Interview with Chloe from ‘The Art of Steering’, finalist #cnmac11

Can you give us a bit of background into your digital presence project? When was it established, what was the commission/its overall goal?

I started blogging at The Art of Steering just over a year ago in response to a challenge from a colleague.  We had just updated our church website and wanted to be producing regular material to keep our website current.  Blogging seemed the best answer and my colleague was looking for volunteers.  Having never blogged before, I thought I’d have a practice before I decided whether or not my blog offerings would be good enough to go out under the church name!  So, the The Art of Steering was born as the record of my musings on life and leadership within a local church context.  At first, I was so shy about it that I wouldn’t even put my name to it and I deliberately chose a rather dark and blurry picture of myself for the ‘about me’ section!

Can you share some good news stories that have come out of the digital project? Has anything made you punch the air in joy?

What I love most about blogging is the connections I get with people whom I’ve never met, through their comments on my blog.  They make me think even harder about what I’ve posted.  And sometimes the people whom I know in an offline capacity will interact with me in person about what I’ve written and how it may have caused them to rethink something in their life or perhaps how it may have caused them to realise that they disagree totally with what I’ve posted.  I love these interactions: at the top of my blog, there is a welcome message to all my readers and I say there that the best theology is conversational.  I really believe that!

We’d love to know a bit about the people behind the site, what is it about your journey of life and faith which has brought you to working on this project?

I’m a church leader in London and I’m in my early thirties.  My twenties include a past life as a City solicitor but since then I’ve got a Masters in Theology, have just embarked upon a research degree and also tutor for the London School of Theology open learning programme.  So the academic part of me is there but most of my life is spent as a practitioner: I’m pastor on the ground in a church largely made up of Christians who have come to faith in the last four or five years, as well as a few non-Christians.

Because of all this, most of my academic theologian friends see me as a practitioner, whilst my church friends see me as a bit too academic!  So this blog is my extended personal reflection on my readings and life experiences as I stand with one foot in academic theology and the other in the nitty-gritty of ground-level church leadership.  It’s also an attempt to ground and embed those life and leadership learnings into my walk with God and to invite my readers to think about how they might do the same.

Do you think it’s important for Christians to be online, and why so? What can we do, either individually or corporately?

I think that online media have a real potential for impact by Christian organisations in all kinds of avenues.  This could include providing tools for gospel outreach and apologetics, Biblical and theological resources, as well as theological education more generally.

Within my own local church context, because we are relatively small and have no building to act as a marker within our wider local community, we could really struggle to let non-Christians in West London know that a ‘church for people who don’t do church’ even exists here.  But as we have developed our website and a web strategy, we have seen all kinds of people come through the doors, non-Christians who might not find a place to belong in a more institutional church but who have come to faith in our small community.

However, it’s not just Christian organisations who can benefit from a web presence.  Even individuals like me, who can just about figure out how to set up their own WordPress account(!), can share what God is doing in our lives and others can respond to those learnings and challenges.  Obviously, none of this can replace the importance of face-to-face communication – God, after all, did not only give us a text but visited us face-to-face in the person of Christ!  But I think it can add another dimension, connecting me with others and helping me to learn from them.  In that sense, it’s exciting!

Which digital media tools do you use (either personally or for the project), and for what purpose? Which tool would be the winner in the race for ‘most important’?

I’m not terribly tech-y actually, so all I use for the blogging is my laptop and the WordPress site.  I’m also permanently attached to my smartphone which has five e-mail accounts syncing with it, as well as texts, voicemails, facebook, twitter and way too much other stuff.

I’m not sure that this is a good thing though because it can promote a belief that if I am in contact with people via text, e-mail or facebook – or their blogs! – then I am really ‘in’ their lives.  But I think that the mere fact of our embodiment, the fact that the Son of God himself chose to become flesh and dwell amongst us – these things have to tell us that we were created to relate to one another more directly than just via digital media.  And so whilst I see tremendous potential for digital media tools, I also see tremendous challenges ahead as we seek to ensure that we do not allow them to replace more embodied ways of relating with others.

How does it feel to be a finalist for one of the Christian New Media Awards?

I am a finalist in the ‘most inspiring leadership blog’ category.  I was utterly overwhelmed to discover that I had been shortlisted because I am so new to blogging and also pretty new to church leadership!  It has been a huge encouragement to me, though, to know that people have liked what they have read because with blogging you can feel quite disconnected from your audience, most of whom never comment to let you know they’re reading.

And finally, where do you see things going over the next few months or years with the nominated project?

I shall still be blogging because I shall still be learning, I hope!  As for how things might develop, I don’t know but I’m looking forward to seeing what God might want to do with The Art of Steering in the future.

BigBible Readers, find out more about the project at http://theartofsteering.wordpress.com

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The #BigBible Project. Educating in the digital spaces, creating 'bigger Bible conversations' between #digidisciple(s). Look out for #bigread14.