Looking for ideas on how to make your Alpha as fun as possible? We’ve got you covered. Here are nine top tips from Dave Larlee in Texas that will keep your guests engaged, entertained and coming back for more.
Having run forty-two Alphas – twelve in his current home of Texas – Dave Larlee has been around the Alpha block! From his experience at All Saints Dallas we pluck nine top tips on how to find the fun…
1. Go location shopping
In a city with more Bible Studies than coffee shops, Dave wanted to differentiate their church outreach. Having initially run Alpha in their building's ‘horrific’ basement, Dave realised it was key to frame the course in an environment that was fun. ‘We didn’t want going to Alpha to be synonymous with going to church,’ he explains, ‘We wanted it to be like, ‘Why don’t you come for a fun night out?’ so we started to look for a location where guests would feel more engaged.’
2. Break expectations
What better place to invite friends to a night out at than a wine cellar? We can’t think of many. That’s where Dave and his team decided to host Alpha. ‘All of a sudden, everything started to change in a positive way. When the first question you ask people is ‘Red or White?’ they’re caught off guard, because here in Dallas that’s quite counter cultural. After three courses being run in the cellar we outgrew it and once again we’re on the search for a location that would be equally appealing to our guests!’
3. Make every penny count
There’s no two ways about it, the processes of thriftiness and budget management don’t get many of us excited—but if you know what you have and how you can spend it, a little budget can go a long way! ‘I have someone on my team who knows that for $10 a head we can do this, for $12 we can do that,’ Dave explains, and they didn’t stop there, they even carried research out into the flow of business on a Tuesday night in the city so they could approach the right venue, haggle on price and run the best Alpha possible on their budget.
4. Go big or go home
One of Dave’s team works as an events planner and once they’d outgrown the wine cellar he suggested a venue where he’d recently thrown a fundraiser. The venue was one of Dallas’ most popular nightclubs and, after running one Alpha in the function room, they rented the entire club. ‘Our ceiling jumped from 65 guests—which was the most we’d ever had—to 110 at the course we just finished. It just took off!’
5. Get invitational
An invitational culture is essential for effective evangelism. At All Saints Dallas, they’ve been making a conscious effort to encourage their congregation to feel comfortable inviting their friends. ‘We noticed that the church is very welcoming, however, welcoming does not mean inviting.’ The solution? Three years ago they set up an annual church Christmas party where members could invite their friends and everyone could have a good time together. ‘It’s given our members confidence that they can invite their friends to a church event and it will be good.’
6. Make fun part of your wider church culture
For Dave and his team, the culture of fun runs deeper than just Alpha. He describes the three key values they endorse as ‘Love, listen and fun.’ ‘We don’t run many programmes, but we do run a lot of events. For instance, we don’t run a newcomers’ class, but we do have a newcomers’ Happy Hour’ he explains. The aim is to make sure that every event the church runs is enjoyable and in a location that people will want to come to.
7. Try the Alpha Film Series
There are many different ways to present Alpha—with live talks, video talks, or with the Alpha Film Series. All Saints in Dallas decided to show the Film Series to take a fresh approach. The series of episodes travel around the world, with a mixture of stories, animations and interviews that all explore a different question around Christianity. Find out more about the Alpha Film Series.
8. Connect outside of the course
As part of the Alpha course, Dave and his team run an Alpha Day or Weekend where the group spend a block of time together. But what they also do is invite everyone back for an After Party in the evening, outside the course structure. It’s a chance to spend time, have fun and socialise together without a set programme.
9. Get former guests involved
A team who are passionate and excited to be involved with Alpha can make all the difference! At All Saints it’s a requirement that everyone who helps has experienced the course themselves. ‘If someone’s enjoyed it, I’ll often invite them to come back as a helper,’ explains Dave. If you build your team with people who know what it’s like to try Alpha, it can help narrow the gap between helpers and guests, and lead to great friendships being formed.
As a leader, you can set the tone for how engaging and welcoming Alpha can be. Dave’s experience is a reminder that spending time focusing on handpicking the location, food, course format and team members who help run Alpha, empowers you and your team to make Alpha a fun experience for those attending.