Friday, October 13, 2006

FAQ: What is Alpha?

I am a big believer in Alpha, and it is the launching pad for our Discipleship Map. We have found it to be valuable for the most sincere seekers to the most hostile cynics to the most mature disciples. And we've also found that it's the best opportunity for people to find a place to plug in at NCC. So we encourage (though we don't require) every NCCer, regardless of their spiritual history, to go through Alpha.

The Alpha Course, developed by Nicky Gumbel of Holy Trinity Brompton, is a practical introduction to the Christian faith.

Here is how it works in general: Alpha is hospitality on steroids. It's all about loving people into the Kingdom. It all starts with a big kickoff event and a video of Nicky teaching on Christianity: Boring, Untrue, or Irrelevant? We encourage NCCers to invite their friends to the dinner. At the end of the night, guests are invited to sign up to be a part of the 10-week course. Each week, the participants are served dinner, hear a talk on some aspect of Christianity (Who is Jesus? What about the Bible? etc), and then break up into small groups to discuss. Some churches get their pastors to do the talks live. We have chosen to stick with the videos for now because Nicky is such a great communicator. About 8 weeks into the course, the participants attend a "weekend away" (also known as the Holy Spirit Retreat) where they learn about the role and function of the Holy Spirit. It's good stuff.

Here are some ways it works for us:

  • Front door to the church- We encourage new NCCers to go to Alpha. It's a great way to meet other NCCers and to get plugged in.
  • Nursery of the church- People who ask for information on following Christ are guided towards Alpha to get their questions answered. People who cross the line of faith or go public with their faith are guided towards Alpha to put down some roots and get connected to other believers.
  • Connecting Place- since Alpha is so focused on hospitality and community-building, it is a great place for people to get connected. That's why we encourage all new NCCers to start with Alpha, regardless of their spiritual maturity.
  • Leadership Launching Pad- we have discovered that Alpha is a great way to get people involved in leadership at NCC. We have a couple dozen people on our Alpha leadership team. With the exception of a few of those people, most of those folks were not plugged into leadership, ministry, or small groups before Alpha. Now they are leaders in the church! In addition, we've got about 8 people leading small groups this semester who got their first taste of leadership in Alpha.

My only problem with Alpha is that their graphics and branding are terrible. :) It's hard to make the stuff fit with our edgier culture at NCC. But the content is good.

Visit the Alpha website here.


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