Alpha

Alpha
Running for 30 years, updated 2012. Much material by Rev Nicky Gumbel

Price varies
4.6
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Overview

What does it say on the tin?

Alpha is an opportunity to explore life and the Christian faith, in a friendly, open and informal environment. Try Alpha. Alpha is a series of interactive sessions that freely explore the basics of the Christian faith. No pressure. No follow up. No charge.

Typically Alpha has around ten sessions and includes, food, a short talk and a discussion at the end where you can share your thoughts. Alpha runs in churches, bars, coffee shops and homes all around the globe. Alpha really is for anyone who’s curious. The Guardian: ‘What Alpha offers, and what is attracting thousands of people, is permission, rare in secular culture, to discuss the big questions: life and death and their meaning.’ 27 million people have tried Alpha in 169 countries and 112 languages.

What do you get and how?

10-15 sessions to include food, short talk, open discussion and weekend/day away. Free, downloadable, inclusive resources, from videos to publicity. Targeted adaptations for prisons, youth, students, seniors, ESOL.

Alpha has also had great impact in a variety of non-church settings such as prisons, schools, universities, workplaces, hospitals, cafés, residential homes, rural areas, inner cities, homeless projects, and even in tribal areas.

See www.alpha.org to register your local Alpha and access training, training materials, automatic publicity on Alpha.org as well as options to buy customised posters etc, plus e-vites, twitter, social media banners etc. Youth version also exists (see our review). Back-up books (e.g. Searching Issues by Nicky Gumbel) and book sets available to buy; adaptation for 1-hour Alpha sessions to use at work breaks. Alpha Express also exists with talks on DVD shortened to 20 minutes or so.

Who is it for?

Enquirers, small groups, whole church, adults.

Cost?

Most material is free to download, or supplied online. Or buy books ranging from £1.50 – £17.00 for sets. Starter pack £120.00

Review

  • What is the overall quality of material presentation?

    No collation of discipleship material would be worth looking at without Alpha. A worldwide phenomenon, it features first class materials across the board, including booklets, videos, pdfs, backup material and interactive website.

    How clear are its aims and outcomes?

    Exhaustive and clear. Emphasis that the Gospel is about love, and Alpha is about loving, learning and living. The training materials are especially helpful in catering for preparation and good group running. They include sensitive and clear advice on how to pray for people, how to host without creating pressure on people, and how to remember that laughter is a key component of a good atmosphere.

    How accessible are the leader's notes?

    Leaders' administrative handbook ‘details everything you need to know' from food ideas to date planning, how to prepare your church, worship suggestions, training, responsive date planner. Choice of using videos or prepared talks (some flexibility in the latter). Really up-to-date, attractive and easy-to-use online tools to set you up. Team guides for each team member, including the discussion time questions. Extensive but encouraging.

    Who could lead it?

    There is a lot to organise and prepare, so a team is needed, with suitable skills including administration, ability to lead a potentially larger group of nonchurch-goers, ability to deliver talks well if that option is chosen, food provision.

    How helpful are the participants' resources?

    Videos are well-produced and main talks with Nicky Gumbel engaging. Other speakers also available via online video. However, they may not suit all groups – live talks may well be better for some. Alpha stipulate basic content for these but flexibility also there. ‘The Alpha Guide is a 'must have' for all guests on Alpha, as well as all leaders and helpers. It serves as a blueprint for the talks and illustrates key points, as well as providing space for notes and questions.' Clearly laid out and attractive. Accessible for all. Also recommended: Why Jesus?, 30 Days, Questions of Life, Searching Issues.

    How good is any digital material?

    Step-by-step personal Alpha builder guides initial preparation. Videos, downloads generally of high standard and engaging. Clear and comprehensive.

    How much prep will I have to do?

    Plenty! Helpful responsive calendar provided to spell out the timings of training, preparation etc. Pre-course recommended reading: Questions of Life and Searching Issues by Nicky Gumbel. Online team training sessions (plan provided). Varied material on the website which could be used, including street interviews and sports videos. Significant amount of video material to listen to if you choose. Publicity, preparation of church, food, etc.

    Is there website support? Links?

    Backup obtainable through alpha.org, plus training, motivational and regional events. Inspiring and moving stories from previous Alpha participants. Great website.

    Is it dated?

    Evidence of continuing updating. Exceptionally contemporary feel.

  • How well does it encourage interaction with the group?

    Sharing food/meal together seen as essential to promote good interaction; discussion groups after the talks also. All questions very open in style.

    How well does it cater for a variety of both learning and delivery styles?

    Recognition of different approaches, especially in notes for group discussion leaders (eg asking feeling- and thinking-based questions). Open questions in discussion time. No hands-on or creative options.

    How adaptable is it to my situation?

    Alpha is extremely popular so clearly works as a formula. The material allows for adaptation to an extent, while retaining its DNA. Choices online of videos as well as talks could vary the pace. There is the view that it begins too far along the track for those who have had little or no contact with the church previously, both in the talk content and inclusion of worship. But the numbers who have attended so far are ridiculously impressive, and the food/talk/small group discussion format has created a winning formula. Alpha defends the sung worship saying that it may start feeling awkward for some, but often becomes a favourite item by the end. See What do you get? for information on where Alphas have run successfully. Clearly suits a wide range of people, who are comfortable with eating together, listening and discussing. An amazing tool to help churches and Christians talk about Jesus in a nonthreatening and engaging way.

    How well does it encourage people to work together in applying the material?

    Discussion time designed to encourage group honesty and an unpressured environment to consider the claims of Christianity.

  • How much of the material is Bible-based?

    All talks are based on biblical understanding of the Trinitarian Christian faith.

    How well is the biblical material presented and used?

    Passages used to explain the central claims of Christianity. Crystal clear. Mixed with engaging stories (including option to substitute your own if you are using scripts) and contemporary links.

    How well does it apply biblical material to everyday life?

    From an apologetic point of view, aimed at communicating the Christian faith and its relevance to everyday life.

    Is there a particular theological perspective?

    Anglican stable but very open and accepting of all.

  • How well does it inspire people towards whole-life discipleship?

    Alpha is designed for enquirers, so is focused on essential understandings of Christian faith.

    How well does it encourage and enable people to grow in their faith?

    Potential for people to either begin their journey of faith, or rediscover it. An amazing tool to help churches and Christians talk about Jesus in a nonthreatening and engaging way.

    How well does it stretch faith and vision of God and his purposes?

    This depends on the listener's starting point, though team members would also benefit from alpha as a refresher course, and an opportunity to talk about their faith to others.

    How well does it connect with real life issues?

    Grounded in reference to topical issues and common human experiences; additional sessions connect more directly with distinct issues.

  • How well does it encourage personal evangelism?

    If you run Alpha or bring someone along, then, very well. Discussion times are great opportunities to learn how to talk about your faith in helpful and honest ways.

    How well does it encourage local or network-based community involvement?

    A tool for churches to reach out and invite the community in.

    How well does it connect with global issues?

    Not a focus, though acknowledges the worldwide problem of the human condition.

    How well does it encourage global mission?

    In being itself – Alpha has run in 169 countries so far and 112 languages.

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