The Impact of Alpha in the Parish
Alpha is most effective in parishes that run it as part of an ongoing process of evangelisation – watch Father John Riccardo share the impact of running Alpha at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Plymouth, Michigan:
Parishes that run Alpha two or three times a year have found that it helps the parish to develop three essential missionary cultures for the long term:
Culture of Invitation and Hospitality
Alpha helps the parish to become an evangelising community. Those who have tried Alpha often want to share their experience with friends and invite them to the next course. The Alpha small groups model hospitality, which can permeate the entire life of the parish.
Culture of Encounter
Alpha helps the parish foster personal encounters and relationships with Jesus through the power and ministry of the Holy Spirit. Often this experience acts as an catalyst for people to grow as disciples. Through the simple model used on Alpha for prayer ministry, people learn how to pray for one another and it becomes a normal part of life in the parish. In addition they also begin to serve in other parish ministries.
Culture of Missionary Discipleship
Alpha engages lay people in the life and mission of the church. Often guests who have experienced Alpha go on to become effective and confident evangelisers as they share the impact that Jesus has had on their lives.
As part of this process of developing missionary disciples, Alpha enables a parish to establish a ‘leadership pipeline’. Some guests are invited to return to Alpha as helpers, then subsequently as hosts. This gives former guests the opportunity to engage in the mission of the church soon after experiencing Alpha.
Training is essential at each stage to help hosts and helpers grow in confidence. Eventually, they can run Alpha on behalf of the parish and in other contexts, such as with youth, students, and in prison. In order to keep the pipeline flowing, it is important that the Alpha team is continually refreshed by moving hosts and helpers to serve in other parish ministries after approximately 2–3 years. Alpha can then become a springboard to serve the wider mission of the church.