consider myself a reader before this doctoral journey began, but it hails in comparison to the amount, the depth, and the breadth of reading I have done over the last year. I have read material on subject matter that I would have never taken the time to read. For example the reading over capitalism verses socialism, I have an opinion on the subject, but I would have never taken the time to actually read extensively on the subject. Then to think about the subject, form and write an opinion and finally defend it in on a blog and a chat.
This process has made me better as a leader. Because the subject matter has challenged my thinking and cemented my beliefs. It has caused me to process broad amounts of information and formulate my own ideas, based on others. I knew that I would be stretched, and I wanted the personal and professional growth. However, to mentally know something and then to physically experience it is two separate realities. This journey of reading, reflecting, and writing has grown me exponentially.
The writing itself has been a tremendous exercise and discipline. It has caused me not only to think but to express and articulate myself and form well digested opinion. I am much better verbally articulating my thoughts and opinions. The discipline of writing my thoughts, ideas, and opinions is one that is not only a weakness of mine, but one that is very needed in my life and ministry. The regularity and rhythm of communicating through writing has improved this skill set of mine immensely.
The International Advance
Hong Kong was not only memorable, but I believe life changing. This is not original with me, but I believe that change of place, change of pace, equals change of perspective. Hong Kong did that for me. First the geography with all its differences was eye opening. Second, although George Fox University is not apart of my usual tribe, the faculty, staff, and fellow students are outstanding. I love the openness to new ideas and concepts, as well the desire to grow together. Third, the ideas presented in each venue, experience, and lecture. I will never forget my time and experience. I only wish I could go and revisit the trip and all its’ discoveries.
How have you been changed?
What has changed in me, is that I have been stretched. I have grown and stretched in a way in which I cannot go return. The reading forced me to think. The writing forced me to articulate. The chats forced me to process, to see to understand rather than to be understood. The PDLP forced me to reflect and focus.
I have grown in my knowledge and understanding. Even the peer interaction has caused me stop and look at a different perspective or idea. The growth has caused me to reflect and process more, before I conclusively come to an opinion. This affects how I lead paid staff and volunteers in the church I pastor. Even the pace of work, has caused me to focus on what truly is important.
My worldview is growing. I travel quite a bit annually. However, the perspective of having a professor in Europe, Advisor in Australia, attending a university in Oregon; I am traveling in a new way. My fellow students come from all over the United States and from all types of backgrounds and perspectives. I am not only seeing my perspective, but theirs. The reading and writing is growing how I view various places, people, times, and events in history.
How do you lead differently?
John C. Maxwell says that leadership is influence. My leadership has influenced by this doctoral journey. Not only with all the obvious conclusions from the aforementioned changes, but also in the way the faculty and staff lead and interact. First, although I am a student I find myself treated more as a colleague. This treatment, has challenge me in how I treat and interact with others. It has challenged me to be more inclusive and let respect be something earned or given rather than expected. Second, the statement “life happens” has been a mantra of the Doctor of Ministry program. This “grace” has been a lesson to me on how to treat others, deadlines, and life in general. I have been grateful for grace giving attitude and thus have operated with grace towards others. Third, expansion of me as a person. My capacity has increased in intangible ways that will pop up in conversations, sermons, thoughts, and even reactions.