When churches get excited about running Alpha, they often strategize creative ways to extend the reach of Alpha to more people in their community. For example, churches will host Alpha out of a home or pub, and Coastal Church in Vancouver runs Alpha in multiple locations each semester. Below is an inside look at how Coastal Church has run their Alpha offsite to create a greater impact for the gospel in the city of Vancouver.
Finding a Location
While there are a lot of spaces available to rent for events it can be difficult to find a facility that will allow you to have the option of bringing in your own food, setting up multi-media, or even running a course for 11 weeks. Coastal Church had the innovative idea of asking two members of their church to host an Alpha in the multi-purpose room of their apartment building. Many buildings have common rooms that can be booked at very little cost for residence of the complex. You can bring in your own food and tech gear and have free reign of the space for the allotted time.
Advertising in the Community
To get the word out about the offsite Alpha to the surrounding community the church posted and handed out flyers with the email address of the Alpha leader and the office phone number. This way Coastal could keep track of the people who were interested in coming to get an idea of numbers for food and the size of the team needed. When people signed-up, they gave them the location of the Alpha and each person was manually check-in at the door every session, to follow building rules.
Providing Food With No Kitchen
Providing food for a large group in a space with no kitchen or even in a party room with a kitchenette can present a challenge for the Alpha team. Coastal addressed this issue by preparing the food at their church campus and delivering it to the apartment building the evening of each Alpha session. If you’re thinking about the logistics of bringing enough tables into a rented space, many Alphas are run without tables! Holy Trinity Brompton, where Alpha was created, runs Alpha for 500 plus people each semester and has their small groups gather in a circle of chairs. Meals are served in bowls that are easily balanced on knees. The absence of a table can even be a benefit because it allows the group to sit closer together and lean more into the conversation. Chairs can be delivered with a dolly and easily packed up at the end of the evening. Some commons spaces will also have folding chairs available for use.
Showing the Talks
This is a situation where if you decide to run Alpha in a common room, you’re going to need a tech person on your team. Coastal used a projector to show the talks which required bringing in all the necessary equipment such as a screen, sound equipment, and a laptop. Showing the talks without technical difficulties is so important so that guests can engage in the material without distraction or interruption. Find someone for your Alpha team who will know exactly what equipment is needed, how to set-up, and run it flawlessly.
Planning the Alpha Weekend
Rather than creating a separate Alpha weekend for the offsite Alpha, the group joined with the other Alphas being run by Coastal at a local retreat centre. In a situation where you have multiple Alpha sites coming together for the Alpha weekend, it’s important that small groups remain the same so that friendships and openness in discussion can continue to be built on.
The results of Coastal running Alpha offsite at the apartment building were that many guests came to faith, were baptized, joined small group communities at the church, and began to regularly attend Sunday gatherings. Running an Alpha offsite gives people, who don’t feel comfortable exploring faith in a traditional church setting, an opportunity to ask questions and go on a journey of faith in a neutral environment. As you plan your Alpha, consider how you can be creative with location to reach the most people in your community with the gospel.