How to Run Alpha
Alpha is simply an idea, a story and a tool. How you customize it makes all the difference – remember to think outside of the church walls. Alpha runs in churches, homes, coffee shops and bars around the globe. Take a few minutes to consider the questions below to discover how you’d like to run it. When you’re ready, our experienced and trained Regional and Specialty Alpha Directors will meet with you, listen to your vision and help you get started on your Alpha, whatever the context and whoever you’re called to reach.
What are the key elements?
A proven format to running successful Alpha sessions includes: food, a short talk (on video or live) about the Christian faith, and a space to share your thoughts in an open discussion (in small groups) while trained hosts facilitate the conversation.
Who are you called to reach?
The Alpha Youth Film Series is 12 video sessions designed to engage young people in conversations about faith, life and Jesus. It is a high-energy resource that is proving to be both relevant and effective. Learn more
Making friends, eating together, and the opportunity to learn through discussion are all a good fit for any culture. Start a conversation about Jesus by hosting Alpha using either Alpha TV or the new 30 minute talks by Nicky Gumbel. Learn more
There are nearly 40.3 million people over the age of 65 in the USA. Most have entered retirement and may have begun thinking more about the meaning of life. Alpha for Seniors is an opportunity to open the door on spiritual questions, to make friends and to explore the Christian faith. It’s relaxed, low-key, friendly and fun. Listen, learn, discuss and discover. Learn more
Married couples and families
Also available from HTB are four courses dealing with marriage and parenting. These courses are an effective and inviting tool to welcome, support and strengthen individuals, couples and families in the community. Learn more
University and college students
Students on campus often gather at coffee shops, residences, bars, or classrooms, and chat about life. Alpha offers students the opportunity to explore the spiritual world, deepen relationships with friends on campus, and navigate the Christian faith. Come along-side them on their journey of discovery using either Alpha TV or the new 30 minute talks by Nicky Gumbel. Learn more
What topics are covered?
Alpha follows a structure set over 11 sessions. It works best when it is run two or three times a year. We recommend that you end each Alpha with a party/Alpha Celebration, where guests can invite their friends who might be interested in attending the next Alpha.
- Is There More to Life Than This?
- Who is Jesus?
- Why Did Jesus Die?
- How Can We Have Faith?
- Why and How Do I Pray?
- Why and How Should I Read the Bible?
- How Does God Guide Us?
- How Can I Resist Evil?
- Why and How Should I Tell Others?
- Does God Heal Today?
- What About the Church?
- Who is the Holy Spirit?
- What Does the Holy Spirit Do?
- How Can I Be Filled with the Holy Spirit?
- How Can I Make the Most of the Rest of My Life?
It is best to hold the Alpha weekend between the sessions ‘How Does God Guide Us?’ and ‘How Can I Resist Evil?’
Here are some things to consider when planning your Alpha:
Who is your audience?
Who are you running Alpha for? Are you using the best resources for them? Is your venue somewhere they would feel comfortable? Are you running it at a convenient time of day?
The main way to promote your Alpha is to register it so that it appears on the Alpha website. This means that people can search for a nearby Alpha on the try section of the site. If you don’t want your Alpha to appear online, simply select that option during the registration process, but we'd love you to register anyway so that we can support and pray for you.
Other ways to promote Alpha include:
- Putting up banners and posters
- Creating invites to give out to friends
- Updating your church website with an Alpha advert
- Setting up a Facebook event for everyone to invite their friends online
- Regularly tweeting news of when your Alpha is starting
If you would like to create your own Alpha publicity, please read our branding guidelines.
Link up with neighbors
Working together means shared resources, shared publicity and lots more people invited to Alpha. Why not plan a joint Alpha launch event, create a complete listing of Alphas in your area, or pool your resources in terms of volunteers and publicity and advertising?
Engage your church
Ask for the backing of the person who leads your church. They can help promote Alpha from the front and encourage people to get involved.
Launch with a bang
Launch events are the perfect way to introduce potential guests to Alpha. A great launch event offers fun, food, entertainment, a short talk (perhaps a celebrity interview or guest speaker) and interviews with past guests. It's the kind of thing you'd find easy to invite your friends to; it should be the ‘place to be’ ...
Get in touch
Get in touch with your local Alpha team. Tell them when you are starting Alpha and ask how they can make it even easier to get started.
Get the talks
There's more than one way to do the Alpha talks. Check out Alpha TV to watch the talks or the resources section to get the transcripts or buy the DVDs.
Budget and food
Alpha doesn’t have to cost much at all. However, costs to consider are: the celebration or launch party, weekend/day away, food, resources and publicity.
Praying for Alpha guests
Hosts and helpers who facilitate the group discussions are also responsible for praying regularly for the guests in their group. As a team you can pray for your group daily and before each session.
Following the talk ‘Why and How Should I Pray?’, you might like to try praying with your guests at the end of the small group discussion. Remember to keep the prayers short and simple.
Worship and Alpha
Part of the vision for Alpha is to give a taste of what church is like. Therefore we want to introduce worship both gradually and sensitively. If you think live worship may be a bit awkward, why not try and do something a bit different, for example, play a CD of a worship song.
Training your team is essential if you want Alpha to be the best it can be. Training will give each team member the confidence to host a dynamic, fun and engaging small group. Great teams don't just train once, they train before every Alpha to refresh their memory, get to know others on the team and pray together.
An Alpha training session runs just like an Alpha session: hosts and helpers eat together, listen to the training talks and leave plenty of time for questions, discussion, and prayer. If you’d like to find training in your area, check out the events calendar or contact the Alpha team.
You should make sure all your team members have a role on Alpha. It gives them ownership ... and means you have less to worry about!
- Alpha administrator – An essential role; basically the person making sure everything happens. They obviously need to be well organised
- Alpha leader – This person does the introduction to each session, and is prepared to take on pastoral responsibility for guests
- Task force – This is the person or team overseeing behind-the-scenes activities (room set-up, catering, coffee, clear up)
- Hosts and helpers – Hosts and helpers lead the small groups. They need to be: Committed to each session, training, weekend/day away Committed to befriending guests in the long term and praying for them Open to possible social occasions with the group The key to choosing any host or helper for a small group is to ask the question: ‘Would I put my best friend in their group?’ If the answer is no then they probably are in the wrong role
- Worship leader – If you include worship in each session a worship leader might come in handy