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.
You can read more about the ‘game plan’ and how Saint Benedict Parish in Canada include Alpha as part of a wider discipleship and evangelisation process.