Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Not a Sea Change, But a Job Shift

When I worked in an office with 30-50 people and I had an idea or question - and being the social person I am - I could easily stroll around and get feedback, answers, or opinions. Most of my social relationships were with co-workers too, since they had come together around values and purposes close to my heart. I had friends outside the company but most of the time, whether it was going to the movies or going to the other side of the world, my closest companions would be coworkers. Even though people came and went, I could be sure the next ones to come along would be others I'd deeply enjoy as well.

Earlier days - in the office.
That was one of the reasons I came to Colorado: to be in the middle of an active group of like-minded people I could love, learn from, and work with. That was one of the best things about my job. It was like being at the hub of a wheel, sometimes dizzying and sometimes frustrating but generally very, very gratifying.

Quite a few things have changed since the day in 1995 when I pulled into the F. family's driveway and began my new life here. Our organization grew into something that felt quite different, and then it disintegrated and shut down. I kept my job but became part of something bigger, based elsewhere. The ache of loss was fierce. Still, I knew I wasn't the same person I was 15 years ago, that I'd reached a different stage. I'd been well equipped for life at the edge of the wheel, by now. And even at the edge, technology had made such changes in the way people work and stay in touch that geography and office hours no longer seemed so critical.

As my sabbatical came to a close I wondered if this was a time to make a sea change: maybe take on more responsibilities in a smaller organization, for example. (Maybe get closer to the center of a wheel?) I had several, attractive pseudo-offers and could probably have converted them into actual offers - though I was skittish about leading anyone on, or at least more than one at a time!

But I'd also realized that this would be a good time to continue my education, and I didn't want to take on more than I could handle or create expectations or dependencies I couldn't keep up with. Plus, taking classes would probably require a healthy allowance of vacation time, and I didn't think anyplace else would be in the position to give me the four weeks a year to which I'm entitled currently. Even if I didn't get that much, well, our organization is quite flexible. And they happen to have some helpful connections to the two schools to which I'm applying, one of which will give those of us who meet certain qualifications a 50% discount on tuition.  

So, go to school part time, stay with my organization, keep doing what I'm doing and a bit more. Not heaps more; don't want to get overextended. But I'm a little bored and feel underutilized. I want something to sink my teeth into. And I want to be part of a team.

I had a hunch that the best place for me, in our organization, would be the group called  the Church Partnerships Team. Not so much for what they do - though I'm good with that - but for who they are, what they care about, and how they work. I've been talking to the team leader and made him a proposal which he accepted, offering me a place on the team doing, ahem, "special projects."

We had our first conference call meeting this week. I'm not sure everyone knew I was interested in joining them - there was some joking about not getting to vote - but they seemed glad to welcome me in. And, as the call went on, I saw my hunches validated. These guys do have a healthy team, with a good level of grace, trust, camaraderie, and collaboration. 

There are nine of us: three in the home office, six of us in different parts of the country. So they've had some experience working as a diffused team, and it looks like they've found some effective, appropriate ways to make that work. They also knew how to hold a meeting in a way that honors all participants, invites rapport, and uses time wisely. Good.

They're pretty seasoned in ministry but not arrogant; they seem flexible and servant-hearted. I think they will push me (and help me) to collaborate, use my time wisely, and keep my commitments, without loading on pressure or structures that don't make sense.

I think they will treat me like an equal, and a valued colleague, but still be happy to teach me and help me grow. Just what I was hoping for. I'm looking forward to working together.

And because they are closer to the hub of the organizational wheel, I think I'll feel a greater sense of belonging as well. If I want to move to Florida or spend more time there they'd welcome me, but with the way the team operates and the kinds of work that will come my way there will be no pressure to do so.

We will get together in Florida twice a year. The meetings are pegged to a forum they hold several times a year. The next one is in just a few weeks. I'll be there.

I'm so pleased to have a team.


Dianne said...

Marti, that sounds awesome! I'm so excited for you!
Question: Why school? What are you hoping to get out of more education?

Marti said...

Hey, Dianne, I don't know if you'll see this comment but perhaps you raised the question more for my benefit than yours. Anyway, I appreciate it.

Grad school... I need to sit down and finish those essays, get to the point where I can express clearly, what I am hoping to get out of more education. As you mentioned when we got together, the Fuller program - should they choose to accept me, should I choose to go that route - will/would start me off with a whole class exploring and crystallizing the question.

But what I'd say today is that what I'm hoping to get is mostly exploring and filling in gaps - to get a better understanding of theology and various philosophies of and tools for ministry. I do want that piece of paper, but not just that: I think both getting more education and being "certified" for it will enable me to serve better in various ways in the future. I don't want to eliminate my weaknesses, to think I can "perfect" myself, but I do want to grow. And yes, I want to be able to teach in settings where the degree matters, e.g., as an adjunct in a Christian college. I don't have illusions about supporting myself that way, though. Seems clear that going to seminary is a good way to get a religious job, not in our current economy anyway. It's a good way to get yourself broke and in debt. Like studying liberal arts.

Was thinking about that recently when a PhD I know, eking out an existence working for 2-3 colleges at once, confessed that he was really living "by the sweat of his 'frau.'" Teaching and writing are both tough ways to make a living, especially without a spouse to hold a "real" job doing something more down-to-earth.

But things have worked out pretty well so far, and I'm optimistic about my opportunities in the future.

If the whole grad school thing starts to look like a mistake or as if the costs exceed the benefits, I can always stop.