Why I think blog awards are good (even if I don’t win)

It is the CNMAC 2013 today (the UK Christian New Media Awards and Conference), which highlights some of the best Christian blogs, websites and tweeters in the UK. I am honoured to say that I have been shortlisted for Best Blogger, (and I am not ashamed to admit that I did a little happy dance when I found out.)

I may be biased, but I think blog awards and lists like this are good. Each year, when these awards come out, there is a minor scuffle on Twitter as various people debate whether it is a good thing to have Christian blog awards.

There are many good reasons not to have award ceremonies for ‘best blogs’:

  • ‘Best’ is subjective. There are five judges for the awards, and it is their choice that determines the winners for the year. It is ‘best’ according to those five judges, not necessarily popular vote, and it is always going to be somewhat subjective. Blogging is something of an art and something of a ministry – and how can we judge art, or ministry? These are tricky issues, and so the word ‘best’ should be held lightly, recognising that it can never be an objective measure.
  • Awards sound anti-Christian. There is an excellent blog post by the wonderful tweeter, God Loves Women, on how making these kinds of ‘best blog’ lists is anti-Christian, because the gospel is inclusive, not exclusive, and how by making awards we are inevitably excluding people who are equally worthy of praise.
  • Awards can exacerbate the often-unhealthy Christian ‘celebrity culture’. Recently, tweeter Helen_a13 was bringing attention to the danger of awards and celebrity culture. Are we in danger of mimicking Hollywood, making idols out of ‘famous Christians’ instead of recognising the body as a whole?
  • Awards can reinforce unhelpful prejudices. I often read the lists of ‘most popular Christian blogs’ or ‘best Christian blogs’, and despair that there are so few women recognised on the lists, when I know so many outstanding women writers and theologians who blog. Male, white, protestant Church leaders are often over-represented (particularly in American lists), which means that the famous get more famous, and the unknown get more unknown, regardless of quality. Popularity doesn’t always equate to quality.
  • Awards can be painful for those who are excluded from them. There is nothing worse than looking down a list and wondering why your name is not on it, and why you are being left out. It is horrible. Suddenly you are a teenager all over again, wondering why you are the last to be picked for a sports team, or wondering why you’re the only girl who hasn’t been asked to dance, and silently listing all your faults as possible reasons for your isolation (…maybe that’s just me!)

I totally understand all these reasons why blog awards and lists of this sort are unhelpful or unhealthy, and there are many times when I struggle with the existence of these kinds of awards, for these reasons. We need to have these discussions, and it is good and healthy that they crop up each year.

However, I still think that, overall, it is a good thing to have blog awards – because I think it is a good thing to thank and celebrate people, particularly those who are often overlooked. My ever-so-tentative biblical reasoning would be that Paul took time in his letters to single out and thank individuals in the churches he had worked with – Phoebe, Priscilla, Mark, Epenetus, Apelles – and he gives them accolades: Junia was outstanding among the apostles, for example.

Now, I’m willing to bet that when that letter was first read out, there were a few people in those churches who were a bit miffed. Perhaps they weren’t mentioned, or perhaps they thought that they had been outstanding among the apostles, and really, if you put it to a public vote, you’d find that Junia was fairly mediocre among the apostles, and it wasn’t fair that she was going to be immortalised in the words of scripture. I reckon this happened because although Paul was an awesome Christian, he was also a sinner, and we sinners forget things, and often neglect to thank people whom we should.

But the risk of leaving people out does not negate the benefits of taking the time to thank people and encourage them in their ministry.

Sometimes I wonder if our response is somewhat British – we so fear offending people who we’d rather not have the awards at all. (I know that when I published my list of favourite bloggers I was terrified that I would have forgotten someone I loved, and they would be completely offended). It is a more American response to be a cheerleader anyway, and to try to cheer as many people as possible. In this respect at least, I want to be American. I want to cheer people on. It is good to rejoice with those who rejoice.

I am shortlisted for the Best Blogger award, and if I win, I will be SO excited, and my face will look like this:

happy face

happy face

But I know that the other people in my category are good too, (I particularly know God and Politics and iBenedictines well, whose blogs I hugely respect). So if someone else wins, I am hopeful that my face will look like this:

happy face

happy face

I mean, sure – there may be a part of me inside that wishes it were me, and that secretly looks like this:

boo hoo

boo hoo

But really, I would like to be the one who cheers. My preference would be to not just have one UK awards ceremony, as there is now, but several awards ceremonies by different bodies, representing many areas of ministry, highlighting blogs that will help various groups of people. But in the absence of many awards, I would rather have some awards than no awards. This is why I have guest posts on my blog, and retweet other people’s blog posts, and review other people’s books, and do Twitter #followFriday – because it’s good to cheer people on, and recognise and celebrate their ministry. Full Stop.

I can’t be at the awards ceremony in person, as I am housebound, though I would love to attend. Perhaps I will wear a nice dress at home, in its honour. Tonight I will be celebrating – and most likely for other people, rather than me. But I will be doing it with gusto.

Over to you:

  • What do you think about Christian ‘awards’? What are the pros and cons?


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23 Responses to Why I think blog awards are good (even if I don’t win)

  1. Luke 10th November, 2013 at 3:47 pm #

    I really enojyed this blog Tanya, and it’s great that you were shortlisted and so supportive of the other candidates, even after finding out that you hadn’t won!

    But the main thing I’ll take from this blog is those images! They made my day!

    Keep smiling!

    • Tanya 11th November, 2013 at 10:01 am #

      ha! I’m so glad my faces made your day! Thanks, as always, for your encouraging support! Much appreciated!

  2. Cathy 10th November, 2013 at 3:43 am #

    You just make me smile! 🙂

    • Tanya 11th November, 2013 at 10:02 am #

      Yay! 🙂

  3. Marie 10th November, 2013 at 12:42 am #

    Typing this from the sickbed today. Congratulations, my friend!

    • Tanya 11th November, 2013 at 10:02 am #

      Thank you so much for the congratulations all the way from your sick bed – I really appreciate it!

  4. Alastair 9th November, 2013 at 11:50 pm #

    Many ‘best of’ lists are limited by the fact that the adjudicators have only seen a small cross-section of the category that they are trying to judge, whether that is novels, films, albums, or blogs. Consequently, certain better known names can be over-represented and others go unnoticed. I have no problem with ‘best of’ lists in principle, yet sometimes I wonder whether it would be better framing matters in a different manner, one more appropriate to the fact that the judges probably aren’t familiar with all of the material that could come under the heading that they are supposed to be judging.

    The recognition given by ‘best of’ blog lists can serve a number of purposes. They can identify truly outstanding blogs that represent a standard to which others can aspire, examples from which we can learn. The Scripture teaches that there are persons who are peculiarly gifted, that gifts aren’t given equally, and that we should learn to recognize and to imitate those who have unusual levels of gift in a particular area.

    They can also provide an introduction to those who are currently the most influential voices in a particular field or context, the sort of people who have the greatest reputations. Once again, Scripture presents us with various examples of people that were regarded as having especial importance as key figures of influence.

    Finally, ‘best of’ lists can be commendations of people whose work is especially worthy of commendation, but who may not be known so widely. To my mind, the most useful lists are the ones that go beyond patting well known names on the back and identify lesser known material that is really worthy of a much wider audience. In Paul’s letters, for instance, we see examples of commendations of co-workers and others who are worthy of particular praise and recognition and whose true work may only be known to a few. To my mind, this is an especially helpful use of ‘best of’ lists. Most people know the big names. Far fewer know the hidden gems that are also out there.

    Given the many examples in Scripture, I don’t think that setting apart individuals as especially worthy of honour is unchristian. God gives people different degrees of reward, praising some and condemning others for their failure to use their gifts. Paul talks of degrees of service of God and of running to win. Competition can be very positive. Competition challenges us to play to and develop our strengths and to seek to excel. The challenge is to compete with both determination and humility and to resist malice and envy. We are running a race together. Competition, handled correctly, can be a way in which we discipline and devote ourselves to setting the pace for the sake of others and in which we take the pace from those who are peculiarly gifted. Competition needn’t be a matter of every man or woman for him or herself, but can be a way that we bring out and encourage the strengths in others and in ourselves.

    Congratulations on the shortlisting. I hope that you win!

    • Tanya 11th November, 2013 at 10:06 am #

      Thank you so much for this comment. This is one of the things I love about your writing – that no matter what the topic, you have a thorough, considered and wise perspective on it.

      I’m really glad you agree that lists of this kind are not ‘unChristian’. And I totally agree that the most useful ‘best of’ lists are those which introduce us to quality blogs which other people may not know of. It’s probably these lists which are the most helpful.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and rooting for me!

  5. Rebecka 9th November, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

    I love you happy face! 🙂

    I’ve never thought about Christian blog awards, didn’t even knew there were any, so I don’t have an opinion. What you said here makes sense to me, though.

    • Tanya 11th November, 2013 at 10:07 am #

      Thanks, Rebecka – always lovely to see you on here!
      I’m glad that you are persuaded by my article. 🙂

  6. Abby Norman 9th November, 2013 at 9:18 pm #

    You have the cutest faces in the history of ever. I hope it is the happy face, but I love the boo-hoo face too.

    • Tanya 11th November, 2013 at 10:09 am #

      Thank you, sister-friend! I’m weirdly chuffed that you like my faces!

  7. Tim Carlisle 9th November, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

    The other way it’s useful of course is that with things like Church websites you can look at them and learn how to improve your own church website – assuming some level of technological proficiency.

    • Tanya 11th November, 2013 at 10:10 am #

      Yes – especially in terms of design etc – I’m always looking at the design of other people’s blogs and trying to work out which elements of their design I like, and asking them which template/theme they used. I’m really happy with my currently re-designed one, but it was a bit of a labour of love!

  8. Tim Carlisle 9th November, 2013 at 7:37 pm #

    I think I agree with you on awards – a good thing – there is a lot of good stuff out there on the internet that can be useful, helpful and hopefully a little bit entertaining too and these sort of things highlight some of the ‘best’.

    But I also think it’s important to be transparent about selection criteria and make sure these really stand up to scrutiny. Best can mean many things but it should really mean best – not necessarily just those that encourage a large following by be proactive in their other social media activity, or those whose theology most closely matches the judges (this is where it is sooo important to have first rate judges). You need people judging with the time, ability and effort required to trawl the web looking at many many posts.

    For things like Blogs which are meant to be regular if the awards are to stand up to scrutiny I think its important that the criteria extend to ensuring that Blog has achieved this – holidays are fine but when and award is given to a blog which has only had 4 posts on it during the year you have to assume the judges think pretty much every other blog has been poor – however in all spheres where new media awards happen this has been happening. The story is similar in many of them and essentially what happens is that a trailblazer gets given the award in recognition of what they’ve done in the past not necessarily what they’ve done in that year… which kind of nullifies the point of the awards being annual – so it is important that judges avoid this pitfall.

    As far as ‘best’ awards go then, there are things I think need to be in place to make them hold up under scrutiny…. (which is important too – if they aren’t done professionally they lack credibility and so the positives you’ve talked about become void)

    1. Have strong entrance criteria and make them opt in awards – and make that clear – the interweb is too big to go fishing.

    2. Ensure you have diversity in your entrants.

    3, Ensure you understand yourselves what the awards are for and what they achieve.

    4. Really understand your medium, if you are judging blog awards – you need someone who understands blogging judging it – not just from a Christian perspective but a global perspective – why? Because then we avoid the ‘it’s Christian so it’s good enough’ issue that raises its head and judge against the category as a whole.

    5. Be prepared to offer no winner – if no entrant is good enough then don’t award it. Imagine that say the ‘small church website’ entrants were all a bit average – ie none of them would stand up to scrutiny in a ‘small organisations best website competition’ of a secular nature then don’t go giving an award to one that wouldn’t cut it. That only breeds mediocre standards – if we’re all shooting for low levels of success we’ll never actually have media that is capable of engaging with the secular world on a level that is relevant to them.

    • Tanya 11th November, 2013 at 10:17 am #

      These are all such good, thoughtful comments. The issue of theology is a really tricky one. I feel sorry for the judges – because if I were a judge, and there were a really slick, well-written, regularly-updated blog that I really disagreed with theologically, then I would find it very difficult to commend it, and I suspect that is true of any judge, even at a subconscious level. Might it be good to have different categories of awards, depending on theology? (But then, how would you define the theology?? It could all get rather messy). To the credit of this year’s judges, I think the shortlist was quite theologically diverse. They also did have their criteria up somewhere (I think I remember reading it!)

      And I think you have an excellent point about really understanding the genre of blogging/ websites etc. These things are different to books and other media, and need to be judged differently.

      It was actually nice to be in this year’s crop, because as I look at the judges, I know them to really know the field of Christian blogging well, probably outside of the nominations they received. And I also know God and Politics and iBenedictines well, and know them to be outstanding quality in their field, so it was great to be listed alongside sites of such quality.

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