21 February 2006

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

by Dan Phillips

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 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


Screaming Pirate said...

You know as a information systems major, that wants to be a pastor, your really making me rethink my plains. Just kidding.

Chris said...

27. You have the magic aura that automatically fixes problems just because you are standing next to the computer.

"I swear, it didn't work 5 minutes ago..." -- Frustrated Client

DJP said...

Yes! That's great, Chris! Yep, #27.

And sp, your scaring me. I know you're kidding, but it does sort of tangentially remind me of what the pastor who started me in Greek and all used to say.

He'd say something to the effect of, "Gentlemen, if you can happily do anything other than being a pastor, do it." At the time, I thought he was being a bit sour and cynical. I've come to see that he had a real point.

Screaming Pirate said...

Ill be honest i am abosulty miserable doing computer crap. i used to absolutly love it i live for it, the money, the gadgets, the challenge. That was a different time, that was B.C., now i am going for a seminary pass (long story). It is teaching me dilligece in my studies. I just have such a fond affecton of the Church and seeing others Grow. The scriptures are so beatuiful to me. To be honest IT is ok but i really get sick of it preaty fast. Computers just dont do it for me any more. So if any thing pray i can endure my studies, so that I can get to seminary.
oh and...
#28 People want to take you out to lunch cause you fixed their problem not because they want you to fix a Problem.

Neil said...

Corollory 19a. They don't care how you smell either.

Beware of your IT people:
IT support used to be my job, and it was well known within our deviant culture that when you got a call for help, you ALWAYS made the customer think they did something wrong, and you NEVER gave the customer any reason for hope. "oh boy, you may have really ratched it. I'll take a look, but I just don't know. How recent is your backup??" Then while they were twisting in the wind we would wiggle a wire and fix it and we would be major heroes. We persecuted anyone who betrayed the brotherhood.

WR said...

You have evidentally not done much IT support. Numbers 15, 16, 17, & 20 are the only true ones. #10 would be a little voice of a brother-in-law (just as demonic sometimes). #24 proves that you're one of "them." :-)

Kent Brandenburg said...

I've often thought of myself a spiritual consumer advocate, helping people get the best deal with their lives. I'm not green though; I'm gold.

Gordon said...

And another thing, if an IT says, "We will have this problem fixed in an hour," the customer is like, "Wow! That's really fast!"

If a pastor says, "I'm going to preach for an hour,"...

Well, you get the idea.

IB Dubbya said...

Aaah...hour long sermons. Don't yah just love em! (I know I do.)


Kate said...

My Tech husband, former tech support man, LOL at many of these. There is truth in them thar words!

#28 would be: "All people assume you find it great fun to fix their computers at all times, in all places, and enjoy doing it for free!" :+)

I think that one works for pastors too, except they are expected to fix all things at all times.

Our pastor recently moved across the country - he is missed a great deal.

Thanks for this, Mr. P!


Darel said...

Reading through those, it seems that IT Support and Pastors have pretty much the same experience. Pop-ups and ads on a computer seen as a bug? Not by some of my users.... sheesh...

Of course, this is why I'm torn about whether to leave this to go to seminary this fall. I'm trading one set of people who ignore all my computer advice but will listen to my personal advice, for a set of people who will (if you are correct) not listen to my personal advice and probably also don't care about my computer advice.

Having my father be my pastor for the first 18 years of my life gave me a rather unsettling insight into what pastors do and deal with. I think I could be a preacher, but I'm not sure I could ever be a pastor.

Oh the horror stories I could tell, but then that's a whole other blog, I suppose....

Scott Roche said...

This is just about spot on.

FX Turk said...

I just wanted to point out that I did not add the PyroGear link in the sidebar.

I wish I had, but is wasn't me.

Forgiven Sinner said...

Great Post........

Rich said...

As a pastor who spent 7 years in IT - 4 while going through seminary, this could not be more true.

It is God's hand of grace to humble his servants.

Allen said...

Funny, but as bob said, not entirely accurate. #9 is especially untrue. #17 is also suspect. :)

Ryan DeBarr said...


You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. People never call the help desk when they are happy, they usually lie to cover their tracks, they blame the IT guy for everything, whenever they don't get their projects done they go to their manager and see the IT guys messed their computer up, they do the exact opposite of what you tell them to do, many times they don't want to fix the problems, and most of them ignore your advice and warnings.

Oh, and you can't go to the coffee pot without five people stopping you and complaining about the most inane problems that THEY caused.

I think pastor and IT support are about the same. Nobody listens to you, but everyone blames you when stuff goes wrong.

IT Help Desk guys are generally NOT well-paid. It's an entry level job, which hopefully after five years will pay off. But after that five years, you are totally burnt out on helping people and find yourself struggling to even be polite to them.

SJ Camp said...

Some really good things here Don, thank you.

One quick comment. You wrote: "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."

Unfortunately, it is the pastor's duty and charge to proactively shepherd God's people--without having to be asked. This is one of the great missing characteristics of modern day pastoral ministry. Baxter called it "the business of the pastor." Shepherding should not be confused with preaching and/or teaching.

Any pastor who is a true under-shepherd of Christ will do more than show up on Sunday morning and give a biblical motivational speech for one hour or so. Besides, as you know, most of the guys preaching today can't really preach... and unfortunately, seminary hasn't really helped them in their content or ability.

The pastor should be investing with the sheep (as he is a sheep himself) all week long as well. Anyone (Christian or nonChristian, pastor or laity) can show up when there is a death in the family, someone sick in the hospital or facing a personal crisis in their lives. 911 proved that to us didn't it? Even the worst of pagans were there to expend life and limb to help a fellow human being in a major crisis. Showing up for the crisis only does not equate with biblical pastoral ministry.

BUT, the genuine faithful under-shepherd of Christ will invest himself in the lives of his congregation when there is no crisis--in the daily hum drum of living (Lance Quinn is the finest example of this I know of... anywhere). THAT demonstrates real ministry.

Again, if all that pastoral ministry is, by today's standards, is the ability to preach for one hour or so on a Sunday morning and the rest of the time primarily study all week long with a few counseling meetings thrown in, then we should just find the best Sproul, MacArthur, Piper, etc. sermon on DVD or MP3 on a certain subject or text, play it Sunday morning for the congregation and have discussion groups about it afterwards. We know at least it will be taught with excellence, precision and passion instead of the average ability of most of the guys in pulpits today.

To be clear, any pastor should preach and teach the Word faithfully; but they should also be REQUIRED as under-shepherds of Christ and His church to proactively shepherd the flcok when there is no crisis by investing personally with every member of the church. That takes a plurality of godly leaders to accomplish, but it can be done.

A great book on this is Pastoral Ministry by Thomas Murphy. Pastoral ministry was more than just truth being taught; it was people's lives being cared for "by those who must one day give an account..."

Thanks for listening and for your post,

SJ Camp said...

Sorry brother. I meant to write Dan not Don. My bad I didn't catch the typo.


Phil Johnson said...

Ryan: "Phil, You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about."

Yeah, I can be pretty clueless at times.

(But at least I know how to read a by-line.) :-)

Sharon said...


(Good one, Phil!)

DJP said...

NOTE TO SELF: must find some way to make bigger impression. Frank calls you "David," Ryan calls you "Phil" and says your last six years of IT Support never happened, Steve calls you "Don," then responds very eloquently to something you never said nor implied... what to do, what to do?


Ryan DeBarr said...

Hey, Netsupport guys have too many names to keep track of. We only remember the problem users. Like Phil.

lee n. field said...

All right. I signed up solely to be able to respond to this.

DJP -- have you done IT long?

BTW, I do know a guy who gave up an $US80K/yr job as a database geek to go into the ministry. He's now a vicar (whatever that entails, he appears to be the pastor's flunky-in-training) at a local Lutheran church, making what can't be much.

You know you've done this too long when you start to fantasize about life as a hunter-gatherer.

Char said...

#21 is SO TRUE!! I love the way you said that. :)

Teacher's kids, Preacher's kids and Cop's kids are always singled out for expected perfection.

My dad was a teacher. When we were in school, my brothers and I, along with our friends whose dads were a Pastor and a Cop, used to sit in detention and complain about that. We were usually in detention of course for doing something that some farmer's kid did everyday.

Then the teachers who did this wondered why we didn't respect them.

Ryan DeBarr said...


Dan says he's done it for six years, but I'm not sure I believe him. He must have been doing IT support for the local Baptist association headquarters, or maybe a convent.

'Cuz real people don't treat their IT guy the way Dan claims.

Invisible Mountain Archeological Society said...

Here's one thing pastors and IT guys share - Everyone wants there problems fixed NOW!

BTW, how you're treated as an IT dude depends on where you work.

Always remember the Scotty Principle - if it takes 2 weeks, tell them it'll take 4 to 6 weeks.

DJP said...

This has been weird.

My greatest fear was that folks would totally miss the spirit of my humor, and find the post bitter and offensive. That hasn't happened, thank God.

What I didn't figure on at all was how many would totally bypass the point, and focus on disputing whether or not I was giving an accurate picture of IT Support! That blindsided me. Which probably is, given the obsessive nature of many of us professional geeks, my bad.

some guy said...

Regarding that most eloquent comment by Mr. Camp: I agree with him and think that is the way it truly should be. But what should we do--is there anything we CAN do--if we have a pastor who doggedly refuses to DO anything other than "preach for one hour or so on a Sunday morning and the rest of the time primarily study all week long with a few counseling meetings thrown in"? Such is the situation my church is in. Any advice would be appreciated, and if no advice, please keep us in your prayers.

Paul said...

#29 People regularly refer to themselves as "dummies" around you and think of you as a "genius," "guru," and "wizard."

Dan said...

DJP - This was really funny! I think you made your point well. Sure there are a few things that are 'technically' off, and 'technical' people love to point that out. I think everyone went home happy. ;-D

One more difference:
#30: Tech people can treat customers badly and still have their advice heeded.

And one similarity:
- Both Tech people and Pastors have to deal with 'customers' who fall into the same trouble continuously, and claim that they didn't know how they got to that point again.

Keep up the great work!
Another Dan