ALPHA - CATHOLIC
Alpha is a parish tool for evangelisation based on hospitality, sharing and open conversation. The same Alpha content is run all over the world, by Christians of all traditions, and provides a common expression of proclamation, service and witness. Millions of people have experienced Alpha in over 100 countries and over 100 languages around the globe.
Alpha is a tool to introduce people to an initial proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ – the kerygma. As Pope Francis says, ‘Nothing is more solid, profound, secure, meaningful and wisdom-filled than that initial proclamation.’ (EG, 165).
“We cannot forget that evangelisation is first and foremost about preaching the Gospel to those who do not know Jesus Christ... Many of them are quietly seeking God, led by a yearning to see his face, even in countries of ancient Christian tradition. All of them have a right to receive the Gospel. Christians have the duty to proclaim the Gospel without excluding anyone.”
Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 15
Fr. John Riccardo offers a pastor's perspective and delight at the impact of Alpha on the DNA of his parish. Alpha strengthened the parish, raised up leaders, and started the process of growing missionary disciples.
We miss those who have left our parishes, especially our own family members. Jesus sends us out to reach the lost sheep, those who have never been part of God's family. Julie came home to her Catholic faith through a simple invitation to 'come and see.'
Alpha deepens the faith of faithful Catholics. Alpha is the tool, creating the place for us to invite others to 'come and see.
Alpha equips both clergy and laity to effectively proclaim Jesus. Focusing on the kerygma--the initial proclamation of the Good News--Alpha introduces folks to an encounter with Jesus.
Alpha is offered by thousands of parishes around the world, endorsed by Catholic Bishops and Cardinals, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
See and hear the stories of people who have experienced the impact of Alpha first-hand in their parish.
How it works
Alpha is a series of sessions exploring the Christian faith, usually run over eleven weeks by lay leaders on behalf of the parish. Each talk looks at a different question around faith and is designed to create conversation. No two Alphas look the same, but generally they have three key things in common: food, a talk and good conversation
Whether it’s a group of friends gathered around a kitchen table, or a quick catch-up over coffee and cake, food has a way of bringing people together. It’s no different at Alpha. Most sessions start with food, because it’s a great way to build community and get to know each other.
The talks are designed to engage guests and inspire conversation. Usually around thirty minutes long, they can be given as a live talk or played as a video, all for free. They explore the big issues around faith and unpack the basics of Christianity, addressing questions such as Who is Jesus? and How can I have faith?
Probably the most important part of any Alpha: the chance to share thoughts and ideas on the topic, and simply discuss it in a small group. There’s no obligation to say anything and there’s nothing you can’t say (seriously). It’s an opportunity to hear from others and contribute your own perspective in an honest, friendly and open environment.
What to do after Alpha
Discipleship and Formation
Once a guest has finished Alpha, they are likely to want to continue their journey as a follower of Jesus. Increasingly, parishes are finding that they need to adapt the way they think about mission and formation to help people grow as disciples after Alpha.
Process – The single most important thing a parish can do is move from a programme-based model of mission to a process-based model. Creating and normalising a culture of lifelong evangelisation and disciple formation at the heart of the parish's mission is vital if the post-Alpha journey is to be effective and long lasting. The process is more important than the programme!
Relationships – Many parishes find that in the post-modern cultural context it is more important for people to build strong relationships within the parish than to be launched into extensive content-based formation immediately after Alpha.
One way of doing this is to invite former guests to return as part of the team running Alpha. In the longer-term, introducing small to mid-sized groups (15–25 people) that meet during the week, either at the parish or in a home, can help build parish community. They are key to helping people continue to grow after Alpha, get connected to the life of the church, and be equipped for other ministries in the parish. These groups work best when they retain the main ingredients of Alpha, such as, worship, food, friendship, teaching, discussion and prayer. They are a unique place for people to build friendships within the parish and grow spiritually, especially for those who are not yet involved in parish ministries or activities.
Content – As well as the more informal small to mid-size groups groups, at certain points in the year, for example during Lent and Advent, parishes may offer content driven catechesis where people can learn more about the Christian faith. These can be Bible studies, explorations of the Catechism and papal documents, season themed courses, or other catechetical studies. There are some great resources available to help with this part of the process, such as:
CaFE (Catholic Faith Exploration) have developed a range of resources on faith formation, Sacraments and youth ministry.
Catholic Christian Outreach resources is a discipleship resource for college students.
Chosen is a resource for young people to continue their journey through Confirmation and of faith formation.
Focus is a discipleship resource for young adults (20s–30s).
Formed offers a variety of studies, resources, movies and e-books by the Augustine Institute.
Great Adventure - Bible Timeline is a study program designed to help Catholics grow in confidence in reading and understanding the Bible and how it applies to their daily lives.
Walking with Purpose is a Catholic Bible study program for women that link everyday challenges and struggles with the solutions given through the teachings of Christ and the Catholic Church.
YDisciple is a discipleship programme for teenagers offered by the Augustine Institute.
Create a Game Plan for Your Parish
Developing a plan for evangelisation and discipleship is essential for parishes to grow and be healthy. Forming missionary disciples will not happen unless there is an intentional process in place.
Each parish’s plan for evangelization and discipleship will vary depending on the size, location and financial situation of the parish.
A good example of this kind of planning is the ‘game plan’ which Father James Mallon describes in his book Divine Renovation.
This plan is not linear and but more like a recipe with seven key ingredients that overlap at various points.