Andy Milne tells the story of Sorted 1, 2 and 3, Church for young people and young adults in Bradford and beyond.
The idea for Sorted came about in September 2000. Whilst on the phone to my future wife, Tracey, she asked me, ‘Andy, what do you want to do when you finish theological college in three years’ time?’ I thought for a moment and said, ‘Youth church.’ And as soon as I’d said, ‘Youth church’ I had a sense of the Holy Spirit with me and we found ourselves moving back to Bradford North to start Sorted.
Sorted emerged as a series of stages. First of all we’d get to know young people in the local school, build relationships. Then, as they came along on a Friday night, we formed a big group and a key phrase was, ‘What do you want to do?’ And lots of different social activities emerged but, in the middle of the session, there would always be five or ten minutes where we would share a testimony, perhaps share a talk, pray with the young people. And over the weeks and months, lots of young people who’d never been to church before, started to become interested in God. We ended up with about 35-40 young people coming on a regular basis. Then we took those young people who were interested in God and formed a small group with them – the young people would decide what we did in the chilled time and often that would include skateboarding or playing on computer games and I would bring a discussion starter for the chat time. And sometimes we would look at the Bible and we’d have a discussion around faith, around God, about life issues, and we found that – as the weeks and months went by – lots of young people would come closer to God. Some would become Christians and then, from there, we’d take those who’d become Christians and form a worship service. And, in the worship service, the focus would really be on experiencing God, on encountering God and we would bring in a bit of deeper teaching so the young people could really understand what it meant to become a Christian, to start on the path of discipleship.
Female voice 1: I started five year (sic) ago and when I started, Andy and Nick came into our school and they said to us, ‘Why don’t you start having a Friday youth group?’ And then I started going there and I really enjoyed it and then he says to us, ‘Why don’t you start coming to a Sunday?’ Came to a Sunday and I really enjoyed a Sunday. I’m interacting now with a Monday group which is kind of like a Sorted 18+. However I thought that me, as an individual, could more expand on my faith and that’s kind of put me into the point of, ‘I want to get baptised, I want to carry on as a Christian, I want to do this, I want to have the traditional life of being one and I want to expand on myself as well.’
Andy: We started Sorted 1 and then Sorted 2 began in an area just up the road and then Sorted 3 happened in 2012 for young people in this same area as our initial group were becoming young adults. When we first started, we really wanted to meet people where they were at; we really wanted to work with people to develop Sorted. And that’s the journey that we’ve been on. So right from the beginning, we met young people, we shared some of our ideas but we did a lot of listening and all the early groups within Sorted were developed with young people, around their needs, around their aspirations, whilst at the same time trying to listen to God and discern what he was wanting.
Sorted is a church in the sense that it reaches out to people – young people and young adults – and the young people themselves are involved in reaching out. It has an inward focus which is about developing discipleship; we share Communion once a month on a Sunday night; many young people have been baptised and confirmed. There’s a focus on discipleship as young people become young leaders and Sorted has a Church Council as well which kind of cements that.
As young people develop a spiritual life; sometimes a leader will meet with them to help them develop that spiritual life. And then as they develop as disciples and as young leaders, we use them to be the leaders, the evangelists, to their peers and so often they are leading small groups; they are helping to lead the Friday night session and the worship session for younger people as they come into Sorted.
Male voice 1: I joined Sorted when I were (sic) 13. I come here as a young person; it was a very friendly atmosphere – something I’d not seen before and there was quite a good community aspect there. I really liked the way how they really empowered us as young people to start taking on more of a leadership role, becoming more of leaders, and having the fantastic ability and the chances to do that was an amazing achievement for me.
I don’t know what my life would have been like without Sorted being there because my life before Sorted was a bit of a mess, it wasn’t sort of the best way of living things – I was into a lot of drugs, and drinking, and just going out with my friends and generally not caring. And God came into my life and made a huge difference in the way I acted, the way I was with people and sort of give me more of a purpose and a fantastic thing out of Sorted is that I met my partner which is now my wife [at Sorted] and we have just recently been married.
Andy: Sorted 1 is the young adult hub of Sorted. People, when they get to 16/17/18 from Sorted 2 and 3, are able now to go into Sorted 1 and join that as a young adult fresh expression. Sorted 2 is a young people fresh expression working in BD10 [the postcode area] and it’s young people that have come from Hansen Academy; Sorted 3 is a young people fresh expression of young people coming from Immanuel College; it’s a mixture of lunchtime clubs and detached work on the playground. There’s small groups happening with Sorted 3 on a Monday afternoon and on a Tuesday night and they also join with us – with Sorted 2 – for the worship service on a Sunday night and they have their own Friday night session which attracts around 60 or 70 each Friday.
(Group leader: ‘If you were someone else, who would you choose to be?’)
Andy: Thrive is a group for young parents that meets once a week for both young parents who’ve come up through Sorted and also beyond. We find in this area there are many young parents that have kids in their late teens/early 20s; often they’re single parents and so they need a lot of support and Thrive exists to give them that support; to help them learn life skills and parenting skills; and also to help them to know Jesus and to be his disciples.
This has all been made possible because Church Army have given us excellent support. As Sorted multiplied, Church Army sent a mission-based team and they gave us the support just when we needed it. And the local churches have been really supportive throughout; we use many of their buildings as meeting places, local volunteers have come from the local churches and the vast majority of them have really got behind the vision of Sorted. The Diocese too have been really supportive; they were instrumental in giving Sorted a Bishop’s Mission Order and the new bishop is really excited about the possibility of rolling Sorted out into different places.
We’ve been fortunate to see a guy called Nick, who was with us for four years, take the DNA of Sorted down to London and start a fresh expression amongst young people called TYM. We’ve also been fortunate to see a guy called Moses, who did a gap year with us, take the DNA of Sorted back to Kenya to start Urban Hope – or Sorted Kenya – and we never really dreamed it would become as big as it’s become. There are now 150 young people coming to Sorted on any given week but it all started through being with small groups of young people in places like this.
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