Subject Matter Experts and Jacks of All Trades

Missionaries are people, which means they have good and bad days. On a bad day, you’ll find my mind far, far away, using my MBA to be a good FLDP (finance leadership development program) graduate and SME (subject matter expert) in FMS (financial management systems), like SAP and Hyperion. (I just recalled how much we used abbreviations in that job…it was kind of ridiculous.) Oh, how I can look back still and truly mourn those days. I loved that life I left. Everything was so clear. So, so clear. I loved my job. I got paid to think about one thing all day long ~ how to implement and then train LMCO (Lockheed Martin) finance employees on these software systems. I got to work with accounting and with people and with training. It was a dream job, and I was good at it. I know it is a little unrealistic to ponder, but where would I be today if I had kept going in this direction that I left in 2006? I sincerely don’t think that this is a “grass is always greener” issue that many missionaries often struggle with. That grass really was green there. Luscious. Life-giving. And that job was one of my primary mission fields; each day I worked on being a good Christian witness to the people I worked with. I know that God was pleased, and I am so grateful for the four years I had there.

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That ten-plus-years-ago life still affects me today. Recently I was talking to my friend Mark Krupa, a long-time missionary in Czech Republic, who we have known since 2002. I really respect his ministries, the way he loves teenagers, the way he loves God. He is also a formal spiritual mentor/coach for many, many men, and so I appreciated the questions that he asked and the advice that he gave.

I went to Mark because Mark is focused on a few things, to which he is 100% devoted. He mentors men and invests in junior high kids. For this season of Mark’s life, those two things take the lion’s share of his time. Mark is incredibly disciplined and arranges his time and puts up boundaries so as not to be distracted by other things. He works hard in order to always have healthy margin, which he claims is critical for being spiritual and physically healthy for the long haul as a leader. He does not feel guilty about not doing other things; he does not mourn the things he has given up to focus 100% on the things he does today.

Marks’s style is one style, which I like to call, from my Lockheed Martin days, the “subject matter expert”, simply meaning that he is very deeply invested in just a few things. On another side of the spectrum is the “jack of all trades” style, which means you wear many different hats and play multiple roles without going too deep in any one, unless you must. The jack of all trades can be a manager who oversees multiple departments, or a “fixer” as we call it in Ukraine, who is constantly solving problems. Or this role can be for people like me, who have no one defined role or place on the team. My “job description” is so wide that it encompasses many different areas, but does not give me the privilege of going too deep into any one area or developing myself fully; just when I start to dive in to something longer term, something else comes up in a different area where I have to fill in. I call myself a “filler”. But is this actually a good thing?

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I keep this note on my bulletin board, front and center, as a reminder that the Jack of All Trades role will mess with my mind and will mess me up if I’m not careful. You can only be in one place at one time. Multi-tasking has actually been proven to be a detriment to productivity. Being spread too thin will kill you. I need to narrow my scope. But how, when my passion and capacity constantly work against me? How can I narrow my scope when I know 100% that God does not want me to become a subject matter expert again, because that would be a natural detriment to my family and my organization? There is beauty in the ability to be a “filler” and having the flexibility to do so. I don’t appreciate my role enough.

At the same time, I still need to narrow my scope. I still need the Holy Spirit to help me focus on a few areas of life and ministry, and give me the freedom to let the other spheres go, at least for a season. The good news is that while talking with Mark, the Holy Spirit was kind to reveal to me that, for this season until August 1st (a Fuller Seminary deadline) I have three main priorities:

  • Care for my family. Make sure my kids have all that they need each day. Maintain the home life, but don’t feel like I need to get ahead in anything. It is summer, for pete’s sake.
  • Write the first 45 pages of my dissertation, which will be made up of a literature review on the existing context of Ukrainian/Eastern European partnership between public schools and Protestant volunteers for the sake of holistic teenage development and the spread of the Gospel.
  • Love the people around me, particularly my church, my youth team, my UA team, and the teenagers with whom I come in contact with from schools and camps.

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Honestly, in many ways I feel guilty even typing this up and putting it on proverbial paper. Where are my hobbies? Where are my girls? Where is my beloved language study? Where are those projects I promised “I’ll get to it this summer, when there is more time”? Where is my financial hat that I constantly wear for the organization? The list could go on.

Realistically, life does not afford us the luxury to turn off and turn on the tasks that we want, whenever we want. There is no magic formula. But I do know one thing. In order to understand what God is asking from us in the big things, we must live by listening to the Holy Spirit in the little things. Day by day; moment by moment.

At the end of my conversation that night with Mark Krupa, he reminded me that life is all about total surrender. We surrender all those areas to the Lord, and trust that the Holy Spirit will lead us into the things He has for us. The Spirit will tell me about the big things and the little things, but I must go to Him constantly and lay it ALL on the alter. Every single day. Do I trust Him enough to let even the things I am most passionate about go by the wayside, because God might be doing something different? Do I have the confidence in Christ that He is big enough to accomplish His work, and that I don’t have to be all things to all people, and that I don’t have to take the movement upon my own shoulders? So who knows, maybe my schedule will get turned upside down before August 1st. Maybe it won’t. But I do know that the most important thing is advising with the Spirit in all things, every single day, and letting Him set the agenda. Whether I am a Subject Matter Expert or a Jack of All Trades doesn’t really matter, as long as I let Him be in the driver’s seat in every moment. blogFusionCampAdvertisement

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