Tina Waldrom, Alpha Ministry Leader at CityLife Church
How did Alpha start at CityLife Church?
A staff member named Jill and her husband were keen to start Alpha.
In 1998, it so happened that CityLife Church held an Eternity Drama production. This was an amazing success with so many people attending each night.
At this event, there was a sign up table in the foyer for our very first Alpha starting in May that year. It had great interest with 59 people signing up and attending. This first Alpha was the catalyst for the many Alphas that followed!
From then on we decided to run Alpha every school term, which led to a steady increase in attendance each term. By the start of 1999, we had 100 participants!
It’s now 18 years on and Alpha is running across all four sites at CityLife Church.
What does Alpha look like at CityLife today?
We start by hosting an Introduction Night and then weekly sessions after that. We have found it extremely effective running Alpha within school terms. Within the term, we allow for a leaders training night which we do the week prior to the commencement of the Alpha sessions. This school term structure is very beneficial for parents because it means Alpha won’t overlap with school holidays.
Our final night is our celebration night where we run the session – ‘How Does God Guide Us?’ This is a great topic that is perfect for guests to bring their unchurched friends. This has more of an unchurched feel because we ask questions like “how does God talk to us?” This allows everyone on that night to consider that God wants to talk to them.
Tell us about the guests that attend your Alpha sessions
Most of our guests are aged 25 years and older. However, last term we decided to run a young adults Alpha. This really took off! We now run our young adults Alpha at the same time as our regular Alpha when we can. We’ve found this has worked really well!
We like to get everyone together on the same night because it makes it easier on the organisers and also provides great atmosphere. We all eat together, do some worship together then head to different rooms for the discussions.
What do you think is the key to running a great Alpha?
It would definitely be having a strong team. I have an incredible team that continues to grow and are extremely passionate and invested in the ministry of Alpha. This makes all the difference. I love that they are a tremendously enthusiastic bunch of people! As soon as Alpha is mentioned in a service they make a lot of noise! This has definitely added to the general interest of Alpha.
Also, it’s important how you promote your Alpha. At CityLife, we’re fortunate to always have people wanting to do Alpha. Being aware of this, we’re conscious about how we promote it by making sure that we cater to everyone – those who want to explore deeper topics of their faith but also those who are completely new to faith.
Do you feel Alpha is also beneficial for developing leaders?
Most definitely, this is why we have specific training for those wanting to be a leader. During the final session of every Alpha, we give guests the opportunity to sign up to be helpers for the next running of Alpha. This has always kept people coming back.
What makes Alpha so powerful is the sense of community that is built over the duration of the sessions. This is evident between both the leaders and guests. They just want to keep hanging out with the people they meet at Alpha.
We run it almost like a wedding reception in that we have a list that informs guests of their allocated table. This is something that works really well on a practical level. From the introductory night, our grouped participants are allocated a certain table; they sit together at that same table each week. Most guests love this because it means when they return the following week, they are already connected and are able to build deeper relationships.
The meal is also a huge player in bringing the sense of community. It just has a way of bringing people together.
What advice would you give to churches that are considering running Alpha?
You can’t lose by running Alpha – you can only win. The fact that you give people an opportunity to take the time to learn more about Christianity is a win all the way. Once you run your first Alpha it’s often a great catalyst for people to reach out and bring others as well as for the team to grow. You really can’t lose. Yes, it’s a huge investment to round up leaders, get meals cooked and ready to serve each week. However in terms of real discipleship happening in people’s lives – it certainly makes it all worth it.
Tina Waldrom is the Alpha Ministry Leader at CityLife Church. She has a passion for evangelism and loves reaching out to people by encouraging them that God loves them, cares for them and has a great plan for their life.