How was Alpha North created?
Paul: As a group of local pastors, we gather together for coffee and chats once a month. During one of these gatherings last year, a pastor (Graeme from Living Faith Church) casually asked “who is running Alpha next year?’ After telling him we were going to run Alpha, we loosely discussed the possibility of doing Alpha together or at the same time. The following week I had the same conversation with Aaron. Immediately we thought how great it would be to create as many locations and opportunities for people to do Alpha.
Due to the strength of our relationship with each other, we were able to agree and make it happen. There was no pressure for the other pastors to join; the only thing we needed to ensure was that we would run the same Alpha program at the same time. This is what has allowed us to have a common Alpha Day where we can gather together from different churches and worship, pray and experience the Holy Spirit together.
Aaron: What excites me about this Alpha Day is that it’s reminded me where there is unity God commands a blessing. We are really seeing the blessing unfold in Alpha North. We are witnessing people who don’t know Jesus engaging so well with the Alpha content and with the other guests.
The training that the Alpha team ran for us was great and ensured that everyone was on the same page. I am continuing to hear great feedback from people, especially non-Christians. It is a safe place for people to engage with the topic of faith and be able to share questions, thoughts, hurt, past experiences. I believe that we will continue to see more fruit from it because there is great unity.
If we had done it on our own, it still would have been great but there is extra strength in different denominations coming together and saying “the one thing that unites us is Jesus, let’s talk about Him”.
Practically speaking, how did Alpha North come together?
Aaron: As mentioned, we never forced it on the other local pastors and ministers. In the entire lead up to this Alpha Day, there has never been one person dictating anything. I think the key is relationship and unity. It wouldn’t have worked if we didn’t trust each other.
If you are going to work with people, you have to be willing to have proper discussions and plan things together. I think the strategic way in working together has come from open conversations where we nutted everything out.
Paul: As an outreach pastor, I was able to invest time into it. I had conversations with people from different denominations. I even contacted people who regularly engage with our network of ministers and invited them to join the journey. I met up with some of them and discussed what Alpha is because many of them had never run Alpha before. It took a number of conversations to get them on board; it helped being able to place teams at these different churches to help facilitate and run Alpha.
We also needed to agree on a date for our combined Alpha Day and organise the event. Everything we did we did together, we had regular email communication with the church leaders. I would disseminate it to key leaders and they would disseminate it to their teams.
How did you spread the word of Alpha?
Paul: We did talk about what we could do together to promote Alpha. We decided we wanted to do advertising at our local cinema and managed to achieve this through crowd funding - some churches went to their leadership and managed to donate a financial gift, others raised some money through congregational giving (congregation members wanted to get financially involved). It really built awareness and raised people’s excitement and got me thinking ‘what is the Holy Spirit really going to do?!’
Banners were another great way of getting the word out. I encouraged leaders to put a banner at the front of their church so people that drove past would see it.
Aaron: Even churches that aren’t running Alpha have a banner up! The pastors have said “we don’t have the resources or facilities at the moment but we want to help promote it.”
Paul: There is no way we could have achieved this on an individual level. It was great being able to partner together and also work with the Alpha Australia team to bring it together.
What has been your Alpha highlight?
Aaron: Funnily enough, my highlight has been not running anything! I assumed I would have to run weekly discussions and I actually wanted to be as involved as I needed to be.
However, so many people in my church got so excited about being apart of something that’s bigger than our church that they all wanted to get involved. I have been able to just sit in as a participant and watch my team thrive and flourish and use the gifts God has given them.
Paul: I have been fortunate enough to help run Alpha at a previous church. I will never forget the experience of being in a small group with people I don’t even know, and see the trust and openness that is formed.
Even witnessing this Alpha Day is incredible. It is a miracle seeing Anglicans, Baptists, Catholics, Pentecostals all together worshipping and uniting together in one space.
Any final comments?
Paul: Just do it! Ring up another church and partner together. It really is about building relationship and trust. The focus should not just be building up your church, but also seeing God move the way He wants to move.
Aaron: I would say to pastors and leaders, don’t let your fears and insecurities stop you from being united with other churches. Hold people with an open hand remember that they belong to God. As the Church, let’s focus on building the kingdom. Imagine the things that could happen if we could tear down walls that so commonly divide us and work together.
Through cinema advertising alone, Alpha North were able to reach 10,000 people!
Read more of our Q&A with Paul and Aaron HERE.