The Sophia Network exists to connect women in youth work and ministry to access training, develop skills and grow as leaders. We focus our energy in four areas: partnership, relationships, voice and training.
CAN YOU GIVE US A BIT OF BACKGROUND INTO THE SOPHIA NETWORK? WHEN WAS IT ESTABLISHED, WHAT WAS THE COMMISSION/WHAT’S ITS OVERALL GOAL?
We began in November 2007, from the realisation that although there were lots of women in youth work and ministry, there weren’t many in positions of leadership and responsibility. We believe that God created men and women to work together in partnership, and if women, or men, are excluded then the kingdom of God is poorer for it. We aim to raise awareness about the issue of gender and how it affects youth workers and young people.
WHAT’S THE BEST GOOD NEWS STORY THAT HAS COME OUT OF YOUR SITE? WHAT MADE YOU PUNCH THE AIR IN JOY?
We ran a weekend to develop leadership skills in girls, where all of them did something that they had never tried before, and grew in confidence as a result. I love opening up new possibilities for people, and helping them discover the extent of the gifts God has given them.
WE’D LOVE TO KNOW A BIT ABOUT THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE SITE, WHAT IS IT ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY OF LIFE AND FAITH WHICH PUTS YOU WHERE YOU ARE NOW?
Jenny Baker writes the blog and is one of the founders of the network. I grew up in a denomination that had very restrictive ideas of what women can do in life and ministry so I have spent many hours exploring what the Bible says and what that means today.
DO YOU THINK IT’S IMPORTANT FOR CHRISTIANS TO BE ONLINE, AND WHY SO? WHAT CAN WE DO, EITHER INDIVIDUALLY OR CORPORATELY?
The internet is taken for granted in so many areas of life, it would be strange if Christians weren’t involved in it! It’s a tool that can be really useful for communication, and information.
WHICH DIGITAL MEDIA TOOLS DO YOU USE (EITHER PERSONALLY OR FOR THE PROJECT), AND WHAT DOES EACH DO FOR YOU? WHICH TOOL WOULD BE THE WINNER IN THE RACE FOR ‘MOST IMPORTANT’?
We use Facebook and Twitter as a way of connecting with members and keeping them up to date with what we’re doing. Our Facebook page has been a good way of connecting with new people, partly because so many people are now on it. We recently ran an eight-week course looking at the theology of men and women, and what the Bible says, and had a discussion page on Facebook which went well – although a few people receiving the sessions weren’t on Facebook so in that sense it’s exclusive.
HOW DID IT FEEL TO WIN AN AWARD? DID YOU MAKE IT TO THE AWARDS EVENT, WHAT WAS YOUR HIGHLIGHT OF THE EVENING?
I was really surprised to win as we were up against some strong competition. The blogs on the shortlist were all very different, so difficult to say why one might be better than any of the others. I went to the awards evening and it was great to meet other people doing similar things.
WE’RE WORKING ON THE @BIGBIBLE PROJECT. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF SUCH A PROJECT, AND HOW CAN THE BIBLE INFORM WHAT WE DO ONLINE. HAVE YOU SEEN ANY PARTICULAR TOOLS THAT YOU’D RECOMMEND, THAT HELP TO SPREAD ITS MESSAGE DIGITALLY?
The internet enables people to communicate without physically being in the same place so it facilitates lots of interesting connections. I think Soul Survivor’s Bible in a Year project is really interesting – young people have bought Bibles, but are discussing the passages they read online and very much feel part of a community. Even though they may not have friends at school or church who are reading the Bible in a year, they can connect with others who are, and encourage each other to keep going.
AND FINALLY, WHERE DO YOU SEE THINGS GOING OVER THE NEXT FEW YEARS?
For the Sophia Network?
This year we plan to publish our theology course, develop our project for developing leadership skills in girls and create more opportunities for women in youth ministry to connect with each other. We’re also keen to stimulate debate around single-sex youth work – what are its strengths and weaknesses?