Alpha is a ten-week course that provides a safe place to explore life’s biggest questions. Globally proven and highly effective, Alpha creates a culture of invitation within your church and is a great front door for people exploring faith.
From running five Alphas a week in Stockport to combining courses in South London, church leader Jon Lindsay-Scott tells us how he got flexible with format of Alpha and has seen lives transformed as a result.
Effective church outreach can take many forms—just ask Jon Lindsay-Scott, who’s been experimenting with what Alpha can look like over the last few years. In November 2017, Jon became minister of Springfield Church in Wallington, South London, after working at St Chad’s Church in Romiley in Stockport. At both churches Jon’s used Alpha as a way to evangelise to his local community. We sat down with Jon and asked him to share his story and the lessons he’s learned along the way.
When Jon was tasked with running outreach at St Chad’s, he knew that he wanted to use Alpha but quickly uncovered a challenge that was preventing engagement. ‘The general church congregation was excited about Alpha, but not inviting people to it,’ he says. The root cause of this disconnect was simple: ‘If you’re inviting somebody to something you’ve never done, it’s harder to be enthusiastic about it—and harder to sell it.’
Get the whole church involved
Their solution was to run Whole Church Alpha. ‘We promoted it as something for the whole congregation,’ Jon explains, ‘especially for those who had never tried Alpha before.’ They advertised their course with the strap line ‘For you and your friends’—encouraging members to both try Alpha for the first time and also invite their peers.
The scale of engagement was unprecedented—with five Alpha gatherings running each week and 250 people attending their Alpha Weekend. ‘For a parish church on the outskirts of Manchester, the response really was significant.’
They also ran Alpha Youth with their young people and kids groups, ensuring that it truly was a whole church affair, from top to bottom. All in all they estimated that two thirds of those who attended were church members and one third invited from outside the church.
For each of their gatherings they used the Alpha Film Series. ‘That was a big step for us as a church,’ says Jon, ‘because it meant that we could run Alpha anywhere and anytime.’ They took advantage of this newfound flexibility with their five gatherings timed to suit different demographics and schedules, from a Wednesday lunchtime course for parents, following their baby and toddler groups in the morning, to a Tuesday evening course for professionals.
‘It was definitely a step of faith,’ admits Jon. ‘It quickly became apparent that we either go all in on this or don’t bother.’ He attributes much of the success of Whole Church Alpha to the level of commitment that the leadership showed. ‘My learning’s been that if you run Alpha as an add on, you miss out on so much fruit—but people can really get on board with something when they realize the church is taking it seriously.’