Big challenge, small budget

Martijn Rutgers talks about his move from a large international church in Amsterdam to founding a missional church in one of the city’s poorest boroughs. He tells us about the switch and shares lessons he’s learned from running Alpha in these two very different contexts.


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I’ve been running Alpha for fifteen years—first with Crossroads International Church, then a year and a half ago I took over as Pastor of Oasis Church in one of Amsterdam’s most deprived areas. It’s been a huge change; at Crossroads we had a massive staff team and a budget of over a million Euros a year—now, we’re running Alpha in a church with a very small team and a lot of broken people, but it has been a success in both churches.

That’s because running Alpha is not expensive. I haven’t been running Alpha very differently at Oasis than at Crossroads and I’ve found that the size of your budget doesn’t make too much of a difference to the success of Alpha.

For instance, at Crossroads, where our attendance was 1500, we had about twenty to twenty-five people trying Alpha; at Oasis we have maybe eighty people at our Sunday services, but ten to fifteen coming to Alpha. So relatively there’s a much larger attendance in the smaller church, and the drop off rate was higher at Crossroads.

In my experience, the bigger the church the less involved people tend to be with Alpha. It seems that at Oasis almost everyone is involved, whether it’s inviting, cooking, teaching, etc. Prayer is a key way that the whole church is involved in Alpha—every Sunday morning before our service we have one and a half hours of prayer and also an email newsletter that goes out with specific prayer topics. There is a huge group praying in the church for our Alpha participants.

The only practical difference in how we actually run the course on a lower budget is for the Alpha weekend; with a bigger budget we’d go away for the whole weekend, but at Oasis we just run an Alpha day, and people sleep in their own beds.


In terms of food, at both courses a different set of volunteers would cook—and often they wouldn’t even ask to be reimbursed. The process of running Alpha not only gives people an opportunity to serve in the church, but also to bond socially with each other.

One thing I’ve realized is that finding the right Alpha team leader is essential; they need to be a mature person with good character with a great love for God and a love for people, and whose enthusiasm works contagiously—that person will draw others and build a strong team.

My biggest responsibility, as the person who oversees the course, is finding the right team leader. At Oasis I have a leader, Ferdinand, who is such a great champion for Alpha. He was already running Alpha when I arrived, so I just needed to encourage him and give him the space to promote Alpha in our church.

Another one of my jobs as pastor is to care for the Alpha team leader. I’m the only paid member of staff at Oasis, so all of our team working on Alpha are volunteers. This Alpha term Ferdinand was close to burn out and it’s my responsibility to make sure he takes enough rest. I’ve needed to encourage him to not come to meetings and to take some time off. On a monthly basis we go for a long walk and to just chat and pray together.

Once you have the right team leader, they will be able to help people who’ve come to faith to grow, to find their gifts and talents, and then encourage them to help at Alpha themselves—but at a good pace; so it’s not too much responsibility too fast. I’ve experienced that the best team members are often people who have just tried Alpha as they’re passionate about it and really understand how it works.

We have no shortage of volunteers to help at Alpha and that’s because of the leader’s enthusiasm, he constantly shares stories of how people’s lives are being changed through Alpha. He can’t stop talking about it and that makes others want to join the adventure!

Being in such a poor neighborhood, we come across a lot of broken relationships, a lot of people with addictions, a lot of people with psychiatric problems. So, we see people come to faith at Oasis, but they’re still very broken and as a pastor that’s one of my biggest challenges—how to help them find healing, and an important element of this is how we follow up after Alpha.

At Alpha people eat together, build friendships, have a space for questions—but then they come to church and often that experience is very different. Even at an international church like ours, where we try to use language that is easy for everyone to understand, it’s difficult for people to transition from Alpha to attending a regular church service.


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At Crossroads we tried many different things to keep people engaged, but with limited success. What I’ve discovered at both Crossroads and at Oasis is that it works to keep an Alpha group together as a regular small group after the course has finished, with one or two of the Alpha leaders as well. That gives them a great space to continue to grow as a group, and I’ve found that they then begin to counsel each other in that group, which is amazing to see.

I really do see Alpha as the backbone to our missional community, but it’s been tough—there have been disappointments and setbacks but it’s totally worthwhile.

What’s absolutely key is just loving people. Whether you’re poor or rich, highly educated or less educated, love goes directly to the heart. Practically speaking, we can’t do anything for these people, I often feel so powerless; when you hear some of the stories you think—oh boy—and in my weakest moments I long for happier, easier times, but where would Jesus be? He would be here with the people.


When a church runs Alpha, often a new culture of evangelism, hospitality, invitation, and prayerfulness develops. New leaders are released and congregations grow. 

If you are longing to see God do more – Alpha could be the spark of change to help this happen. Find out more about what Alpha is and the impact it could have in your church and community.

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I’ve found that the size of your budget doesn’t make too much of a difference to the success of Alpha.

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Talleres en este Track

¿Cómo desarrollar la creatividad pastoral en tu equipo parroquial?

Speakers: Liliana Nariño, Directora Nacional, Alpha Colombia, and María Fernanda Acosta, Líder Regional, Alpha Ados

Presentaremos algunas nuevas técnicas que nos ayudan a crear una cultura de acogida y encuentro en la Parroquia.

¿Cómo alcanzar a la Generación Z Latina?

Speakers: Diego Profita, Regional Marketing And Digital Director Latin America at Alpha International, and Julian Avellaneda, Regional Alpha Youth Leader, Alpha Ados

Descubriremos algunas de las principales características de esta Generación más Abierta y trabajaremos en herramientas y estrategias para ser más efectivos en presentarles a Jesús.

¿Cómo construir una cultura invitacional en tu Iglesia?

Speakers: Diego Profita, Regional Marketing And Digital Director Latin America at Alpha International

Descubramos juntos como crear y fomentar en nuestras comunidades una cultura de invitación abordando

– Maneras en que la Iglesia puede fomentar la importancia de la invitación

– Maneras de cómo podemos guiar a nuestros equipos para que lo vivan

– Maneras de cómo poder identificar a las personas con mayor probabilidad de asistir

BEYOND THE WALLS

Inspiring and practical, learn how to bring the gospel everywhere you go and how to activate your church communities to see gospel opportunities beyond the walls of the church building. Hear stories of innovation and creativity, ecumenical and city-wide movements, and learn about what God is doing in unique contexts like prisons. With many workshops in this track, some are best suited for pastors and senior leaders, while others apply to anyone.

Workshops in this Track

Alpha in Criminal Justice System

Speakers: Audrey Hayes, Director of Volunteer Network, Alpha USA, and Benny Lopez, Prisons Coordinator, Alpha USA

There is an overlooked mission field in our own backyard, one full of people desperate for help, healing, and wholeness. It’s a place much of our society tends to dismiss, filled with people who believe they have been cast aside, and forgotten.

Alpha has been run in 630 prisons in 41 U.S. states. This course is brought to prisons and jails by dedicated churches and organizations who have run Alpha at their local church or parish and want to extend their reach even further. These volunteers tangibly show the love of Jesus to men and women that society had tossed away and labeled as unworthy, broken, dangerous, or beyond help. Through Alpha, prisoners are reminded that God does not label them—he loves them.

Join us in this workshop to hear stories and learn how to get started. You will be matched with a coach who will offer you support based on where you are in your prison ministry journey.

Unified City Alpha Initiative

Speakers: Seth Bazacas, Strategic City Director, New York, Alpha USA, and Shauna Pilgreen, Strategic City Director, Northern California, Alpha USA

What does it take to pull off a unified citywide Alpha launch? Join Strategic City Directors and Pastors Seth Bazacas (Wellspring Church NYC) and Shauna Pilgreen (Epic Church San Francisco) as they share their experiences of bringing a diverse group of churches into a shared vision, prayer night, weekly gatherings, and an overnight Alpha retreat. Hear stories of what worked and didn’t work and how both cities are gearing up for an even stronger launch in 2024!

Translating Jesus--A Crash Course for Sharing Your Faith Daily

Speakers: Shauna Pilgreen, Strategic City Director, Northern California, Alpha USA, and Ben Pilgreen, Lead Pastor, Epic Church San Francisco

As pastors and church leaders, we expect our attenders to share their faith. But do they? Come and imagine how your faith conversations can fuel an evangelism movement in your church.

Author and storyteller Shauna Pilgreen offers us a new way of evangelism using her latest book, Translating Jesus. She gets practical fast, teaching us two languages that lead to double-listening. Chances are high you’ll become bilingual in this workshop!

Shauna is joined by her husband Ben Pilgreen, pastor of Epic Church in San Francisco. Come, learn how a church can be winsome with culture without neglecting the gospel.

Fueling Creativity and Innovation in Evangelism

Speakers: Audrey Hayes, Director of Volunteer Network, Alpha USA, and Madison Campbell, Alpha Launch Director, Alpha USA

For innovative leaders who want their creativity to be fueled by the Spirit and to flood into their churches and communities. This will be a time of storytelling and dreaming about what God can do through creativity in our churches and Alpha courses. Come dream with us!

TRAINING LABS

These practical training workshops will help you learn how to run Alpha and how to make it the best it can be. Join us to experience the Alpha best practices of listening, radical hospitality, and dependence on the Holy Spirit. Select the workshops best suited for your stage of the Alpha journey to get the most from this track.

Workshops in this Track

Run Alpha--From a Course to a Culture (Mandarin interpretation available)

Speaker: Christian Downs, National Training Director, Alpha USA

Running Alpha is so much more than just a course, it is an opportunity to create space within your community and your church where people can belong before they believe. Run Alpha will help you see how this course is unique by focusing on the values of invitation, hospitality, listening, and dependence on the Holy Spirit.

Grow Alpha--Expand, Enhance, Empower (Mandarin interpretation available)

Speaker: Christian Downs, National Training Director, Alpha USA

This workshop will help you expand the culture, enhance your Alpha course with best practice insights, and empower your team. A common takeaway from this workshop is how Alpha can be more than a course and start to impact the rest of the church.

Creating a Culture Where Everyone is Invited to Alpha (Mandarin interpretation available)

Speaker: Christian Downs, National Training Director, Alpha USA

How do we get more guests on our Alpha? This is the question that comes up most often. In this workshop, we will explore what it looks like to bring the good news of Jesus to everyone… including those cast aside, neglected, or overlooked by society. We will name the fears that limit us, ways the church can help, and practical tips that everyone can put into practice to lead an invitational lifestyle.

Join our Global Director of Prayer, our National Director of Training, and special guests at this combined workshop to help more people receive an invite to explore the life-changing impact of the gospel.

CATHOLIC

Designed with our Catholic guests in mind, we will unpack the missional call of the Eucharistic Revitalization, sacred listening, and how to care for your soul in the ministry journey. This track could also benefit any Protestant ministry leaders in liturgical contexts.

Workshops in this Track

Nourishment for the Soul in the Journey of Ministry

Speakers: Sarah Kaczmarek, Director of Pastoral Ministry, Encounter Ministries, and Monica Martinez, National Director for Catholic Context, Alpha USA

How can we ensure we’re growing personally so that we are operating out of Christ’s strength and not our own?

Reviving Eucharistic Culture

Speaker: Monica Martinez, National Director for Catholic Context, Alpha USA

A time for meaningful reflection, conversation, and prayer around our missional call, awakened by the Eucharist. Together, we will unpack the meaning of the Eucharist as our source and summit of living our intentional discipleship.

Translating the Sacred

Speaker: Rick Grinstead, Director of Alpha Youth, Catholic Context

How do we fill the large gap once people have heard the gospel but have not yet acclimatized to parish life? How do we prepare the parish community to make space and build bridges, and how do we prepare guests who will be transitioning from Alpha to mass to sacramental formation? 

ENCOUNTER

This track is full of amazing main-stage speakers who will showcase the power of prayer in every generation, equip you to live a naturally supernatural life and train you to heal as Jesus did. Senior pastors, church leaders, non-profit leaders, this track is you!

Workshops in this Track

Learnings from Asbury on the Power of Prayer

Speaker: Angela Chadwick, Global Director of Prayer, Alpha USA

Alpha’s Global Director of Prayer will interview some of the spiritual leaders involved in the Asbury revival where a chapel worship service caught the attention of our country. You’ll hear stories of how the students were deeply moved by God through the simplest forms of worship and how the leaders made sure the only celebrity on stage was Jesus. You’ll also be amazed by the powerful breakthroughs in young people’s lives through the gentlest of prayers.

Additionally, we will explore how the resurgence of faith in one small American town is relevant to every person in the Church and how it shapes how we share the good news in a good way with this generation.

How to Facilitate Eternal Connections with Jesus

Speaker: Danielle Strickland, Spiritual Leader, Justice Advocate, Communicator, Peacemaker

Encounter is God’s favorite way to spiritual revelation. Why do we emphasize information-formation as our primary means of discipleship? What if we put more time, energy, and effort into facilitating more encounters? Be prepared to discuss together how cultivating curiosity becomes a means to do just that. We will talk techniques, experiences, and new ideas.

Everyday Miracles

Speakers: Dr. Chloe Swart, Associate National Director for Alpha UK, and Dr. Russo Swart, New Wine Cymru Prophetic and Healing Team

This workshop will look at how to heal the sick as a part of our everyday missional lives. Following Chloe’s PhD studying healing miracles in Wales, Chloe found that Christians in Wales were praying for their friends, family, and colleagues, in the gym, in the supermarket, at work; wherever they found themselves, as well as in church services, and Alpha courses. Healing is a missional tool that points toward Jesus. Unpack the theology of healing, while also hearing very practical teaching and demonstration of how to heal the sick in an everyday way.

YOUTH

If you are a student, work with middle or high school students, or just love young people and want their voices to shape the future of the Church, this track is for you! We’ll talk about empowering a generation to lead and will equip you to draw out the leadership of a generation to reach their peers through the new Alpha Youth Series and beyond.

Workshops in this Track

Navigating the New Alpha Youth Series

Speakers: Jordan Biere, National Director of Alpha Youth, Alpha USA, and Josh Penwell, National Associate Director of Alpha Youth, Alpha USA

Explore the the new Alpha Youth Series, discover the adjustments we’ve made to better reach Gen Z/Gen Alpha, and how to use this new series best to help young people discover and develop a relationship with Jesus.

Helping Young People Walk Naturally Supernatural

Speakers: Jordan Biere, National Director of Alpha Youth, Alpha USA, and Josh Penwell, National Associate Director of Alpha Youth, Alpha USA

Learn how to help young people operate in the power and authority of the Holy Spirit in a way that seems natural (not super weird) yet clearly supernatural. Help them discern the voice of the Lord, pray for healing, and grow in the prophetic voice.

From Guests to Leaders, Activating the Leadership Potential of Young People

Speakers: Jordan Biere, National Director of Alpha Youth, Alpha USA, and Josh Penwell, National Associate Director of Alpha Youth, Alpha USA

A practical guide on creating space for activating young people toward leadership to become bold, Spirit-filled witnesses. Learn how to empower young people to lead their own Alpha for their friends and how you can champion Gen Z and Gen Alpha.

FAITH AND JUSTICE

How should the Church respond in the face of injustice? What about in an election year? Could we show up to a polarized political world with the goodness of God like never before? If you are interested in learning how to navigate these complex issues, this track could help!

Workshops in this Track

Navigating the Waters of Faith and Politics

Speakers: John Wentz, Executive Director, Alpha USA, and Josh Williams, Associate National Director of Evangelism and Justice, Vineyard USA

This election year is ramping up to be as polarized as ever. Equip yourself and your teams to navigate the choppy waters of faith and politics during an election cycle. We have a massive opportunity to bring the goodness of God into these conversations or to leave people feeling alienated. Learn five top tips to help your conversations be filled with grace and truth and leave people feeling heard and honored.

Lessons in Evangelism from MLK’s nonviolent Movement

Speaker: Josh Williams, Associate National Director of Evangelism and Justice, Vineyard USA

How should the Church respond in the face of injustice? Hear how lessons from Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonviolent movement provide tools to speak out against injustice while presenting a compelling case for the gospel. Josh Williams, associate national director for evangelism and justice for Vineyard USA will host this workshop where you will hear stories and learn tangible practices for engaging injustice while extending the invitation for people to encounter Jesus.

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