In Office Support, we handle a wide range of tasks. Our main focus is to help information flow within area offices and outside to leadership. We are based anywhere an SIL office is around the world and may also work remotely in some cases.
The Holy Spirit gives the gift of administration so that the whole Body can function smoothly. By taking care of the daily details, our Office staff allow language workers to focus on their tasks. With this teamwork, SIL develops language solutions to make life better for minority language people.
While relating to different departments in the organization, we may support a single area or multiple areas. Usually, we work with a team of people of different nationalities and cultures, so cultural sensitivity and awareness are crucial. Our successful staff members are proactive. They seek out opportunities to grow and learn new technology and skills, such as digital learning software.
As an Office staff member, your daily activities may include project management, routine office work, event planning, financial activities and more. You need to be adept at using office technology, such as Microsoft Office and Google Suite, with the ability to troubleshoot issues. To succeed in this role, use your servant’s heart to stay organized, pay attention to detail, solve problems and take initiative. You’ll perform routine tasks, but the ability to adapt is vital—you’ll need to be creative with what’s available.
A Smile That Lasts Forever
Lisa Tincher enjoyed working in an orthodontic office. She really did. People came in lacking confidence because of the way their smile looked. A year or two later, they walked out of the office brimming with confidence and smiles.
“I was making an impact in people’s lives,” Lisa said. “It was really neat to see, but I realized that’s just temporary. I wanted to do something that had an impact for eternity.”
And God used that desire to remind her of her childhood calling.
As a child, Lisa watched a video on Hudson Taylor’s life.
“There was one week I probably watched it every day to the point that at the end of the week I could quote the movie,” Lisa said. “My mom tells me it was about that time when I first said, ‘I want to be a missionary.’”
In high school, Lisa felt lost. She didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life. So she volunteered at an orthodontic office and then went to vocational school to specialize in orthodontics.
But she couldn’t forget the tug toward missions. She told her family she knew God wanted her to go into missions, though she wasn’t sure how or where. After that, her brother started supporting her. Every month, he sent her a check and said, “This is for going into missions.”
Lisa saved that money for two years. When she left the orthodontic office, her brother’s support was the exact amount she needed for training when she joined Wycliffe Bible Translators in 2005.
She worked as a storytelling facilitator in South American for a couple of years. When she came back to the States, she worked in recruiting to send others on short-term trips.
In 2013, Lisa and an SIL colleague went to the Urbana conference to recruit. The colleague ended up recruiting Lisa to become the Assistant to the Regional Director for Sign Languages in Africa through SIL.
“I’d learned by then that I loved languages because I loved relating to people and building relationships,” Lisa said. “But I didn’t like doing anything on the more analytical side of language development, so I knew my giftings were in administration.”
For one and a half years, the regional director trained Lisa to eventually take over her role, which she then served in for nine months.
“And then God closed the doors very clearly,” Lisa remembered. She returned to the States again, thinking she might find a way to work remotely in the Africa regional director role. But she was dealing with some health issues, and God showed her she needed to find roots with work that didn’t require much travel.
Lisa prayed about it and continued to send out her newsletters. That’s when someone she had previously worked with asked her to be his assistant as he stepped into the SIL Associate Executive Director role for Western Zone, Global Sign Languages Team and Partnerships.
So she moved to Dallas in 2016.
Meeting Needs and People
Lisa’s time as a dental assistant trained her to anticipate needs.
“As you’re working with the dentist, he’ll hold his hand out and he won’t necessarily say what tool he wants,” Lisa said. “You have to know and anticipate so that when his hand goes out, that same second you’re slapping the tool in his hand that he needs.”
That thinking serves her well as the Office Manager for the Executive Director’s department for SIL in Dallas.
“You’re striving to take the burden off of leaders and other people who don’t enjoy administration,” Lisa said. “Whatever it is, I can step in and make somebody’s life a little bit easier by being willing to handle paperwork or bill something out or administer a project.”
She networks with people from different areas of service to build reciprocal relationships. She’ll know who to go to when she needs help on a project, and other people will know to ask her for answers. And if she doesn’t know the answer, she’ll know who to go to for it.
“There is no typical day,” Lisa said with a laugh. Usually, she starts by unlocking the building and turning on the lights. She makes coffee or other preparations if visitors are coming, and she makes sure the office is in order and looks welcoming.
Next she goes to her emails to see what tasks to start on. She might update and format policies, administer the internal Gateway website or create new web pages.
Her job requires her to work with multiple teams based all around the world, with anyone from HR to finance to directors. She co-leads the Community of Practice for office and administration staff in Dallas, which meet quarterly to discuss projects and meet new staff.
Some days she arranges meetings for her supervisor, which includes troubleshooting any technology problems that might come up. For events, she handles all the logistics, from hosting to housing to travel to meals to event space.
“It depends on the day,” Lisa said. “It’s anywhere from projects to event hosting to research to development to who knows what else.”
Part way through her time in administration, Lisa transitioned from a member who raised support to paid staff.
“I’m still doing exactly what I need to do and what I want to do,” she explained. But raising support was a full-time job. When she got married and went back to school, while working in the office and trying to raise support, it became too much. She decided to leave SIL and search for a part-time job.
She organized and documented everything she did for her role at SIL and told her supervisors they could probably get by with a part-time replacement.
Her supervisors asked her to stay on as paid, part-time staff.
“That was a neat way to see God was still letting me connect and serve people that I care about all around the world,” Lisa said. “The main difference is that I don’t send out letters regularly to say, ‘Here’s what’s going on.’ But I’m still connected with a lot of the people.”
The Hit-By-A-Bus Scenario
Lisa had been ready to leave her position and let someone else take over. Even though she stayed, she didn’t change the way she worked.
Because she’s walked in and out of so many different positions in the past, she always approaches a job with the hit-by-a-bus scenario in mind. If she got hit by a bus and ended up in the hospital, would someone be able to come into the office and figure out what she does and how to do it?
“We’d all like to say, ‘I’m indispensable, and people have to rely on me,’” Lisa said. “But I’m going to set it up so somebody else could step in. God changes our plans, and I’ve seen that in my life so often that I’ve just started building in this habit.”
If God changes her plans again, Lisa wants to know that she could step out without creating an excessive burden on her supervisors. She wants to leave enough documentation that anyone could read through it and do everything she does.
But being office manager is more than just creating and following a list of instructions.
“I never quite know what my day will be like,” Lisa said, so she has to be flexible and adaptable. If the Executive Director is in town, her day changes to serve his needs. If there’s a hiccup with technology, she has to quickly find something else that will work.
Part of taking things as they come means staying calm. People will stress out over those schedule changes or technology glitches, and when they see Lisa’s calm demeanor as she searches for a solution, it helps them relax, too.
Lisa also stays organized as she works with different people, plans and projects. Her organizational skills help her supervisors; when they need an update or fact, Lisa can quickly find it for them.
She stressed the importance of offering help and taking the initiative to get things done.
“It may not be part of your job description, but that’s okay,” Lisa said. “Somebody needs to do it. It all points to caring for people. It’s important to remember that behind all that are people you’re serving who are serving people who are serving people.”
People may not think of office support as a significant position, but Lisa disagrees.
“I see this role as a way to serve where oftentimes people don’t want to serve,” she said, “or it’s not their gifting but they have to do it because there’s nobody else.”
Especially in missions, she noted, people join to serve specifically in Bible translation or dictionary development or IT. Fewer people consider office support.
“You have a lot of people doing double roles, trying to be a Bible translator or a literacy worker and also helping run the office,” she explained. “So by saying, ‘I’m going to do the role that nobody thinks is prestigious,’ it takes a lot of pressure off of other people, and it frees them up to do what they do best.”
It may seem like a small job, but she knows office support work done for God has an eternal impact. And that makes her smile.