James, 23, runs Alpha with his friends in Sheffield, UK. He is embracing the chance to be a part of a cultural shift in his local community. But where did James’ Alpha journey begin?
At the age of seventeen, James tried Alpha. He had questions about life that he wanted to explore, so his youth worker advised him to give it a go – it felt like a natural step in the right direction. What was unexpected, though, was that his whole family decided to try Alpha too.
‘My family actually decided to do Alpha and it was amazing to see them on this journey as well. For me, personally, it was a useful learning process, and it transformed my family – that’s why I am so passionate about it.’
James’ energy for Alpha has now found an outlet, as he helps to develop new ways of doing Alpha in a city setting. He is excited to be leading the drive to introduce Alpha to a new generation.
‘We are enjoying being brave and taking risks. Running Alpha in the city makes it feel significant. Anyone who makes a loud enough noise can gather a crowd, but there is purpose behind what we are doing – introducing people to Jesus.’
‘There is purpose behind what we are doing – introducing people to Jesus’
‘The big picture is that we are trying to meet the needs of a generation. With this challenge in mind, we are taking small steps, and I hope that we are beginning to see some progress.’
In 2014, as part of the Alpha launch in Sheffield, people were encouraged to personally invite friends, using themed postcards. This resulted in hundreds of guests attending the Alpha launch party – a milestone to celebrate.
‘We are giving young people the opportunity to invite their friends to explore the meaning of life. We are making it personal. They can say to their friends, “Hey, this is what I believe, why don’t you come and find out a bit more about me. I would love to hear what you have to say.”’
‘The hashtag ‘TryAlpha’ has also really connected with our community on social media. They have begun to use it and it has been really successful.’
Now Alpha is underway in unexpected places around the city centre, including a pub and two local coffee shops.
‘This was an intentional decision. We want to create new cultural norms, whereby it is natural for people to explore the meaning of life in coffee shops and pubs, not just the church. We are hoping that there is a new wave of people who will one day say, “I came to faith in a pub.” It is an experiment.’
‘We have seen so many people responding to our invitation that we have had to be creative about food. We buy a lot of cake so people can eat together and if someone can’t afford a coffee, we will get them one. That time to drink and eat together is really important.’
The small groups watch each week’s talk on Alpha TV, which live streams the talks from HTB. Group discussions are enhanced by input from a mixture of students and young professionals from the local community.
‘In the future, we want to invite sixty thousand students to explore the meaning of life. Broadly, we want to invite a whole generation to Alpha and engage them in a conversation. We encourage every church to think creatively about how they can run Alpha in their context and challenge them to run two courses a year. We are seeing a lot of churches running more than that. This is going to be a big part of our future.’
‘We want to invite a whole generation to Alpha and engage them in a conversation’
Interested in running Alpha? Find everything you need at alpha.org/run