The core ingredients of Alpha are food, an Alpha talk, and small group discussion time. But these elements are just part of seven best practices that make for the most effective Alphas. If your church decides to run Alpha you will have access to leader training sessions that cover the best practices in depth but here is a brief overview of each practice and the value behind it.
Prayer is the foundation for a healthy Alpha and so the first planning stage for Alpha is finding a group of people in the church willing to pray for Alpha and giving them the information and space they need to effectively intercede. We are always amazed to see how as we rely on the Holy Spirit in prayer he draws people to Jesus during the 11 weeks of Alpha.
Alpha is specifically designed to create a space for people who are followers of Jesus to invite their friends who wouldn’t normally come to church. In this way, Alpha is distinct from a lot of other great resources that we might use in our local churches-it’s not foremost about teaching or training. The Alpha talks cover essential elements of the Christian faith in a way that is easy to understand for people who may have never heard the gospel before. If your church decides to run Alpha it’s important to be intentional about encouraging your congregation to invite their friends. We’ve developed a three-week small-group curriculum to use leading up to Alpha with interviews and stories of invitation to encourage your church to lead invitational lives.
The size of the group your church anticipates for its Alpha will determine how many volunteers are needed to make it happen. Regardless of the number of volunteers, it’s essential for them to go through Alpha team training so they understand the values behind Alpha. We’ve created team training sessions to equip Alpha volunteers for their different roles so that they can be empowered to serve and lead well.
Hospitality is the reason Alpha always begins with food. Breaking bread together is one of the ways Jesus dismantled social barriers and shared life with people and so we encourage every Alpha to have food before the Alpha talk. How food is done is entirely up to each group and their resources; some groups will do a full catered meal, others will do a potluck or just an array of snacks but the point is to build friendships in a comfortable and familiar context paving the way for deeper conversations to take place.
The Alpha talks are designed to bring guests on a journey of faith as they explore key elements of the Christian faith. The talks also give guests an opportunity to encounter Jesus by setting up specific times for prayer ministry. To learn more about the Alpha talks view the trailer here.
After the Alpha talk, there’s a time of small group discussion guided by a host and helper. This is an essential time during the Alpha experience for guests to share what they thought about or learned from the Alpha talk. The open discussion isn’t a time for teaching by the host but rather a time where guests can feel comfortable to dialogue about life, faith, and God in a space that’s judgment-free. It’s creating a space like this that motivates guests to return each week allowing for genuine friendships to form.
The Alpha time away usually happens around the seventh week of Alpha and is done for several reasons. For one, it’s an opportunity for people to get away from the distractions of everyday life to reflect on what they’ve been learning so far on Alpha. It’s also a way for friendships to grow stronger through fun activities, more conversations around the Alpha talks, and times of prayer. Churches will often get creative depending on resources to make a weekend or day away happen. For many guests, the Alpha weekend is the high-point of their Alpha experience.
The seven best practices are a guide for helping churches run an effective Alpha and the leader training sessions on the digital platform provide the practical steps your church will need to get them off the ground. To find out more, create an Alpha here.