No doubt most are aware of the concerns currently surrounding Coronavirus (COVID-19). As some areas of the world are moving towards strict measures to control the outbreak, we want to provide churches with information in the case that any are not able to run Alpha in person.
First Things First
We are praying intensively for the end of this outbreak. We are praying for our leaders to make wise, swift decisions. We are praying for total protection to those most vulnerable. And we are praying that people come to experience that God is not a God of fear but a God of peace.
2 Timothy 1:7 “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
Alpha Online with Zoom
In addition to adhering to locally recommended health practices, we also want all our Alpha Courses run online to be safe places where church communities can host a series of interactive sessions allowing guests to explore their questions about life, faith and God in a welcoming, judgement-free and safe environment. Please see some of our recommendations:
Alpha and Alpha for Youth are committed to taking all necessary steps to ensure our ministry is Online/E-Safety aware and competent. Please see more information here.
E-safety & Security
If you are running Alpha or Alpha Youth online, please take all the necessary steps to ensure you as the church or ministry are Online/E-Safety aware and competent.
Protection of Vulnerable Peoples
E-Safety is the collective term for safeguarding (protecting vulnerable individuals) involving the use of mobile phones, computers (including laptops, netbooks, tablets) and other electronic devices including games consoles, to communicate and access the internet, emails, text messages, instant messaging, social networking sites and other social media.
Maintain a Safe Environment
It is important all churches, administrators, hosts, and helpers are diligent in keeping a safe online environment. For a full list of Do’s, Don’ts, and more information on this topic, please click here.
If churches are not able to physically run an Alpha course, we recommend moving Alpha online! We firmly believe that as churches innovate in these unforeseen circumstances, God can reach an even greater number of people
1. Find an Online Solution
There are many great solutions online that will allow churches to play a video and have a discussion time. Some services we recommend are Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Skype.
2. Decide on the Format
Option 1: Have all participants dial in to one web conference to watch the video/talk. After the video/talk is finished, break out into individual groups. *Please note that not all web conferencing services allows for this. Zoom does have this capability. We recommend only using this model if the total number of Alpha participants is under 75. Assigning everyone to the correct break out groups can get a bit tricky with a large number of people.
Option 2: Provide the weekly video to all hosts and have each group join into their own web conference. We recommend using this model if the total number of Alpha participants is over 75.
3. Alpha Weekend Away
If able to meet in smaller groups, consider having an in-person day or weekend away. Churches have found that by this point, guests really wanted to meet in person and were very open to a non-digital format.
If doing an online weekend away, we recommend:
1. Watch all three videos in one day
2. Include live or pre-recorded testimonies to create an authentic and personal environment
3. Make sure to add fun elements into the day! Surveys, games, humorous videos. The day should feel varied and not lag.
4. Prayer Ministry
We recommend each host feels out their group when it comes to prayer ministry:
1. Break out into smaller groups and pray for each other
2. Breakout one-on-one and pray individually
3. Invite guests to request prayer from the group host via chat or email. The group host can then reach out individually to the guests to setup time for a quick prayer.
We reached out to churches already running Alpha online to get their tips.
Even though groups are meeting online, churches can still put a strong emphasis on hospitality.
– Heavier Email Communication: Send weekly emails re-capping last week’s talk/discussion and ask guests to share their thoughts via email. Make sure to check-in if someone missed a night.
– Session Engagement: Make sure either the course host or group host is engaging right from the beginning of the online session – saying hello to people, asking questions, telling jokes. Avoid the silent downtime to keep excitement and enthusiasm high.
– Chat functionality: Encourage hosts, helpers, and guests to utilize the chat functionality to comment and ask questions during the video as well as during discussion time when others are talking.
Make sure the hosts have all video files, discussion questions, and access to the digital solution the church has chosen. Churches have found that guests tend to get more vulnerable and more quickly online than in person. Prep your hosts so they can expect this.
Ensure Quality Discussion
– Ask all guests to be on video
– Ask all guests to join in a quiet environment if possible
– Ask all guests to unmute during discussion. (Unless in a noisy setting). This allows for a more organic, free-flowing conversation.
– Ask guests to not use green screen backgrounds to create a more natural environment.
– Internet Connection: If you are hosting Alpha Online, make sure you have a strong internet connection. If possible, plug directly into an ethernet cable.
– Short and Sweet: Churches have found that in an online format, people start to lose interest at around the one-hour mark. We recommend keeping the full session to 1 hour- 1 hour 15 minutes.