Meditations (Web)Church

A year (and a bit) in the life of NewSpring's first Web pastor

Four questions about icampus public chat with’s Tony Steward

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If there’s an IT about church icampuses, it’s may be about the way they are encouraging and managing interactions among online attenders.

So far, public chat rooms are almost a standard component of the experience. After participating in the beta test for their new icampus, I was surprised that after two years of learning from their internet campus, had decided to go more simple and even retro in the way they used their chat functionality.

I decided to ask Tony Steward,’s Online Community Pastor and all around innovator, about his philosophy on chat.

He graciously accepted. (If you wanted to read my take on how to get the most out of chat, you can find my post from earlier this week here. ) Here are Tony’s answers:

NC: It looks like you’ve opted for an open public chat in the beta… not just people in your row. That seems like a pretty big change in direction. What motivated that?

TS: We went with a wide open chat (for now: we are wanting to add group/filtering options in the future, but have other things to figure out first.) because of a couple reasons. First, we value the power of anonymity as people connect with us. That they can come and interact with having to create an account or give us information, allows them to connect on their terms. Secondly, with the chat next to the Video there is an opportunity for individuals to participate and help shape the actual experience with their own prayers, praises and conversation.

NC: Online community is about fundamentally about conversation. Do you think that chat rooms are conducive to making real connections? Why?

TS: Chat rooms are a piece of the pie for making connections, and currently our most powerful. Mainly because it is live interaction, and shared experience – which is tough to accomplish online. Online Gaming is really one of the only other avenues to establish shared experience and relational connection besides a live chat. Because of the shared experiences, real connections are very possible and we find them happening already in our current lobby chat, and are very excited at the opportunities this new chat interface will bring.

NC: Internet campus chat rooms range from busy and prayerful to quiet and superficial. What does it take to manage a good chat room experience?

TS: Chat rooms can flow matches in similar fashion to the energy in a room during a physical live experience. So, direction through the video for them to participate, and leadership by example by our Lobby Chat Team will be essential in helping people to participate in a healthy and productive manner during experiences.

NC: It would seem that extending interactions beyond the walls is a holy grail of online and offline churches. What strategies can be used to take those self-contained chat interactions into other networked spaces?

TS: Great Question! Haha, every week we are having this conversation about what it looks like to extend our ministry process into new online communities. Currently we are experimenting with a Facebook Team and a Blogging Team that is looking to extend the ministry of the Internet Campus in a healthy way into new circles of community, through established and relevant relationships. That said, we are inventing this wheel as we go in the midst of some other foundational changes.

So, what do you think about alternatives to public chat? And if your church is using it, how do you think it might be improved?


Written by NickCharalambous

November 21, 2008 at 2:40 pm

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