Josh Kirkham spends long hours on the road for his day job as part of the leadership team for the Boy Scouts of America’s Atlanta Area Council.
But at night and on the weekends he takes on another important — and unpaid — role serving as bishop of the Covington Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Kirkham works as the Safe Scouting and Operations director for the Marietta-based Atlanta Area Council, which includes Cub Scouts, Scouts BSA, Venturing, Sea Scouts and STEM Scouts. His job includes management of Scout properties in 13 Metro Atlanta counties.
His work as a bishop in the Latter-day Saints church in Covington includes leading a ward — a local congregation — and is the equivalent of a pastor or priest, according to information from the church.
Church member and friend Kori Romig nominated Kirkham to be featured in Men of Newton magazine.
Romig wrote that Kirkham has a “love of community and families (that) gives him the needed foundation to serve as the congregation’s bishop” for the past four years.
“For the past four years he has guided our ward family each week through countless hours of ministering to families, serving weekly on Sundays and also Wednesdays to help guide our youth, and then hours of meetings, answering calls, and emails from all who may need assistance, or a simple ‘you-keep-going’ pat on the back!” Romig wrote.
“His leadership and service to our church is a lay ministry. He does all this with a heart of gold and smile ... without any financial reimbursement.”
Kirkham admits there are some weeks he sees little of his family. However, he said his work as bishop has been “such a blessing.” He leads services, counsels with church members, and focuses on working with the youth of the church.
“I did not ever see myself as a spiritual leader but, in my faith, we believe that God calls us to these roles within our church,” he said.
“I have certainly learned more than anyone I’ve served (that) I’m the person that needs the calling more than those I serve need me,” Kirkham said.
He also visits with church families and tries “to bring a little bit of hope and maybe joy” to them, he said.
Kirkham, 43, is the father of four and is married to Amanda Kirkham, a third-grade teacher at Newton County Theme School.
The Illinois native is an Army veteran and earned a bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University. He worked for 11 years for the Scouts’ Three Fires Council before moving his family from Wisconsin to Covington in 2014 to direct operations of Bert Adams Scout Camp in south Newton County.
The 1,300-acre camp has operated in Newton County for more than 60 years. Kirkham said he worked with a number of volunteers and enjoyed seeing projects advance from the planning stage to completion.
“When you work at the camp level, you spend a lot of time seeing directly the impact that you’re having on kids and on families,” he said.
In early 2017, Kirkham was promoted to his current job which includes management of Scout properties and resolving any conflicts that arise within troops in the 13-county area.
He said the “safe scouting” part of his job title means “that I get to help people when they’re having a difficult time” — such as when troops are facing discipline issues and “any types of misbehavior.”
Kirkham also gets to use the experience he gained in the military and as a firefighter for a decade in Wisconsin to deal with any crises.
“God’s really blessed me with a strong ability to lead through crisis,” he said. “I know that sounds kind of braggadocio but it’s definitely nothing I can attribute to myself. He kind of formed me with the experiences that he’s placed in my path that have helped me become that person.”