“...our age was not treated as a handicap to our faith – in fact, it was celebrated."
Ten years ago, when I was 6, my family moved to Singapore and started attending a church with an incredible youth ministry. Singaporean culture, intense and ambitious to the bone, inspired youth leaders with the most amazing energy. I’m talking: church mornings spent ministering in the Holy Spirit to toddlers. Their passion had a massive impact on my life. We were repeatedly told, “Our ceiling is your floor,” and our age was not treated as a handicap to our faith – in fact, it was celebrated.
Having that background, it then came as a bit of a shock when we moved back to England. It was difficult finding a church that actually engaged with me, a child. Most groups tended to revolve around just keeping us busy while the parents went to church, or desperately appealing to non-interested non-Christians.
In the midst of this dilemma, I heard that a local church was running the Alpha Youth Series. I was immediately hooked. My parents had run the Alpha Course in a past life, pre-kids, and I had always been interested. Being in a space where you were able to hear other people’s perspectives on life without them instantly recoiling – that sounded fun. Now suddenly, here was a film version of this course, but specifically for us young ‘uns!
I went along, at first, to see if other young people would voluntarily commit an evening to discussing ‘big life questions’. I then went along for a second term, this time to assist leading a group and to wrangle as many friends into coming as possible. “It’s just pizza, some chill time… Oh, and there’s a video and a chat about life stuff. Did I mention there’s pizza?”
The Alpha Youth Series was a major help when it came to introducing my friends to the basics of my faith. The pressure was off me and there was pizza*. A clear win-win. It was an opportunity to connect, to share, and there was this freedom to have strong opinions – to disagree with others and have others disagree with me, but all in a completely safe, friendly and open way.
"Where young people can be vulnerable, where young people are allowed to be heard, where ‘young people’ simply become ‘people’."
Having these discussions are crucial, and creating a space for those discussions is just as important. A space where young people are allowed to say what they think is rare to find, which means it’s doubly important in the context of evangelism.
Whatever your race, gender or age, ultimately, I believe we all want to be heard. The Alpha Youth Series was a space where I found connection and meaning. Now I share how to run Alpha with my Christian friends so we can create an atmosphere of safety where young people can be vulnerable, where young people are allowed to be heard, where ‘young people’ simply become ‘people’.
*The preference and obsession expressed about pizza are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official preference or position of Alpha International.
Rachael is 16 and has started to train her peers to Run Alpha for their friends. Are you a young person or youth leader thinking of running the Alpha Youth Series? Click here and get started on your own journey to encourage and empower more stories like Rachael’s.