Sunday, July 12, 2009

Changing My Focus

After some reflection, I think I would like to narrow the target audience of my blog to Alpha practitioners (a.k.a. Alpha-holics) who are in leadership position. That is why I've changed the blog title to "Alpha Leadership." I also changed the blog template to reflect the changes in the scope of this blog. This is not the best template there is, but it will do for the moment to let you know that things have changed around here. I believe that the success or failure of Alpha in any context always depends on the type of leadership present. Having helped many churches and sat through more than 50 Alpha courses in various contexts (churches, workplaces & prisons), I am more and more convinced that Alpha succeeds when there is good leadership.

To me, Alpha is just a tool (a good tool I must add). But like any tool, the effective use of Alpha to achieve its goals of evangelism & societal transformation really depends on the user who wields the tool. As John Maxwell has repeatedly said: "Everything rises and falls with leadership." Of course, a bad workman will blame his tool. But no good workman does that. So, I would like to address the following leadership issues related to Alpha:

1. Theological: Many pastors & church leaders use Alpha without thinking through the theological foundation upon which Alpha stands. Many are stumbled by the emphasis on the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts. But the foundation of Alpha is the Kingdom of God. Once we appreciate Alpha's theological foundation, we will be able to see why Alpha does what it does.

2. Role of Senior Pastor: The most important leader for Alpha's long-term success in any local church is not the Alpha Course Leader but the Senior Pastor himself. If Alpha is to be fully integrated into the local church, the Senior Pastor must be the Alpha champion. Alpha cannot be just another "department" or "ministry" of the church. The Senior Pastor needs to be not only "behind" Alpha, but he needs to be seen as being "in front" of it, driving it. More about this important subject in later postings.

3. Alpha Core Team: The establishing of an Alpha core team is the key to Alpha's long-term sustainability in a church. Usually, after 6 runs of Alpha, a new core team will arise, comprising mostly Alpha graduates who have personally benefitted from the course. This is an exciting development. But I've also seen churches where the same leaders are always doing Alpha (usually elders of the church). They have not learned to make way for new blood. And these elders look tired and uninspiring.
4. Alpha Course: How the Course is implemented can greatly encourage or discourage the continued attendance of the guests. In particular, we will address the issues of a seeker-friendly context, using live or video talks and the small groups.

5. Weekend Away: The Weekend Away is the high-point of the Alpha course. That is when the guests experience God through His Spirit. However, like everything else in the Alpha Course, there is always a bad, good and better way to conduct this weekend away. You will hear of it in later postings.

6. Post-Alpha Strategies: Unfortunately, many pastors give this very little thought. They assume that the old wineskin which works so well for the old wine would be good enough for the new wine coming out of Alpha. Sadly, many churches have spilt the new wine because they are not prepared to change the old wineskin. We need to look at post-Alpha integration of Alpha converts to maximise Alpha's potential to help grow the church.

I will still report on Alpha training events & conferences but from the perspective of an Alpha leader, trainer & coach.

God bless.

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