Jesus says he is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. At Hope, Alpha is a 10-week introduction to a spiritual journey with Jesus. Over 20 years, more than half of Hope members have experienced Alpha, and through Alpha, experienced the Holy Spirit.
The Alpha course includes the basics, a meal, worship, large group presentation, and small group discussion. Hospitality abounds. All leaders wear T-shirts; music is fun and uplifting, food and childcare are free. It is almost a throwback to the potluck suppers and ice cream socials of the past.
In most churches, Bible study programs have attracted the same people over and over, the core. For some reason known only to God, Alpha attracts groups of people commonly most resistant to church.
READ MORE: Who shows up for Alpha.
- Millennials (born 1981-1996). A recent Barna research among pastors found that the most persistent problem in churches today was reaching young adults. Alpha is an anomaly.
- Fringe members. These are Chreasters (Christmas and Easter only), those who turn to the church only for weddings baptisms, confirmations and funerals.
- Unchurched. A constant surprise is how Alpha attracts so many people with little or no Christian background, it seems to be a safe place to put one’s toe in the waters (baptismal?).
Alpha is strategically offered immediately after the three major outreach events of the year: Christmas, Easter and VBS/Taste of Hope. The hope is that newcomers who attend one or more of these events will be so curious, so inspired that they will want to take the next step.
Key to Alpha are passionate leaders, all of whom have completed the Alpha course, often more than once. An average of 50-60 small group hosts facilitate discussions, providing a safe environment for the asking of questions. Another 60 or so volunteers work behind the scenes. All leaders are deeply immersed in the Hope Prayer Ministry, which becomes most evident during the Holy Spirit weekend.
The progression of the 10 weeks is carefully planned:
Week One: Is There More to Life Than This?
Week Two: Who is Jesus?
Week Three: Why Did Jesus Die?
Week Four: How Can We Have Faith?
Week Five: Why and How Do I Pray?
Week Six: Why and How Should I Read the Bible?
Holy Spirit Retreat: Who Is the Holy Spirit? Can I Be Filled with The Spirit? How Does God Guide Us?
Week Seven: How Can I Resist Evil?
Week Eight: Does God Heal Today?
Weeks Nine and Ten: Why and How Should I Tell Others? What Is the Purpose of the Church?
When Hope Alpha moved online, the number of participants multiplied.