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Alpha-type Courses

Evangelistic Bible Studies that work

‘Tell them and they will forget. Show them and they will remember. Involve them and they will learn’   Chinese proverb

The Alpha concept

In one sense, there is nothing new about the Alpha Course system. Yet it has been incredibly successful. Why?

Alpha started in a city church in London, UK. It is now widespread across the world with similar courses such as Christianity Explored following the same pattern. Many larger churches maintain a continuous rolling program of courses. The key features of these course:

Sure, there is nothing unusual or revolutionary about this concept. Down the centuries, Christians have used many of these aspects in outreach, and they also reflect many of the insights resulting from research into adult learning and the fact that most lasting conversions results from an ongoing relationship with a Christian. The difference is: a tried and tested package with literature and training is offered to Christians ready to use, and it has been amazingly successful. It can also be very flexible, offering for example youth or senior citizens groups.

The Alpha site and Christianity Explored sites explains the concept in greater detail, and how to start (or locate) a church course.

Adapting the concept for the Internet

Paul Boag, a British Christian working with an Internet outreach fellowship, found that in dealing with questions from inquirers through website or chat-room witness, the same questions were arising again and again. He hit on the idea of inviting a small number of inquirers onto a closed email list (ie. it was only open to those invited), along with a small number of mature, prepared Christians. (An email list such as Yahoogroups allows each member to initiate an email which goes to the whole group, and each person can reply to the whole group.) He adapted Alpha sessions for the Internet using this format: The result of this first course, which was comprised of eight non-Christians and four Christians, was that one person came to faith, and another was brought very near.

Paul and the team have now moved on to other areas of ministry. Nevertheless, the concept has huge potential for touching inquirers.

Using the concept

While the Internet should never replace face-to-face witness, the use of the Alpha concept online should be seen as a method it its own right, rather than a replacement for a face-to-face Alpha-type course. It could be used by any evangelistic website. A local church could offer an online Alpha course to contacts made through their church website, or to others who for whatever reason would not wish or be able to attend an Alpha course or other type of inquirer’s meeting in person.

Be aware that although the Alpha organization permits minor variation in the way their own material is presented within the copyright rules, major changes should not be branded as an 'Alpha' course. If you follow the same concept but with different study material, you should probably call it something else.

The concept working

Dutch evangelical broacasters Evangelische Omroep have pioneered the Alpha concept in Dutch with great success: Wa@rom Jezus. It is hoped to translate the material into English.

Web outreach ministry Top Cretien also use a broadly similar online mentoring system for seekers and new believers who contact them through their outreach sites.

However, we are not aware of the Alpha concept being used or developed very widely, or in English, although we believe that it could have enormous potential. With a Web 2.0 integration of social networking and distance learning systems into a highly interactive format, there is potential here for web ministry for seekers which is not yet being used.

Similar projects

Other studies similar to Alpha include JesusWalk is a similar but broader online study concept in operation, aimed primarily at Christians but very much open for non-Christians to join. When you join, you can choose categories: 'Investigators and Inquirers', 'Christians' or 'New Christians'. This is an interactive email small-group Bible study. Why not join, and see how a group study can operate online? A new study is emailed every Saturday.
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