“Inform, invite or ignore?”: Interview with @batty_towers for #CNMAC12

Over the next couple of weeks, in the runup to #CNMAC12, we’ve asked a number of speakers to respond to the following questions, and thanks to Sara Batts for being first to respond. Sara is speaking at 2.40pm in the ‘Deeper’ Session:

How are churches actually using the internet? What can we learn from best (and worst!) practice? Based on a recent PhD research project, get the inside track on what churches should be doing.

Who are you, what do you do, and how do you come to be speaking at #CNMAC12? What’s your personal ‘story’?

I’m Sara (@Batty_Towers) and among many hats I wear I’m a PhD student. For the last 4.5 years I‘ve been researching what kind of information church websites are publishing and how church leaders are involved in their creation. At CNMAC I’ll be sharing some of the best and worst practice I’ve seen, to help attendees think about how their own sites are written and presented. It’s also a good opportunity to test some of my findings and assumptions with those who are interested in churches and the media.

Can you give us a ‘sneak peak’ into the story of your session at #CNMAC12?

1997 called, and wants its website back. Or the slightly more serious answer: some sites are great. Others still have room for improvement in their welcome and information content.

What is the best ‘good news story’ to come out of your journey as a disciple? What keeps you going when times are hard?

The more I connect with people, the more I find differing viewpoints and more people who are prepared to express their doubts in the face of a lot of the certainty that some declare and that is enormously helpful. The feedback I get on my blog when I express confusion and people agree – that’s amazing! “It’s not just me…” The sheer wit and humour I find on Twitter helps. And on serious notes, I’ve connected with folk who have shown me new ways of prayer, like saying the Rosary, which has been interesting.

We’re working on the @bigbible project. How do you think the (stories in the) Bible can inform what we do online, in whatever sense?

Biggest message from the Bible – love your neighbour: this for me translates online. Are we thinking about the effect our words have? Do we say things online we’d never in a million years say to someone’s face? Are we self-serving or are we building up others? And in terms of websites, for me it’s all about the welcome – love your visitor, and understand what they might need, rather than cramming a site full of Church-speak.

Outside of your own session, what are you most looking forward to at #CNMAC12?

I’m looking forward to networking with people I talk to via Twitter, and hearing again from @Digitalnun; and may well eschew my librarianly interests and listen into some of the theological discussions.

See the full conference agenda.

About Sara Batts

Sara completed her PhD research in 2013 examining how English churches are embracing – or ignoring – the rise of social media. Based in Colchester, Sara has a day job in London as a legal information professional so she’s well placed to understand how best to find and provide information online. Blogs, twitter feeds and other social media are second nature and she’s been using the internet for longer than she cares to remember