On November 10, 2012, 1,200 young people aged 14-18 and their leaders descended on central London. Not to watch the Lord Mayor’s show. Nor to take part in any of the protests in the capital. But to head to Westminster Chapel to learn about Jesus Christ at the one-day event ‘Sorted’.
This annual feature of the youth work calendar, dedicated to encouraging and supporting Bible-centred youth work throughout London and beyond, has now been running for over ten years. Shortly after the 2011 event, Helen Thorne caught up with chair of the planning team, Nathan Howard to find out for EN what went on last year and why events like Sorted are so important.
HT: Sorted seems to defy all the stereotypes people have about teenage Christian gatherings. It is full of Bible teaching and packed to the rafters! What’s going on?
NH: Some people find it surprising but the reality is teenagers generally love good Bible teaching! God’s word is not boring, but living and active. And something special takes place when God’s word is read and preached.
As a team we find it very exciting to see so many teenagers listening attentively and being transformed by God through the three Bible talks we have. The feedback forms tell us that many find the teaching the top highlight of the day.
HT: Does that mean that the young people who come are all committed Christians who are used to digging deep into the Scriptures?
NH: Not at all. The event isn’t just for the keenies in our youth groups, but also for those who don’t yet believe in Jesus. It has been really exciting over the years to hear stories of how Sorted has been the day when quite a few young people have come to faith.
And not all the teenagers are those who find reading and Bible study easy. Last year, one of the guys who did a book review for us started by saying it was the first book he’d ever read from beginning to end!
HT: Why focus on Romans 1 this time?
NH: This year’s Sorted was entitled ‘Not Ashamed’. We asked Mike Tindall (the pastor from Manchester, not the rugby player!) to preach from Romans 1.
Many of our Christian teenagers face huge pressure to be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus at school and at home. Our prayerful aim this year was that they would leave Sorted saying with Paul, ‘I am not ashamed’.
You see, Paul had a huge view of the gospel. He knew it to be God’s truth about his Son who saves people. That’s why Paul wasn’t ashamed of it. We picked Romans 1 because it was our desire to encourage teenagers to share that big view and live it out in every aspect of their lives.
HT: And this was all reinforced with a rap?
NH: As well as up-front preaching, we use a range of activities to help the young people remember and apply the teaching. One thing we did for the first time this year was have an interview panel where we questioned a range of Christians about what it’s really like to stand up for Jesus at college, in the workplace, at home and in full-time Christian ministry.
One of the people who came to be part of the interview panel was a great guy called Rob. He has spent many years writing Christian rap and using it as a means to make the message of Jesus known. He wrote a rap summarising Romans 1 especially for us. It was awesome — the teenagers loved it!
HT: What else happens at Sorted?
NH: Throughout the day plenty of other good things take place. We have lots of singing led by our great band. We play some crazy games, including our world-renowned text challenge where the young people speed-text a memory verse. We review books — this year True by Sarah Bradley. We spend some time praying together. And at lunchtime we run optional seminars — this year the subjects were evangelism, personal holiness and how to run a youth band. And, of course, we have our normal lunchtime Pick ’n Mix too.
HT: You give out cheap sweets?!
NH: Not exactly! Pick ’n Mix is a lunchtime freshers’-fair-style event to which we invite along loads of Christian organisations. Our desire is to connect teenagers with others who will help and support them serve Jesus in their different walks of life. We invite mission organisations, summer camps, Christians in Sport, and groups like Festive and CrossTeach who can encourage those involved with Christian Unions at their schools. The young people get the opportunity to chat to mature Christians who are massively experienced in their various fields. It’s all part of our strategy to help the young people apply what they have been learning and get serving.
HT: Today’s youth events often include an extensive range of merchandise for sale. Is that the experience of those going to Sorted?
NH: Young people love branded clothing. And at Sorted we do have Sorted hoodies on sale. But we sell them with a twist! Rather than just selling hoodies we have our awesome book and hoody deal.
This year, when the young people bought a hoody, they also got an evangelism pack: a Mark’s Gospel, a tract and a copy of If You Could Ask God One Question from the Christianity Explored team. Our policy is to let them enjoy their ‘not ashamed’ hoody while at the same time giving them some products to help them show that they are ‘not ashamed of the gospel’ among their peers.
HT: Why do you think it is so important to have events like this each year?
NH: Oh, there are so many different answers to that question! We think it’s important because it spurs on youth leaders in their own work back in their home churches. In all we do, we try to model a style of teaching that can be replicated in the local church context and, in doing that, we hope that it encourages youth leaders to get excited about the sufficiency of Scripture rather than getting side-tracked elsewhere.
It’s important because it encourages teenagers and youth leaders who are part of small and maybe isolated groups. The day gives them an opportunity to be part of something bigger, and reminds them they are not alone and there are lots of Christian teenagers going through the same battles.
The day also connects young people with each other. It provides a place for friendships made over summer camps to be strengthened and a place for new friendships to be made. That’s all part of encouraging young Christians to spur one another on to love and good works (Hebrews 10).
Finally there is simply something very special and exciting and unique about getting such a large group of teenagers together to praise, worship, and listen to Jesus!
HT: So what next?
NH: Sorted is run by the charity Capital Youthworks, whose work is much wider than just Sorted. That means there are lots of things going on in the future!
We plan to run Sorted for the 14-18s again [this] November. And in the spring there will be our annual half-day event, Sorted Nano for 11-14s. Some church groups who come to Sorted (and who live in the same geographical area) like to meet together once a term at local Sorted events for singing, games and Bible teaching. And we run youth worker lunches once a term aimed at encouraging and supporting those who lead youth groups.
All the events are run by volunteers, so please do pray for us as we do these things alongside our normal day jobs!
For more information on Capital Youthworks or Sorted, please visit http://www.sortedevent.org.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057)