Workplace Online Alpha
The journey of a local authority and a government agency in NW England who have been jointly running online Alpha during spring / summer 2021.
Scroll to the bottom to join the story at the beginning ...
Alpha report - final session: How do I make the most of the rest of my life?
Three members attended our final session and one had to leave early. The two members present reflected on the journey that they'd been on through attending Alpha:
- At the start of the course, I was really sceptical about faith. As the course has gone on I have explored the evidence around the bible, and I have had more questions. My head has been spinning after every session but in a good way. I have started praying regularly and have just bought my first bible. Since the Holy Spirit session I have felt calmer and an inner peace.
- Through the course I have felt part of a community, and we have all contributed to each other's growth. Since attending the course I have felt a stronger sense of calling in my job and feel that God has a purpose over my life, and I feel I have renewed energy.
When asked whether they now considered themselves to be Christians and had given their lives to God, both guests said YES! 'Definitely' and 'Absolutely' were the actual words, and they are both excited to continue their journey with God. This is a huge encouragement for us as the Alpha team, and we are so excited that God has used our group to bring people to know him.
Another guest who was not able to be there also wants to get involved in a local church and I would say has come to faith for the first time.
Please pray for our guests as they continue their journey, that they will find a church community which is able to disciple them in their new faith. And pray for us as we support our guests in whatever ways we can after the Alpha course.
And lastly… a huge thank you to our amazing prayer team for being with us since the beginning of this journey, and backing us week after week. We have seen so many answers to prayer and I have no doubt that God has been working though this group. Amen!
Alpha report - Week 11: What about the church?
We looked at how the church can support our guests in continuing on their journey after Alpha finishes next week.
One guest was already attending a church but had dropped off through COVID, so is considering returning. Our other two guests had not been to church but felt that they would both really benefit from going, and we’re seeking that sense of belonging and community.
Please pray that our guests follow through with their intention as they seemed so keen to carry on and get involved with a church. Also pray for wisdom for us as we give practical support to our guests on finding a church.
Alpha report - Week 10: Does God heal today?
At today’s session we looked at whether we truly believe that God heals.
We checked in with our guests after the Holy Spirit session last week ... we asked how their weeks were and if anything changed.
One said: ‘I can’t quite describe it, but I’ve felt more of a sense of inner calm and peace this week’
Another said even though she has a lot going on personally at the moment, she has felt more inner peace this week and closer to God, and is praying more.
We thank God that he is already healing people’s hearts and he is filling them with his peace through the Holy Spirit.
After that we had a time of prayer, and asked for specific requests for healing … let’s continue to pray for healing and salvation.
The following day, one of our course leaders had a one to one online prayer follow up with a guest/colleague who attended both the Holy Spirit and healing talks but had to leave early. It was a powerful time where God gave him a specific word for healing / wholeness. The guest said afterwards it had hugely exceeded her expectations. God had brought both healing and overwhelming peace and in a follow up email she said she was still just soaking in his presence!
Thank you Lord, more power!
Alpha report - extended session on Holy Spirit
Well what a session tonight was! We started by watching a video, followed by a seamless discussion exploring the gifts of the Spirit, and explaining how the Holy Spirit works within people. We shared some worship, had another video which finished with Nicky Gumbel inviting people to ask the Holy Spirit into their lives.
The Holy Spirit was definitely there as we spent time in prayer together. Asking for the presence of God and soaking in his presence, there were visions shared and pictures followed by each person getting prayed for in breakout rooms one to one.
Our guests really enjoyed the session and here are some of the comments and feedback:
‘I feel God telling me to let go’
‘I felt very peaceful, it’s nice to have the headspace to fill it with God’
‘I want God’s peace’.
Although we offered the opportunity to say the prayer of salvation, none of our guests outwardly said it. Please pray for our guests’ journeys, we still feel they haven’t ‘fully arrived’ although we trust that God will bring his work to completion.
Alpha report – Week 9: Why and how should I tell others?
Great session! 6 to start off with, and another joined after the video.
In discussing with guests whether they had told anyone if they were doing Alpha, some said they had shared this with partners. One lady said the course was important as it was something she had chosen to do.
In terms of what attracted people to consider faith, there was a recurring theme that guests were impressed by people whose faith is clearly authentic and also when they saw faith in people they have respect for. However there was a limited amount guests could personally recount about sharing faith with others as most in our group haven't quite reached the point of committing to a personal faith
Amazingly when discussing the longer session on the Holy Spirit, all were willing and free to meet on Thursday, 1st July, 4- 6.30pm.
Please pray as we firm up plans for this.
This is a mega answer to prayer, also numbers of people attending today. Still feel God is very much at work in people's lives ... Praise the Lord!
Alpha report – Week 8: How can I resist evil?
Four guests today. A few technical glitches with the sound and various logistical issues with members of our team being tied up in meetings ... perhaps not surprising on the week where we are addressing how to resist evil and the temptations of the devil!
We had a great discussion with guests feeling comfortable to share where they are on their faith journey. One guest said she had felt a ‘renewing’ over the last few weeks of attending Alpha and church, another guest (not openly Christian) said she had always felt on rocky ground, and had recently felt more solid and on a smoother path. One guest also said she had started praying.
When talking about the video, guests mainly focussed on how they resist evil by looking at their own moral compass, not necessarily looking to God for confidence.
Please pray ...
- for our guests that they continue to move away from the more moralistic view and towards trusting God and prayer when navigating against temptation
- for us to be able to find a time which will suit all those who are interested to hold the longer session on the Holy Spirit.
Alpha report - Week 7: How does God guide us?
This week we were down to four guests for the first of our six additional sessions, the first one titled 'How does God guide us?'.
Many of the group were again moved by watching the video. They were challenged by the idea of God having a plan for their lives, one person commenting 'he must be very busy if he has a unique plan for everyone's life!'.
Another offered a more profound reflection on suffering saying 'sometimes we go through certain things so that we are able to build character and empathise more with people who have experienced similar'.
We looked at God's plan for our own lives, and how he guides us. When asked the question 'Do you think that God has been guiding you in the last few weeks (having been attending Alpha)?', one person said they had begun praying regularly and that 'they weren't fully Christian but getting there'.
Another guest said how he had been aware of his own gift for DIY, and had noticed increased opportunities to use these skills to help others.
Things to pray for:
- That guests continue to reflect on Gods own plan for their life, and begin to realise how God is speaking to them.
- That guests who couldn’t make it this week will still benefit and come back next week.
- That we would be able to confirm a date for the sessions on the Holy Spirit - response has been low so far. This is a vital part of the course where people encounter God personally and get filled with the Holy Spirit.
Alpha report : Catch up session
This week we decided to have a slightly more informal 'catch-up' style session before beginning the additional six sessions next week. We offered it as a chance for guests to reflect on their original reasons for coming to Alpha, and whether anything had changed. We had 4 guests so we stayed as one group.
General feedback from the group was positive, one member even described Alpha as 'an oasis' during the working week where they could get together with like-minded individuals to question aspects of life they wouldn't usually consider. One person said how although she was raised as a Christian, Alpha really made her question aspects of her faith, and she has even more questions which she wants to work through.
We continue to pray for our guests who couldn’t make the session today, that they would return to the additional sessions next week.
And we long for our guests to know and encounter God for themselves, and to realise their need for a living relationship with God which goes beyond an intellectual understanding of Christianity and the bible.
The team needs wisdom as we plan our further sessions, including the longer session on the Holy Spirit, and how this will work best logistically given holiday commitments.
Alpha report – Week 6: Why and how should I read the Bible?
We had a few apologies, a couple who arrived late, two who returned after missing a couple of weeks ... 9 guests there at the end of the session.
Good discussion in all 3 groups, many saying they hadn't read the Bible for a long time. One guest said 'I would like to get into the habit of reading the Bible every day'!
One lady who is off this week messaged this morning to say
'have lots going on so been doing lots of praying' !
Next week we will meet as one large group to discuss how our guests are getting on and most have said they would like to sign up for further sessions.
We have much to be grateful for and we would appreciate prayer that there would be even greater breakthrough in people's lives.
Alpha report – Week 5: Why and how do I pray?
This week we looked into prayer and how God answers our prayers. We were wowed by how willing people are to be open and vulnerable. Most guests reported they do pray, even if they don't always know 'who' they are praying to. Some said they pray but not specifically to God.
We continue to be in awe of everything God is doing, and thankful that people seem hungry to know more. One lady said she had three separate meeting requests for the same time that Alpha was on but was determined to join us!
Towards the end of the session, we offered guests the opportunity to pray. It was amazing to see many guests praying within the group, and others said they prayed silently. Some reported they felt moved by doing this.
We have been delighted that a number of our guests have already said they would like to sign up for more sessions.
After our group, one guest messaged:
" ... would definitely be interested in further sessions- carrying on"
Immediately another posted:
"It is a lovely group - I agree!"
Followed by another ...
"Ditto! Count me in please”.
God definitely at work! We pray he overwhelms each guest with his love and that the Holy Spirit falls on them in unique and unexpected ways.
Alpha report – Week 4: How can I have faith?
This was a disappointing session at one level with numbers down from 15 to 9. There were good reasons why some couldn’t be there – one was going on maternity and another was visiting a remote site.
However, there was a glitch in setting up our online meeting which meant two or three of our guests may not have received the invitation.
Sadly no-one turned up at all in one of our three groups. One member did manage to get the invitation late on and joined towards the end of the video. As the only guest in that group, the hosts were able to spend time with her and got to know her much better. I am reminded that “our disappointments are God’s appointments”.
Two hosts in other groups shared their stories of coming to faith and there were some open and honest conversations.
One lady said ‘If there’s anything there I want a bit of it .. is this my time?’. To the question ‘How do you feel about placing your trust in God?’ another guest responded ‘I’d like to, but not 100% there yet’.
We continue to thank God for all he is doing, even if some of it doesn’t make sense to us right now!
Alpha report – Week 3: Why did Jesus die?
After a drop last week, our numbers went UP this week (from 13 to 15)! The tech went well with no glitches despite internet issues for a number of people in the morning.
Many responded positively to the powerful video and there was much good discussion in each of our groups.
Some found it hard to understand how really awful things could be forgiven like the guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp. They were moved by the story of the violent man, Shane, whose life had been turned round completely.
One lady said ‘I feel I’m getting to the crossroads, I’m almost there’. Another said she found the video ‘quite compelling’. Someone said she had a sense of relief to know God can forgive if she can’t. One guy commented that it was attractive to know if someone had made a mess, it could be wiped out.
Some guests engaged more with their head than their heart. We long for everyone to sense God helping them understand what Jesus’ death can mean for them personally.
One of our leaders reflected: “Our prayers were really answered today – the internet of one of our leaders was really struggling all morning and we had global issues with Microsoft Teams, then after praying before our Alpha online call, the internet suddenly sped up and was amazingly smooth”.
We break for a week for the local elections and meet again on 13 May.
Alpha update – Week 2: Who is Jesus?
Even though we say to potential Alpha guests – ‘Just come along to the first session as a taster’, it is disappointing when numbers drop off after Week 1. We so much want people to stay with the course!
The Week 2 topic was ‘Who is Jesus?’ Our numbers dropped from 19 to 13. A couple of apologies and a few no shows, but we still had some great discussion.
This is what our hosts (group leaders) fed back :
– there was a real safe space in our groups for people to share different opinions to the videos. One lady said she felt enthused by the evidence in the video and was going away with questions and to do more reading.
– in one group there were the following reflective comments: “There’s no middle ground (in terms of who Jesus is) – I don’t know what that means for me”; “There is evidence .. I’ll have to think about it” and “I’m open to persuasion”.
– another group had some very brave personal sharing about who they thought Jesus is, and in answer to the question ‘if you met Jesus what would you do/ say to him?’ , one lady said she would give him the biggest hug and say thank you!
Lots of thoughtful responses to encourage us to keep asking God to do his work.
Alpha update– Week 1: Is there more to life than this?
25 guests had signed up for our online Alpha course and 19 turned up to our first session run on ‘Teams’. There was a good atmosphere and people seemed relaxed.
The opening topic was ‘Is there more to life than this?’ We watched a 20 minute video as one large group, then divided into our 3 breakout rooms where we introduced ourselves. We found out how and why guests had come on the course, and asked guests to answer this question: “If it turned out there was a God after all, and you could ask one question, what would it be?”
People opened up quickly about big issues of life and faith in our group. Our co-leader commented …. “it was really interesting to hear different reasons for people coming on alpha, other than the obvious ‘because I was invited’ (which of course highlights the importance of personal invitation) … it surprised me how many people reflected on the past year and how it has made them question more about their wider purpose in life.”
One lady commented how life rushed past so quickly – she couldn’t believe she had got to her age without asking some of life’s big questions.
One of our team received this feedback from someone she had invited:
“It was good. A little scary at first but certainly thought provoking and I am in a really friendly and mixed group, so I will be aiming to stick with it”.
Workmen who had been sawing bricks across the road from one of our leaders just before the start and were causing a deafening noise downed tools for the entire period.
God was truly with us. Next week’s topic – ‘Who is Jesus?’
Today’s the day!
25 people have signed up for online Alpha – a joint initiative of a local authority and a government agency in NW England.
We’ve sensed God’s hand on this since we prayed in our Christian group meeting some 2-3 months back… ‘God, please give us the resources in our group to run online Alpha’. The discussion about the technical challenges continued in the group chat after that meeting. A new member of the group who hadn’t yet been able to make our meetings joined up the chat: ‘What’s the issue and I will help you find a solution’. She happened to be our senior ICT manager!
Our Chief Executive has supported us in his weekly blog. And we’ve been able to post a testimony of someone’s experience of doing Alpha, on yammer (facebook for organisations).
Running Alpha online has enabled us to invite lots of colleagues by email. Some lovely if negative replies. ‘Thanks for getting in touch but Alpha is not for me right now’.
And some surprising yes’s. ‘I put myself down as a Christian on the census, having thought long and hard about it, so maybe deep down I am looking to rekindle my faith and you may have helped fan the flames’.
As we start our course today, we are fervently praying our guests will show up, that they will click that button ‘Join now’.