I always wonder what people think when I tell them that I work part-time at the IT department of a Christian University. Most people assume the word “IT” (Information technology) means that I fix computers like someone from the Best Buy “Geek Squad”. While I can do that, this is not my main job.
My official title at Tyndale is “database business analyst”. Even if you knew what this means, it also doesn’t cover the range of things I do but its a start. What I actually do is manage Tyndale’s internal software and databases. So if a student can’t access their Wi-Fi or a professor can’t turn on the projector that is generally not my responsibility (although I do help out if no one else is available). Let me delve into this some more:
Tyndale has I believe over 10+ departments that have a wide range of software in their computers and on the web. Underlying many of those software, run databases that store all the data. This data can include student information/registration/grades, donation data, financial records, counselling records, building security data, pretty much anything that is needed to run an institution. My job then, is to make sure all this data and software that interacts with it is running properly as per Tyndale’s needs.
While I have dealt with every department in one way or another, the ones I spend the most time with are registrar, admissions, business office, financial aid, HR and development (in that order of most time to least). The main reason is that these ones are the biggest and neediest because they are always interacting with students. So while I’m at the desk, I get requests coming from these departments trying to fix various scenarios with the programs that they are using (and there are tonnes of them, too numerous to list). Here’s a sample of some recent ones
registrar – generating multiple excel spreadsheets with student registration/graduation data from the database that conform with Ontario government regulations
admissions – reviewing online application (app.tyndale.ca) issues with Junior database stafff
business office – fixing faulty data entry in several reports
financial aid – determining whether or not certain students actually signed into their class online
HR – changing documentation policy on team website and modifying vacation calculations
development (aka donors) – adding new users to their donor system and emailing credentials
It’s a pretty encompassing job which includes programming, project management, problem solving, time management, multi-tasking, lots of computer staring, and people skills. While staying within regular business hours (9-5), its very demanding and only amplified by the fact that a full-week at Tyndale has to be compressed into my part-time hours (Tuesday-Thursday). Not impossible, but still daunting.
On a personal note, much of this was similar to what I was doing in my old job in IT 8 years back. Similar technologies and constraints, just better work environment. However just when I thought I would never go back to that world of computers, God sent me right into it again when a full-time position in Pastoral ministry didn’t open up. Because of that stigma of doing a job I was moving away from, carries a struggle with it. I want to be very clear though, this has nothing to do with Tyndale itself and its staff. Nor am I a miserable melon or unhappy to work at Tyndale every day (for this was my first pick outside of secular!). It is the struggle of having to earn the majority my income outside of my main vocation.
The bible calls this “tent-making”. In the Bible, there was a period in time when Paul had to supplement his income weaving tents during the day while at night he preached in the synagogues (Acts 18:1-4). Very much so is the same with what I do right now. While I have been told by many that this is to be encouraged as the new norm for younger Pastors, actually living it out is a different story. The problem I’ve seen this generate is that a majority of my devotion goes toward the institution, (it takes the most of my week and pays me most of my wages), while what’s left is given to the church (Fridays – Sundays). So I have to put my heart into what I don’t like (love) doing, while at the same time wishing I could spend more time into what I am passionate about (saving souls, growing the church spiritually, preaching, and bible ministry).
I think about what Paul wrote when he said this in 2 Corinthians 11:7-9
“Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge? I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you. And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so”
The interpretation is pretty straight forward here. If you’re from Rouge Valley Church or if you have a Pastor in your own congregation that is part-time working outside of the church I want to leave with this thought. Just like Paul says – in order to support struggling ministries, part-time workers must “rob other churches” (in my case, Tyndale) in order to serve others. It’s the word “rob” that stings the most for me and it holds weight. That’s the struggle we face in the work-field, and I don’t think Paul intended to serve churches like this forever.