23 Nov 2013 by Adeline Lum CM-
“Can ALPHA really work?” That appeared to be a fundamental question asked by the pastors at the Q&A panel session of the 3rd annual ALPHA Workplace Conference in Penang.
Dr Philip Lyn, Dato Dennis Ignatius, Dr Dion Forster and Rev Elisha Satvinder were the speakers for this session, sharing their experiences of running the ALPHA Workplace course.
Here are 7 things you need to make ALPHA Workplace a success:
Because ALPHA course can be played on your laptop, tablet, or mobile phone, it can be held anywhere as long as you can find a place to assemble and engage.
For example, Dr Dion shared how a group would meet at the airport to watch the ALPHA course video while waiting to fly off, while another group would carpool and watch the video in the car during the after-work heavy traffic hours.
Dato Dennis was consistent in meeting up with his colleagues although they were too busy to commit meeting weekly due to traveling. Being flexible to their timing, he would open his house to his colleagues and cook a wonderful meal for them every session. After a few sessions, a friendship is developed and everyone made time for each other to meet.
Rev Nicky Gumbel, the person who structured ALPHA to be friendly for pre-believers, was not exempted from discouragement in holding one as well. Foo Ai Siang, Development Manager of ALPHA Malaysia, shared that after a few weeks, the participants dwindled down to only one participant. Nevertheless, he continued meeting with this one participant for the next three months. In the end, the participant accepted Christ, bringing and leading many other’s who championed the course.
If you are consistent and loyal in doing the ALPHA Workplace course, God who is faithful will surely reward you for your efforts.
Without the groundwork of relationship, Ps Philip shared that people are unlikely to return after their first visit.
Dato Dennis also shared how spending time to explain to the participants are important in laying the groundwork. In the ALPHA course, he would spend hours talking to individuals who to his surprise changed their whole view about Christianity at the end of the course.
However, Dato Dennis wished that he had persuaded his participants who completed ALPHA to invite their friends. Because he did not see the importance of continuity, the ALPHA course at his workplace died off without any new start-ups for close to five years.
The content of the ALPHA courses are the same, although its execution is different depending on the audience.
For example, Rev Elisha shared that holding an ALPHA course with the elderly requires a slow and steady pace in working with issues of integrity. Also, Rev Elisha focused on building friendships with the elderly at homes first, instead of immediately inviting them to a church. In other words, contextualize the ALPHA course to suit the needs of your specific audience.
Dr Dion also shared how people of different positions in a company may also come to the same ALPHA workplace course. Hence, he had a few teams for different positions of people.
Before holding the ALPHA Workplace course, Dr Dion would inform his participants that this course is a neutral space; hence, all work and responsibilities would be set aside. Also, a table leader will be voted whereby he or she would visit any absent attendees and keep them informed with the missed session by giving a DVD. Hence, a sense of community is built in the ALPHA group.
Dr Dion shared how bringing people together over lunch hour can be challenging. Teaching at the University of Stellenbosch, Dion found more time with his colleagues to do the ALPHA course by putting two lunch hours in one day, and no lunch hour the next day. Ps Philip added that some of us might need to be creative in finding the place to run the ALPHA Workplace course as well, if unpermitted by our companies.
Dr Dion later shared that food is essential in the ALPHA Workplace course because people love food. And finding food can be tricky and requires creativity. Sometimes, he would ask people to bring their own snacks or buy their own lunches, while he would provide them coffee or tea.
Ps Philip shared that one must take ownership of the ALPHA course they started, especially for pastors. He believed that if pastors do not drive the course, it would not work. Although running ALPHA course appears risky, if you believe in the course and intentionally champion it, you will see the harvest. Championing involves the process of integrating it into your DNA, so much so that you would even mention it in your sermon to congratulate the success of ALPHA. Although there are 10 percent non-starts in his church, the rest of the ALPHA courses were successful, whereby an ALPHA course for the blue-collared store men was ran.
Rev Elisha also reassured pastors that training workshops are held in several locations to train church members who are interested to run the ALPHA Workplace course.
Although the presence of a pastor in the ALPHA group may be intimidating, pastors can visit the group by not identifying oneself as a pastor. Ps Philip shared how he would identify himself as a doctor instead. However, Dr Dion shared that the one place pastors are welcomed is the ‘Holy Spirit’ day or the ‘Weekend/Day-Away’ day. People are more receptive because they believe that pastors have a special anointing. Furthermore, Dr Dion shared pastors already have many responsibilities on their plate to take on another responsibility.
Hence, church members are the ones who should take ownership in running the ALPHA Workplace course at their workplace. And pastors play a vital role in persuading their church members, praying for them, and encouraging them to share the gospel on the ALPHA platform at work. For quality-control purposes, Dr Dion shared how he would ascertain that the facilitator understands the content of the ALPHA brief manual and he or she is spiritually healthy.
#7 Share without being pushy
Dr Dion shared how testimonies are exceptionally powerful in reaching out to people. In Cape Town, he would work with churches, prisons, and youth groups to gather thousands of people at one place to listen to testimonies by a few people.
Ps Philip also shared on inviting people based on practicality. As Asians are very practical people, suggesting having a free lunch over a discussion is quite doable. Also, allow your participants to share his or her view, while facilitating the discussion.
Dato Dennis further advised that instead of inviting people to church immediately, listen to their heart for hidden pain, anger, hurt, or unanswered questions they have about life. We need to connect with them on an emotional level, so that we can have an authentic kind of friendship. Rev Elisha added that if we look at the people as merely numbers, they would be able to feel that. Hence, authenticity in a friendship is key.
The pastors left that day envisioned and emboldened that they can and should lead and partner with their working believers in reaching out and that the ALPHA Workplace tool is a viable and effective tool that has worked.