24 August 2010

Blast from the Past: 26 ways in which doing IT Support is better than being a pastor

by Dan Phillips


NOTE: I'd almost forgotten this little piece from 2006. A pastor friend reminded me about it the other day. He found it chuckalicious, and I hope you will — again, or for the first time, depending on your degree of newbiecociousness.

Unusually emphatic disclaimer: This is satire (săt'īr' -- "A literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision, or wit").

One hopes that every item is ponderable; the only thing I don't mean at all is the title — and I really, really don't mean the title. All clear? Tongues in cheek, then. Here goes:

26 ways in which doing IT Support is better than being a pastor

For the most part:
  1. People come to you for help — instead of assuming that, if you really knew your job, you would intuitively know they needed help, and come to them without being asked.
  2. Everyone immediately tells you, to the best of his ability, what his or her actual issue is.
  3. Everyone who asks you a question really wants to hear the answer.
  4. Everyone who asks you for help really wants to he helped.
  5. Everyone who calls you really does want his/her computer to work the very best it can.
  6. You and your callers agree that computer bugs and problems are bad, and should be done away with.
  7. When you identify viruses, spyware, unwanted popups, and crashes as "bad," and target them for elimination, the folks you help don't accuse you of being harsh and judgmental.
  8. Nobody who calls you is actually in love with the computer problems and misbehaviors they're experiencing.
  9. When you identify a computer malady you want to eradicate, nobody can wave a book or point to a Big Name who argues that it is actually the latest, greatest "thing" in computers, and should be earnestly sought after, cherished, cultivated, and spread abroad.
  10. Nobody who calls you for help thinks that he's hearing a little voice in his heart telling him that what you're saying is just so much smelly cheese.
  11. Everyone to whom you give sensible counsel will hear, heed, remember, and follow that counsel — they won't insist on "feeling an inner peace" before doing it.
  12. Everyone thinks you do crucial, important, and respectable work; nobody assumes that it is because you can't get a "real job."
  13. Everyone assumes you’re well-trained, know what you’re doing, and know at least some things they do not already know.
  14. While you are expected to be knowledgeable and competent at what you do, you are not expected to be perfect.
  15. Most times, you know immediately when you’ve helped someone; you don’t have to wait six months, six years, or six decades, to see whether your fix has “taken” or not.
  16. On the worst day, if you do even a half-decent job, you can go home knowing for certain that you’ve really helped 5, 10, 15, 20 or more people.
  17. If you don’t know the answer, it’s probably on Google. Somewhere.
  18. When you discover a new, better, more effective way to accomplish the goals you share with the folks you help, they're happy — not angry at you because it's different from "the way we've always done it."
  19. The people you help don’t care how you’re dressed.
  20. The people you help don’t care how many committees your wife does or doesn’t head up.
  21. The people you help don’t hold your children to standards their children couldn’t even spell.
  22. The people you help don’t periodically form secret committees and whisper-campaigns to get you ousted.
  23. The people you help don’t all assume they know how to do your job better than you do, while actually knowing next to nothing about it.
  24. Everyone is fairly clear on what your job actually is: fix their computer so they can get back to work, or work better.
  25. The people you help evaluate you by whether you do or do not do your actual and well-defined job effectively — not by how you "make" them "feel."
  26. The people you help aren't judging you as inferior to a beloved support technician who died ten (or a hundred) years ago.
AFTERWORD: Hope this proves to be encouraging (and chuckalicious) reading for you who are gifted as pastor-teachers, as well as thought-provoking for beneficiaries of their ministry. I've been mulling this over for many months, and decided to put it up here and now. The happy dovetailing with Phil's Spurgeon post for the week is providential. And remember to pray for Phil's preparations.

Dan Phillips's signature

41 comments:

Tom Chantry said...

Loved this the first time around, and still love it today. And I say that with this caveat - I am currently in a church where the problems mentioned in this post are minimal and in which the great majority of the people actually do understand what my job is and appreciate the fact that I do it. Nonetheless - it's a great list.

I would only urge my fellow pastor-readers not to dwell on it too long (there's no benefit in becoming bitter) and the non-pastors to ponder it carefully.

Robert said...

Dan,

Thanks...I laughed all the way through this. I have a good understanding of eldership and how hard it is to shepherd effectively. I also have many friends in IT with whom I have talked at length about the way I and others tend to not give them their due.

I'm actually reading through "The Shepherd Leader" by Timothy Witmer and am planning to encourage our elders to continue in their work diligently because the fruits of good shepherding in the church will be abundant. I also plan to encourage other members to be thankful to them, submit to them, and pray for them as instructed in the Bible.

So, I'd also like to encourage you and others who work in both IT and pastoring. Know that without the proper software, hardware, and maintenance of data systems, hardly any company can survive. Also know that without the guidance, love, discipline, protection, and instruction of the elders (under the leadership of Jesus), the local church becomes disorderly and can be savagely attacked by wolves in sheep's clothing.

lee n. field said...

Just as good the second time around, except noone much cares what the IT guy's wife does.

Is there a pastoral equivalent to the Sysadmin Song ?

DJP said...

As so often, Chantry's exactly right. I'd be very sad if the piece made any pastors feel embittered. OTOH, I'd be very grateful if it made some chuckle, and if it served up a little salutary exhortation to those on the other side of the pulpit.

I'm pretty sure even the pastor with the perfectest church this side of Heaven would nod and smile at the list. The only exception might by the mega-pastors who are shielded from the pressures of the hoi polloi by waves of subordinate functionaries.

Everyday Mommy said...

You had me at satire :)

Paul said...

As an IT guy, I'm not sure 18 is always true... trying to get users to switch software can be like evangelising Jehovah's Witnesses; long, drawn-out and with a frustrating outcome (normally).

Sadd Family said...

As a pastor and an IT guy at the same time this list had me laughing and half crying at the same time. I'm spreadin the word!

Robert said...

Paul,

Don't you know that some of us have our own translation of what good software is? And apparently it is a translation that only we who hold to the old software can understand. lol

Father of Eleven said...

If DOS was good enough for Peter and Paul it should be good enough for us.

ProgMan said...

Can't fully agree with #1 -- been burned too many times by users who say, "But it hasn't worked in months...", like I somehow knew it was broken without them telling me. Fortunately, with our last upgrade I built in tracking tools to tell me when some of the issues happen -- and I freak them out when I call them out of the blue and say, "I see you had an error with such and such report at 2:42pm on the 19th...."

I guess if pastors could do that, you'd more than freak out the congregation. ;-)

Frank Turk said...

You see: this is why DJP blogs here.

The pith.

Sir Aaron said...

I think it's funny that you have to put a proviso before your post.

DJP said...

Walk a mile in my shoes.

(c;

Steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve said...

As an IT guy who is seeking God's leading to move into more and more ministry opportunities, I have to take exception to the list. . . :)

POINT: People come to you for help — instead of assuming that, if you really knew your job, you would intuitively know they needed help, and come to them without being asked.

COUNTER: Um, no they don't, they assume you know that something is wrong. They only tell you after all the evidence of the original problem has vanished from the system log files and you have no clue how things happened.

POINT: Everyone immediately tells you, to the best of his ability, what his or her actual issue is.

COUNTER: No, they tell you what they think the solution is, how you should fix it, and obfuscate the problem.

POINT: Everyone who asks you a question really wants to hear the answer.

COUNTER: Not if it involves any amount of education. They just want the issue fixed, they don't care what they did to create it or how to avoid it in the future.

POINT: Everyone who asks you for help really wants to he helped.

COUNTER: See above, they just want the work done, not to help them.

POINT: Everyone who calls you really does want his/her computer to work the very best it can.

COUNTER: Preferably to the point that they don't have to do anything at all.

POINT: You and your callers agree that computer bugs and problems are bad, and should be done away with.

COUNTER: Or if dealing with some, they deny that there are any problems at all. "I've been using computers for xx years and never had these kinds of problems." so it must be IT's fault.

POINT: When you identify viruses, spyware, unwanted popups, and crashes as "bad," and target them for elimination, the folks you help don't accuse you of being harsh and judgmental.

COUNTER: They do if it is their favorite new app they downloaded off the internet against company policy.

POINT: Nobody who calls you is actually in love with the computer problems and misbehaviors they're experiencing.

COUNTER: Windows users must be. :)

More....

Steve said...

POINT: When you identify a computer malady you want to eradicate, nobody can wave a book or point to a Big Name who argues that it is actually the latest, greatest "thing" in computers, and should be earnestly sought after, cherished, cultivated, and spread abroad.

COUNTER: Yes, it is called MSCE or other certifications. What could experience teach you if you haven't been to the right training courses?

POINT: Nobody who calls you for help thinks that he's hearing a little voice in his heart telling him that what you're saying is just so much smelly cheese.

COUNTER: Oh, but they do... Nobody knows as much about computers as those who know so very little.

POINT: Everyone to whom you give sensible counsel will hear, heed, remember, and follow that counsel — they won't insist on "feeling an inner peace" before doing it.

COUNTER: This guy has never done IT support, has he? :)

POINT: Everyone thinks you do crucial, important, and respectable work; nobody assumes that it is because you can't get a "real job."

COUNTER: Oh, but they do... You are marginalized... You're not a valuable member of the real "team", you're just the "computer guy" who makes that necessary stuff work. If you can do that.

POINT: Everyone assumes you’re well-trained, know what you’re doing, and know at least some things they do not already know.

COUNTER: No, if they don't know it, it isn't important. Just make it work, son, make it work.

POINT: While you are expected to be knowledgeable and competent at what you do, you are not expected to be perfect.

COUNTER: Ha ha ha ha ha ha... REALLY?

More...

Steve said...

POINT: Most times, you know immediately when you’ve helped someone; you don’t have to wait six months, six years, or six decades, to see whether your fix has “taken” or not.

COUNTER: No, you know when you have fixed the problem (most often caused by the user) but you have not fixed the problem in the user that caused the problem, and it will be back again, and it will be the computer's (or your) fault.

POINT: On the worst day, if you do even a half-decent job, you can go home knowing for certain that you’ve really helped 5, 10, 15, 20 or more people.

COUNTER: They don't know it, nor do they appreciate it.

POINT: If you don’t know the answer, it’s probably on Google. Somewhere.

COUNTER: Well, at least one of these has some real truth to it... LoL But that is what powerpointsermons.com and sermonspice.com are for. :)

POINT: When you discover a new, better, more effective way to accomplish the goals you share with the folks you help, they're happy — not angry at you because it's different from "the way we've always done it."

COUNTER: Never happens. Nobody likes change, and they should absolutely never have to change how they do things to accommodate a better system, if they have to change their behavior it's a bad system.

POINT: The people you help don’t care how you’re dressed.

COUNTER: Ahem.

POINT: The people you help don’t care how many committees your wife does or doesn’t head up.

COUNTER: Well, this again may be true, they don't think you have a life to begin with, much less worry about your wife.

POINT: The people you help don’t hold your children to standards their children couldn’t even spell.

COUNTER: Ditto to the above.

POINT: The people you help don’t periodically form secret committees and whisper-campaigns to get you ousted.

COUNTER: Yes, they do, that is how leadership works, at least in certain places I won't mention.

POINT: The people you help don’t all assume they know how to do your job better than you do, while actually knowing next to nothing about it.

COUNTER: This is the first and biggest realization you come to when you try to help anyone with IT issues. They do think they know more.

More...

Steve said...

POINT: Everyone is fairly clear on what your job actually is: fix their computer so they can get back to work, or work better.

CLEAR: No, your job is to do the things in their job that requires a computer so that they don't have to ever actually learn how to use one.

POINT: The people you help evaluate you by whether you do or do not do your actual and well-defined job effectively — not by how you "make" them "feel."

COUNTER: Again, wrong. It's all about how much of their unpleasant tedious stuff they can offload on to you. Or, how many reports they can ask you to produce for them so it looks like they are concerned but which reports are never read.

POINT: The people you help aren't judging you as inferior to a beloved support technician who died ten (or a hundred) years ago.

COUNTER: You are always judged by their son, nephew, cousin, friend, distant acquaintance, etc.... Basically, anyone ten feet outside the front door knows more than you do, in fact, why did we hire you in the first place?


So, I take issue with the points, but not saying a Pastor has it any easier. LoL

DJP said...

Wow. That's a lot of words.

I meant to say: weirdest thing about the first time I posted this was the arguments and insults from IT folks.

I've been doing IT support for nearly eleven years now, and my overwhelming experience from tens of thousands of calls evidently differs from some others'.

Sir Aaron said...

in fact, why did we hire you in the first place?

I think this about my IT people all the time. But I work for the government, so unfortunately, I think I know the answer.

Todd Pruitt said...

BEAUTIFUL!

Sir Aaron said...

DJP:

You do IT support for external customers though, right?

Frank Turk said...

I wanted to say something about the diufference between competant IT Help and the rest if IT help, but I don't have time today to bail out the meta.

Steve said...

DJP: I took it tongue in cheek, and my replies are that way as well. No offense intended, hopefully none taken.

And sorry about the dupe on the first post, I got several errors about post and content being too long (imagine that!), but it must have taken one that it reported to me as an error.

David Kjos said...

If only IT support could offer actual solutions like my pastor does ...

philness said...

I can vouch for Dan that he is stellar at his IT job because my wife works for the same company and she and her co-workers love it when they call the help desk queue and Dan is on the other end.

DJP said...

There y'go. My day's made.

Good night, folks! Last one out, turn off the lights.

(c:

PS to Aaron - no, internal.

Stefan said...

"IT support"?

What is this "it" that you support?

"IT's been acting up lately. Can you do something about IT?" "IT's frozen." "IT won't start." "IT's gone blue." "IT's beeping at me." "IT's not working."

Is that "it"?

Verification word: "mintioni," which sounds like a flavour of ice cream.

Solameanie said...

My solution to IT problems is the same solution I had envisioned one day when I was still in radio and wanted to have a "not gonna take it anymore" meltdown on my last day.

Take an old television picture tube degausser, plug it in and wave it in a circle while standing in your network room. Then run for the hills.

Paula said...

Lots of truth in both directions. Made me even more grateful for our dedicated pastors and their families, who have such high expectations at times.

As an IT wife (my kids are ITK's), I can see a couple similarities too:

1. They're both often the last ones to leave the church & the family is left waiting. Someone always seems to have a pressing problem that can't seem to wait (in our case, it usually results in an extra passenger...oops...computer in our car).

2. Sometimes, no matter how much time, energy, blood, sweat, and tears you pour into a problem, they still end up running out to the big box store to trade their problem in for the super-duper latest model. Unfortunately, it's not long before they end right back where they started from because they ignore all your advice and won't install virus protection and can't resist clicking on every lousy pop-up that comes across the screen.

RomansOne said...

Steve, that counter-comparison was dead on. Had tears in my eyes -- just what I needed today -- it's been nuts. Sounds just like the users I deal with, and I've been programming for 15 years (for a Christian publishing house). No offense, Dan -- but it sounds like you have a golden place to work. My experience with IT is largely like Steve described.

(Though I whole-heartedly agree that the pastor's life, unfortunately, tends to be just like you described.)

Frank Turk said...

Kjos just made my day.

David said...

How awesome! I just left my IT career today to begin in full-time ministry. Woohoo! Couldn't have been a better post on a better day.

Robert S. Munday said...

Reason #27, When you are in IT, no one thinks it's weird when you make up new words like "newbiecociousness." It just adds to your character.

Chris Roberts said...

You've convinced me. Time to quit the pastorate and get back into decent work!

Morris Brooks said...

Truth is what makes satire work, and keeps the tongue in the cheek.

Rachael Starke said...

#28 - When the call comes at 11:30 p.m. that something is very, very wrong, it's only a server.

#29 - When you gently correct someone who's constantly forwarding urban legend spam, they sheepishly thank you for saving them from their own naivete and ignorance.

Loved this. Makes me equally parts nostalgic for the evening of 1/1/00 and the three pagers my IT Support husband was wearing, and thankful that the aforementioned husband finished his MBA so he would never have to be on call on New Years' Eve again.

zostay said...

I tried find this funny, but the contrast doesn't work for me or maybe I need another pot of coffee. I find myself finding nearly all of these things in common with my position as a software developer, which is not quite the same thing as IT support, though I do do that some too.

For example, many of the folks who ask for help from us think they know better than us how to solve their problems. Many times we solve problems that they never reported but tell us after the fact that the problem has been bugging them forever, and that's despite having a very involved customer support team. When we do fix something our customers sometimes get angry at us for fixing bugs or making improvements that change things, often insignificant things like moving a button an inch from where it was before. It's impossible to pin down what a customer thinks is a feature versus a bug sometime; in fact, one customer's bug is another customer's feature. If a customer doesn't understand what I'm doing, it often means he thinks I can just get out my spell book and wave a wand to make his problem go away. He may get angry when I can't solve his problem in less than two hours (let alone two weeks).

Anyway, I'm glad somebody found this funny. I'm not trying to be humbug, but I just found too much in common with my situation for the contrast humor to work for me.

RomansOne said...

zostay, if you haven't already, read Steve's counter-comparisons, above, I think you'll enjoy them. Many of his insights are hiliariously accurate, from a software dev point of view.

As for me, this whole thread did point out something I hadn't thought of before: software development is apparently good preparation in handling what pastors have to deal with. That's where I'm heading, long-term -- just finished my Masters in Christian Ministry last spring, and started night class in Greek last week -- and so I guess I can view my day job as part of the pastoral training process, too. :-)

Michael said...

Given that I've spent so long in IT, I'm not entirely convinced that support is all that blessed. However, the God we serve is entirely dependable.

I also like what Erwin Lutzer said when being hammered on some theological issue. "Im in sales, not management."

Paul said...

DJP: Steve is right. I think you are living in an alternate universe. Most of the time IT is just as rubbery, just as political, and just as frustrating as ministry. How could you not have noticed? :-)