When moving Alpha to an online experience, many wondered how to express warm hospitality in place of the traditional weekly shared meal.
We have experienced that the Alpha meal brings connection, because that is where we relax and get to know about each others’ hobbies and interests. Each week a stronger sense of community is built meal by meal, bite by bite.
Is it possible to build this connection online without the Alpha meal?
Yes! Over the past five months of offering Alpha online, we have found it is possible to make this connection by ensuring that guests are seen and heard as they enter the “room” and then encouraging their participation during the small group time, either verbally or by using the chat feature. Comments like, “Great insight,” or “That comment took courage” validates a cautious guest.
Take time to do the Ice Breaker question each week as a way to laugh and build connection. Each person should be made to feel genuinely welcomed and discover a newfound sense of belonging.
Doing Alpha online is opening up new forms of hospitality.
It allows people to get a glimpse into one another’s homes and lives. There is something personal about letting someone see into your home, introducing them to your dog, and having your kids playing in the background while you share. This is a new kind of hospitality, when each guest welcomes the others into their own space, and it can lead to increased transparency and connection.
We have also heard several stories of pastors, hosts, and volunteers who have been running Alpha for many years who started asking, “Is it possible to still provide a meal when in isolation?”
Churches like Grace Community in Auburn, WA, are cleverly answering this question by using food delivery services to send food to their guests. Even from their own homes, guests can enjoy a free meal together.
Church of the City in New York is going above and beyond to care for their Alpha guests by offering grocery deliveries, dog walking, and financial counseling to those who want it. This is hospitality in action–noting the very real and tangible needs of your community and responding to those needs.
Here are just a few of the other ideas we’ve heard from Alpha hosts and volunteers–these suggestions are all optional and meant to inspire, not complicate, how you plan to run Alpha:
Encourage guests to “bring their dinner to Alpha” and share their favorite dishes with their small group
Share a weekly recipe and encourage guests to make that particular meal on Alpha night
If you’re in an area that allows small groups to gather, encourage your hosts to host “watch parties” to interact with the larger group together online, while still allowing for a meal to be eaten together in person
We are still learning alongside many of our churches what an “outside the box” hospitable experience looks like. The unique opportunities for connection that you provide now may shape what hospitality looks like in your community in the future.
This is the third in a series of six posts sharing the journey of moving Alpha online, and the discoveries we’ve found along the way as we’ve come alongside the Church to serve and equip leaders in this unique cultural moment. See the first post, Caring for Community in Crisis.
Interested in learning about how you can run Alpha online this fall? Find all the resources you need here. Whether you run online or in person this fall, be sure to register your course to get the latest resources to support your Alpha.