As “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here” blares out of my TV, I’m reminded that I started a blog post post-CNMAC13, as a number of us discussed whether there is any value in awards. There’s usually many comments as the celebrities go into the jungle that we don’t know who they are – ‘celebrity’ is a fickle beast … they become famous (again) for being ‘a celebrity’… we’re very fickle, us Brits though, as soon as we’ve put someone on a pedestal as a ‘celebrity’, we want to knock them down. What I’m interested in seeing is what people do with any form of ‘celebrity’! Now follows a random selection of thoughts!

Thinking it through’ve been thinking about this for the four years that CODEC has been involved in the Christian New Media Awards and Conference (with this year the first time that I was actually involved as a judge). As Nick Baines says on his blog – these thoughts are first words (though other’s have already blogged, including fellow judge Sara Batts, and Tanya Marrow who was shortlisted), not last words, and as someone who’s keen to listen and understand where other people are coming from, and an over-thinker, my head often hurts thinking about it. However, as I’m involved in organising the event, I hope I can listen to a lot of that – take it on board – and help make changes.

Simply the Best?

This year we worked hard to get rid of the word “best” from the awards categories. As Christians I think we should all be seeking to do our best for God (and as representatives of God), but in no way do I see the awards as picking “the best”, but rather as exemplars of good practice that we be inspired by, as well as giving encouragement to those who win (although I know that there are those who feel discouraged if they don’t win, so again, have been working on the inclusiveness of categories). BTW: I think I used the word mediocre in a tweet on the evening, meaning we should be aiming for excellence rather than mediocrity (rather than those who don’t win being mediocre!) – having recently also judged the #digifaith competition – that was an ’embarrassment of riches’ – but I had to pick a winner (who I got to meet at #CNMAC13!)

Making a Judgement

I know there are those who are not keen on the idea of judging (I’ve definitely engaged in conversations with @headphonaught and @pamjweb about this), feeling that we each have our individual ministries and the only judge is God. I certainly agree that our ultimate judge is God, but as an academic, every time I put in a funding bid, a journal article, or stand up to speak, I know that I’m being judged, and a well-timed piece of encouragement can make all the difference. I was encouraged at the way that people can respond to their shortlisting/awards – my favourite being Dave Criddle – love the way he highlighted the other people in his category with his own reasons – having taken the time to look at their sites. This is also why I love Tanya Marlow’s list of her favourite blogs, although as Natalie found out, that also is fraught with challenges. We all know that slight dip of disappointment when our name doesn’t appear.

Something I absolutely love is that having talked to Andrew Graystone about awards, and saying how excited I was that we’d be shortlisted for The Jerusalem Awards, as we are unable to enter CNMAC – he sent me a personalised award, which I have framed and encourages me daily! This, however, relies upon us encouraging our friends, and I do like the fact that the awards encourage people to nominate others, and most of the those shortlisted I’d not heard of (and I spend a lot of time in this online space) – rather than the ‘same old suspects’!

Choosing Speakers

After Natalie then kicked off a debate (after some impressive research) about the lack of women speakers at various Christian conferences. I thought we’d done quite well, but the stats didn’t look as good as I’d expected for #CNMAC13 (though we did have 4 women on main stage), and Kevin has already given a helpful response. Every year for CNMAC we have a lot of feedback to look through (checking out Claire Maxim’s here), and I’m always listening out for speakers throughout the year – my particular interest is in enabling those who are not ‘regulars’  on the ‘speaking circuit’ to speak – and I think we did do pretty well on that. I’m still keen on an idea we’ve talked about a few times – of opening at least one of the strange up for speaker submissions (as we don’t have to find a new venue this year, we might have the capacity for that!) – but we always have to balance that with the names that draw people in (note: every time we’ve put Tom Wright on BIGBible, traffic shoots up)… something that I’m having to think about as I look for ‘names’ to endorse my book (which I’ve written as no one else had written it!).

Takeaway Message

The message that I took away from #CNMAC13 was that all this is for nothing if we don’t seek to put it into practice. As I often quote David Wilkinson “God is a communicating God”: he gave us skills, let’s use them to the best of our ability so that we can be heard in a world that is frantic! I wrote lots of other stuff, but I think this is long enough – but I wanted to finish with a blog post from Caleb Storkey, in thinking of ‘the other’ as we post (we often hear the phrase ‘engage with grace’ – which for me doesn’t mean “shut up”, but think of the others in the debate before pressing ‘send’).

Confirmed For 2014

1st November, The Brewery, London: #CNMAC14
Look out for more information on the #CNMAC website.

Look forward to seeing some of you there, and do let us know if you have particular ideas! 

9 Responses

  1. I think this is probably my main post about it. To me, blogging and tweeting are about ministry (That is clearly not how everyone sees their offerings though). What one person considers “mediocre”, may be someone else’s lifeline. We cannot quantify or judge that.
    Of course we want posts and tweet to be the best they can be, but just because a judge doesn’t think they are, doesn’t mean that they aren’t. My best, is my best, whether it measures up to someone else’s standards or not.
    And we all have different styles. No way is more ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ just different. Some will appeal to more to one person, some to another, but all are valid. By all means highlight good practice (which again has it’s elements of subjectivity), but awards and rewards and naming lists of “top”, especially when implying anything else is mediocre is really not helpful to those trying to do their best???
    A side issue is that if there are no published criteria, how can anyone know why those chosen ones have been selected?. If it is about showcasing the “good”, how does anyone know what they are supposedly meant to be emulating? SO they fail in that criteria anyway.

    1. Hi Pam. I’ve not described anything as ‘mediocre’ – it was part of a conversation I was having about whether if we don’t aim to be ‘the best’ then are we seeking to ‘be mediocre’. I’m not sure that I see any form of awards as objective (there are criteria, but I agree I don’t think they were obvious), and totally agree that everything produced “just is”, not right/wrong, but that if we want to be heard in a noisy world we are ‘competing’ with the world’s messages, so can we find examples of where sites are making a difference. I also apply that to the ‘awards’ – they “are” – they are not the be/all or end/all – but they will happen, so I want to keep feeding into them so that they are of value somewhere in the bigger picture – which includes encouraging each other, etc. although can involve ‘cliques’. It’s a huge debate and I don’t purport to have all the answers…

  2. Thanks for your thoughts Bex, it is really important to hear from people involved and I understand exactly what you mean about not being last words, there probably are no last words! Here are some of mine, probably even less refined and unfinished!

    I will do my best, is the start of the Girl Guiding promise. Being a Tawny Owl in the Brownies, I give out badges and awards all the time. There are defined activities the girls have to do to get the badge. There are very few times we don’t award a badge and it only happens usually because a girl has missed an evening session and qualifying activity and either we haven’t been able to catch her up or she hasn’t been able to catch up independently. But if they are there, and they don’t muck around all evening 😉 they all get the badge, because we hope that they will do their own individual best.

    The quality of work/craft/interest shown varies greatly, but to be an encouragement, a reward for what they have done, and hopefully an incentive to keep doing their best, they get the reward. The girls, in what i think is am amazingly uncommon thing, don’t compare their work to each other. They don’t get ranked against their peers like is more and more prevalent in schools. We don’t pick the brownie that did the best out of all of them and just give them the badg e saying the rest did ok, but we award them all equally.

    I love the idea of highlighting examples of work that have proved popular and helpful, that have opened doors and encouraged creativity, community and reflection, that have educated and transported people in unforeseen directions. But could that be done through leaving the categories at a shortlist? Like the brownies, ‘award’ a handful of people because individually their contributions all matter.

    I do think that the common understanding of an award is that it will be being awarded to the “best” in whatever category is being judged. I’m not sure that is escapable and as such Christian awards, however the individual awards are named, make me uncomfortable. A lot of the CNMAC categories did retain the word best, but even in the ones that didn’t are called something like ‘blogger of the year.’ I don’t think that means a really good example of a person who blogs’ to most people. In common understanding it means the best blogger of the year. I think the difference in names of categories aren’t making the difference I think a few CNMACers hoped they would make,

    I spent some time thinking about what it would look like to have awards in our churches – best volunteer, best sunday school leader, best pray-er, best reader. That would make me very very uncomfortable! If we want someone who is a good speaker to teach others, we get them to teach others, run a workshop or a group, mentor those with interest and/or skill. We get people to pass those skills on which is more like the CNMAC conference (my understanding anyway, having not been able to attend, but I followed online.)

    So I think I’m with Pam here, that there is no way through an awards ceremony to imply anything other than “we think this person is the best” – especially for those not attending the evening who can’t hear any nuance expressed. But the intention behind the awards seems great.

    1. It’s been really interesting being directly involved in the awards this year, as CODEC essentially works with Premier on the conference rather than on the awards, although Pete/I have served as judges over that 4 years, so this was my first year directly involved. I think my thinking is that the awards are going to happen so let’s get involved … though I think I enjoyed the tweet-up after the first couple of conferences (last year we ended up standing in a road so wasn’t so much fun) – but because we’ve outgrown all the academic venues – the two are always going to happen on the same day now.

      I got halfway through my Guiding Warrant (and finished my Baden-Powell) – interesting ideas – as Guider/teacher want the ‘reward’ to have value so wouldn’t want to give unless it was deserved (so brain is now chugging over that too) – although when my brain says ‘we live in a competitive world’ I wonder in what ways we need to rebel against that. In many ways the case/studies/highlighting, etc. is what I hope(d) to do through BIGBible, though time keeps spinning away – we’ve put a bid in for some funding for a Research Asst and part of that would be going out and getting case studies that inspire others … and I see that as much more important in my overall thinking than any form of awards (so I can get quite frustrated when people over-focus on the awards – I think they have their place, but I think there are so many other things we can be doing and one doesn’t negate the other).

      I was chatting to someone else at the end of the conference and he suggested getting previous ‘winners’ to be part of the judging team – ensures the same people don’t win every year and a sense of passing on the baton! Everyone has ideas, and I guess I will keep allowing my brain to explode in thinking … I think only 2 categories retained ‘best’… and will let my brain swill longer on ‘are awards inherently bad’?!

      Do you know what I’ve really been thinking about over these past few weeks – I like people to be happy and training as a historian can help you site on a really fine fence – but the more people that I engage with online, the more I have to think about what I think, and say it out loud, rather than sitting nodding at people (because what everyone has to say is interesting and to be considered!)- it’s quite scary!

  3. Thanks for the mention and for the post. Not heard of CNMAC before, but it certainly looks interesting and like you had a great time.

    Have a great start to 2014 and hope it’s a wonderful time for you. Hope to bump into you somewhere along the lines…

    Cheers, Caleb

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