Pastor George Wilson planted Renovation Church along the southeast coast in Longs, South Carolina. The Alpha culture was built into Renovation Church from the beginning. They now run Alpha and Alpha Youth, as well as, the Marriage and Parenting Courses. Pastor Wilson affirmed, “Anything that's Alpha, we have!”
Why did you use Alpha to help plant your church?
Having worked in ministry for over twenty-five years, I was already familiar with Alpha, as was most of my team. During the early stages of church planting, I looked at a lot of materials to possibly use. And during that search, I happened to review the Alpha leadership training and thought, "This is pretty good stuff. It's something that most leaders should probably take a look at." From the principles and practicalities, to running small groups, pastoral care and prayer ministry ... everything was in line with what I wanted to use. It was ideal.
My team wanted to take a look at a bigger picture of Alpha. In addition to developing personal relationships with Christ on an individual level, how could this entire church develop a relationship with Christ through Alpha? Then, it all fell right in line. Everyone on the leadership team took Alpha and was greatly impacted by it. Since then, we require anyone who wants to serve at Renovation Church to participate in Alpha in some way.
How did Alpha's principles align with your church planting strategy?
We really employ all of the practicalities that Nicky Gumbel mentions. They are applied in the way we greet and interact with people. We even give close consideration to the music we choose so that it is relatable to our guests. In our region, most of the people who come through Alpha grew up with some church background, but often left the church because of a negative experience. Our church does a great job at taking old hymns and recreating them with a new beat and style.
We also keep prayer simple, and we don't use “churchy” language at all. For example, if I mention salvation, I'll explain, "This is what we're talking about when we say things like 'salvation', 'justification' or 'the blood of Jesus.'" We don't expect people to walk in knowing all of this, and we want to help shine a fresh light on it.
"If they really want to do church in a new way, I would encourage them to take a look at Alpha."
Are a lot of non-church goers coming to Alpha?
About fifty percent are non-church goers, and we hope to connect with more. Alpha is woven into our church DNA, and we try to reach people wherever they are in the community. We mention Alpha at our church every week, which often sparks the curiosity of visitors. Many people then come to Alpha!
Is it challenging for church members to invite people to Alpha?
Everyone can struggle, at times, when inviting people to church or to Alpha. But for the most part, our church members are all very much on the same page with Alpha, because they’ve experienced it. This makes it easier for them to talk about Alpha and invite people. You have to be intentional about Alpha, and we've worked hard to make it simple to understand.
How has Alpha influenced your church leadership?
Early on, our leadership team started with eight people in my living room, and it's now grown to around two hundred. I attribute a lot of that leadership growth to the principles and structure of Alpha.
What can you tell others in regard to using Alpha as part of the church planting process?
First, I would want to find out if they were serious about doing church in a different way than we've always done church in the past. If they really want to do church in a new way and reach outside the box, I would encourage them to take a look at Alpha.
If they are here in South Carolina, I would encourage them to visit our Alpha. If they're somewhere else, I would look for an Alpha near them, find out who's leading it and introduce them to that person. This way, they have an opportunity to go through Alpha first, before deciding how and why they want to plant a church. I think this is critical. You need to have those arrows in your quiver before taking the first step
Interested in running Alpha? Learn more here.