Host Your Own Online Alpha Course
We talk a lot at Foundation Church Belfast about being a community on mission. That mission is to point the world to Jesus and help it to enjoy the fulness of that relationship.
But the coronavirus pandemic has severely restricted our ordinary means of living out that mission. Chiefly that’s because life requires relationship. And relationship leans heavily on a sense of physical connectedness – the one thing that has been impossible for close to a year now.
So how do we at Foundation Church continue to be a community on mission? What can we do now to further our mission, rather than just wait for government restrictions to be eased?
Here’s my challenge: run your very own online Alpha Course. Run one for your work colleagues. Or how about running your own neighbourhood Alpha? Whatever circles you move in – think about running an Alpha there. It’s not as daunting as it may sound.
The benefits of online Alpha
The Alpha Course is a well-established series of twelve sessions designed to engage those outside the church with the claims of the Christian faith. It has enjoyed wide publicity over the years, so the chances are most people you invite have at least heard of Alpha.
It’s super-easy to run. Simply visit Alpha Online, register your course, and then you can access all the course materials for free. There’s loads of great training videos as well as written guides.
Each online Alpha session takes just one hour per week (give or take a few minutes). It won’t consume people’s entire evening. They don’t need to leave home to attend, and most people are already using Zoom so there’s not much hassle from the tech side of things.
The videos for each session are high-quality, beautifully presented, and the content is extremely engaging. Whether your friends have some knowledge of Christianity or none, everyone will soon find themselves getting into it.
After each 25 minute video there’s a short discussion. The discussion questions are open-ended, relaxed, and non-threatening. They’re all included on the Alpha Online section.
Is there a downside?
Ok, so it’s yet another Zoom meeting (or whatever platform you plan to use). Some people just don’t like using Zoom. They don’t like to appear on a screen so everyone else can see them. And that’s ok. As convenient as video conferencing technology is for us, it can never replace the physicality of being in the same room, enjoying food together, discussing the latest Alpha video.
Aside from the awkwardness that some of us feel, the tech is not perfect. Slow internet, glitchy playback on the videos, mute stuck on, mute stuck off – it’s all a trial by technology. But with good communication, good preparation, and a good vibe, (plus much prayer) you can be used by God to lead an engaging and life-changing moment in someone’s life.
How to run an Alpha Course
Here are five simple steps you can take towards running your own online Alpha Course:
- Pray for the Holy Spirit to stir you to running an Alpha Course. Ask him to show you who to invite. Start praying for those people he puts on your mind. Write the names on a list so you can commit to praying for them consistently. Ask that, Alpha or no Alpha, Jesus will draw them to himself. Pray for renewed boldness and love for your friends and co-workers. This is exciting stuff!
- Plan a start date. Why take this step before making any invites? Whilst it’s tempting to see who’s up for joining you before finding the best time to run the course, I think it is simpler and more compelling to present a start date as part of your invitation. It’s more concrete. Plus, with this current lockdown, your friends don’t have much else to do in the evening aside from Netflix, so they’re likely to be free. Pick a date not too soon, but not too far out. I’d recommend hosting your first Alpha session within a fortnight of the invitation.
- Make the ask. Face to face is best if you can. But if that is not an option for you, try a WhatsApp. Whatever it takes to get the conversation going. Face to face means you can give a clear overview about the course. Electronic invites enable you to send promo videos, which helps some people to make up their minds whether the course is for them.
Whatever invite method you use, ask as many people as you can. Cast the net wide. Why? Not everyone you invite will attend. It may just not be for them. They may find shift patterns clash, or other responsibilities preclude them. With that said, prepare to be encouraged, excited, amazed: more people will want to do your Alpha Online than you might have thought! The more people you ask, the higher the number who will eventually join you.
- Get the course going. Give it a bash. Have faith that God will use Alpha to open people to knowing Jesus. Pray before each session. Pray for your people every day.
- Follow up. Even though you’re running an Alpha online, it’s still really important to follow up. This is the joy of running a workplace or neighbourhood Alpha – you are already connected with the people who are attending. It’s a case of strengthening your existing connections; taking them deeper.
Another win behind a workplace Alpha – the people on your course are not just connected to you, they’re connected to each other. This means that they’ll be talking about Alpha with each other, and more than likely, with others who are not doing the course. Good news travels!
What happens after Alpha has finished?
After your Alpha is completed think about next steps. This obviously depends on what restrictions we are dealing with as a nation at the time. How about a walk and talk? Meet up with one person at a time, shout them a coffee to sip as you go, and find out how they have experienced the course. Additionally invite your Alpha friends to your home or organise a barbeque for when the evenings are warmer. Plus our Sunday gatherings are a superb place to encourage people to try out.
Don’t be afraid to guide them through their own next steps: ‘How would you like to take things onwards?’ ‘What questions are you still thinking about?’ ‘Would you think about coming to my church some Sunday? I’d love to introduce you to some of my friends!’
So how about it? We are a community on mission. Even during lockdown restrictions you can play your pa in furthering our mission to show the world Jesus. Imagine if each of us hosted our own online Alpha Course: we could bring the gospel of Jesus to an exponential number of people during lockdown. That sounds awesome! Why wait?
For more information visit the Alpha website.
Check out these related sermons from Foundation Church Belfast:
- Our Missional Vision from the series Advancing the Gospel
- Stirring and Supply from the series Restoration
- Have Courage: God is With Us from the series Taking Possession