7 Tips for Inviting People to Alpha

… and keep them coming back!

Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is like a wedding banquet a king prepared for his son. He invited people, but they did not come. Then the king said, “The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.” So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. – Matthew 22:8-10 

As a faithful servant, you want to see the King’s table full of guests! This is what Alpha is all about. We have compiled our seven tips for preparing for, inviting, and retaining guests on Alpha.  

#1 Map the guest journey. 

You’ve taken the risk of inviting your friend to Alpha, and they said yes. Between their ‘yes’ and arriving the first night, numerous factors influence whether your friend actually shows up.  

Creating a positive guest journey can significantly impact attendance on Alpha. Here are things to consider when mapping out the guest journey:  

  • Sign-up experience. Create a landing page that is welcoming and fun, which includes essential information about the course, and avoids Christian insider language—remember they don’t know Jesus yet!  
  • Communication experience. After signing up, send a follow-up email or text connecting them with a friendly person on the team. If it’s a considerable time before your Alpha begins, offer to connect with them before Alpha starts. Send a reminder just before the first session to share any final details and your excitement.  
  • Arrival experience. Make sure guests can easily find your location. Meet guests outside before they come in so they are not walking in alone.  

#2 Create the room you want, not the room you have.  

As Christians, we overlook old church basements and messy dorm rooms when it means spending time with our church family. But for people who would not call themselves Christian, the environment can either draw them in or feel foreign. Wherever you host your Alpha, the aim is to create a welcoming atmosphere where guests want to stay and linger.  

Consider what guests will see, smell, hear, touch, and taste when they arrive. The Good News should taste good—smell good! A simple example of hospitality on a budget would be a clean space with cozy seating, soft music (not Christian music), and twinkle lights or candles, all while serving freshly baked cookies and warm coffee. Have fun with this process; make it a space others will enjoy!   

#3 Prevent the “Us” and “Them” feeling.  

You’ve thoughtfully curated a welcoming space for your Alpha guests, but have you thought through welcoming behaviors? We’ve spoken to Alpha leaders around the country who’ve worked hard to prevent the “us and them” feeling. Here is a collection of their top tips:  

  • No to talking to people you know. One Alpha leader discourages the team from talking among themselves and encourages conversations with the guests. Things like offering to get food together, asking thoughtful questions, and introducing them to other guests as they enter the group. 
  • No to hugs. Another Alpha group went so far as to say no hugging when seeing our friends. Many team members invited work colleagues to Alpha, and they observed that most people outside a church do not hug as a greeting. So, it felt right to implement this to make everyone feel comfortable.  
  • No to Christian apparel or jargon. Another Alpha leader wanted their guests to notice similarities rather than differences. The team combed through all the Christian things they say and wear that could be a barrier to exploring faith. They made the collective decision to avoid both while at Alpha.  
  • Yes to offering a beverage. One Alpha leader shared how men and women want the same two things when entering a new environment, just in reverse. Men first want something to do with their hands and then want to meet someone. Women first want to meet someone and then have something to do with their hands. Regardless of the order in which this takes place, many Alpha hosts greet their guests with a beverage upon arrival. 
  • Yes to making connections. Another Alpha team made a list of thoughtful questions. During the meal, they intentionally seek out details with the aim of making connections among the guests, “Paul, Jane lived in Connecticut too!” 
  • Yes to going out afterward. Many guests are skeptical the first night and are not entirely themselves. Invite your guests to the local coffee shop or pub after the session. Guests who were cagey in group discussions often really open up when in a more neutral environment. 

#4 Choose the right Emcee.  

Remember Simba lifted high by the old monkey with Elton John belting it out in the background? Of course, you do! It was an epic first impression of the movie The Lion King.  

First impressions matter, and the person who introduces Alpha’s first session can make or break a guest experience. Here are some things to consider: 

  • Is this someone you would trust with your friend you’ve prayed about for 20 years?  
  • Are they likable? Can people relate to them outside of a church setting? 
  • Can they talk about Alpha without sounding overly religious or churchy?  
  • Are they a non-anxious presence?  

When you register your Alpha, you can download the Emcee notes for each session. The Emcee notes offer practical tips for introducing each session’s topic, explain the ground rules for small group discussion, and provide insightful ways to introduce the Alpha weekend.   

#5 Train your hosts and helpers.  

The most vulnerable moment for every Alpha guest is sharing their honest perspective with strangers for the first time.  

“What will they say to that?”  

“Did I overshare?”  

“Bet they won’t welcome me back after that comment.”  

For a guest to continue with Alpha, they need to feel their perspective is welcome—no matter what is said, no matter what heresies are uttered! Alpha hosts and helpers draw out the unique perspectives of each guest and encourage others to contribute. This doesn’t mean the team agrees with the perspectives shared; rather, it means we value each person and where they are in their current journey.   

This method of facilitating discussion is very different from most church courses, so all hosts and helpers must go through the small group training before the first night of Alpha. In the weeks leading up to your first session, find a time to watch the small group training together as a team, discuss any questions, and pray for your Alpha.  

#6 The power of ending the first session.  

Most people don’t have a safe space in their lives where they can process life’s biggest questions, so they wonder with healthy skepticism, “Is Alpha really a safe place?” Yet they’ve shown up and been vulnerable by sharing their unique perspectives with the group.  

Why do people go to Disneyland to stand in endless lines all day? Because at the end is this powerful experience that leaves a lasting memory. How we close the first session of Alpha is critical! We want to end with enough impact for the guests to return the following week.  

  • Respect people’s time and end the session on time, no matter how good the conversation. You can say, “I hate to end our conversation because I enjoy hearing your perspectives, but I want to respect your time.”  
  • Emphasize how much you loved the discussion and honor where the guests have been particularly vulnerable and honest. We never want guests to question what they share, but rather leave them feeling like, “They valued what I had to say.” 
  • Share the topic for the next session and emphasize the opportunity to go deeper in discussion and how much you are looking forward to that.  
  • End by stating you will not follow up because you want each person to return out of their own choice. However, I like to close by saying, “Imagine I am sending you all a big group text right now with enthusiastic emojis saying, ‘I can’t wait to see you all next week! I so enjoyed our group.'”  

#7 If you only do one thing, then pray.  

When we hear of an upswing of non-Christians attending an Alpha, we always ask, “What changed?” Almost every time, the team exclaims, “We increased our prayers.”  

Alpha is not Field of Dreams—you could build the perfect Alpha, but that doesn’t mean people will come. As David said, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1). Only the Lord can open someone’s heart, which means when it comes to sharing the Good News about Jesus on Alpha, we are utterly dependent on God’s presence. And God promises us his presence when we pray and invite His Holy Spirit.  

If you can only remember one thing from this list, remember to pray. Ask Him where you should host Alpha and who you should invite. Ask Him to show you how to pray for your guests. And expect God to show up! Be prepared to respond to His presence throughout the course. When a person encounters God’s presence, everything changes.  

Have questions about Alpha?

Checkout our chatbot – Alphie, located in the lower right-hand corner!


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