Laurie and Monica are nothing short of being Alpha pioneers here in Australia. From their early involvement, they have been passionate about creating joy and friendship in people’s lives. Their ongoing commitment is proof that Alpha can work outside church walls and that by running it every year, you too can see consistent growth and impact in your community. Now living in Mornington Peninsula, they have been running Alpha for the last 10 years as an outreach of New Peninsula Baptist Church, and are committed to doing so each and every year.
How did you come across Alpha?
We first discovered Alpha in 1996 when Nicky Gumbel came to Australia. At that time, we were attending a church in Templestowe and a couple of church members invited us along to his event. Soon after they asked us to run Alpha and we have enjoyed it ever since! We have seen Alpha grow from small intimate groups in various homes to large lively groups in a pub. We have enjoyed every stage of growth and found it has exceeded our expectations in every way.
Why did you choose to run Alpha in a pub?
Having previously run Alpha in a pub, we found this to be such an effective way to build connection with people. Additionally, we really loved the relaxed atmosphere that a pub can bring. It became clear we wanted to start an Alpha that would cater for the younger demographic because we really wanted to support the young people in our church. We are very proud to have committed young people that are actively involved in helping us run Alpha today.
What kind of people have you encountered on the Alpha journey?
We have met people from all walks of life. It’s clear in this day and age that community is so important to people. They are all crying out for it – rich and poor. We have people from the margins as well as wealthier individuals involved in Alpha. They all come seeking meaning and we simply tell them ‘Christianity is what we believe gives meaning to life, come and have a look’. It is because of this one simple look, we have seen lives changed and transformed for the better.
What do you see as important in running Alpha successfully?
Our focus has always been to build community by help people create solid friendships. You will find our Alpha is very low key, we play games and have prizes because we want people to have fun. It shouldn’t just be a meal and straight into a DVD – there should be fun in between. The main thing is that people should feel happiness and joy. In this life so many people are depressed, lonely and unsure. By coming to Alpha, we hope many people will find faith and friendship.
What would you say to encourage other churches to think outside their church walls?
Firstly, when we advertise Alpha we promote it with the cost or we give the option of a donation (where people can donate any amount they wish). We don’t want people to feel dissuaded from the cost so we have sponsorship. If you are looking to grow Alpha, we strongly suggest that you pray for generous Christians who are able to sponsor others to attend Alpha.
We also encourage you to look around for hotels that can be a good setting for your group. Many people are hesitant because of cost but we suggest you do it anyway. After all, God owns it all - He will provide a way.
Why do you think the pub environment has been so successful?
Firstly, we believe it is because of the diligent prayer of others. We have a faithful group of people that pray for us regularly. It’s their prayers that have helped us achieve the impact we see today. Prayer makes a huge difference. It’s as important as anything we do.
Additionally, we don’t think we have been able to touch as many lives in private homes. The pub environment has provided us with an opportunity to invite those that we wouldn’t be able to invite to a church. It has been a great form of outreach especially for those that have never been to a church because the atmosphere is non-threatening and relaxed.
What is even better is that the larger public setting has allowed us to double the impact we’ve had in the past. Even if people come for just one night, they have already heard the whole gospel. They can go away and allow the words to take new meaning. We do what we can (which isn’t much) and allow God to do the rest. He can give much more meaning to people than we could ever know.