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Lockdown Stories: Online Alpha and the power of invitation

Catalyst Vineyard Church

We chatted to Brenda from Catalyst Vineyard Church in Scotland to find out how Online Alpha has been going.

“We have been doing Online Alpha at Catalyst Vineyard for the past three weeks and it has been incredible. We’ve been totally blown away by the way God is working through this course at this time. Sixty guests are signed up, their ages ranging from 16-70. The power of invitation from friends and family has increased as there are no geographical barriers with this Online Alpha. Seven of our guests are based outside our area – from South Africa, to Norway to Devon! 

Roughly half them either rarely or never attend church, and a few of them are strong atheists.

Most guests have never done Alpha before. Guests go to our online platform to watch the Alpha Episode then we give them a five-minute comfort break before they join one of our nine small groups on Zoom. Each of these includes two hosts and anything from two to eight guests. All the hosts were asked to invite their group on the first night to be part of WhatsApp for their small group, and every guest said yes. One small group had 98 messages in it straight after it was set up!

The level and depth of conversation has been incredible, from straight after the first talk, titled, ‘Is there more to life than this?’. The group hosts have fed back that people are searching, asking really deep questions and engaging in a level they have not seen on Alpha before. The guests are sharing incredibly honestly and vulnerably. 

We started Online Alpha with the group discussion lasting 30 minutes, however, we soon found that the groups need longer! The second week we increased it to 35, but it was still not enough, and so last week we increased it to 40 mins. This speaks volume for the level of engagement from the guests. 

We feel the physical barrier of coming to Alpha has been removed as many of our guests have said they would not have gone to a normal Alpha. We are starting our next course next week so people don’t have to wait too long for another course. We’re excited to see who signs up!”

How do we run Online Alpha?

Brenda Robertson shares the logistics behind what Catalyst have been doing below.

  • We are using a two platform method – guests go to our online platform to watch the Alpha Episode then we give them a five-minute comfort break before they join a Zoom meeting.
  • One person welcomes guests, while another person sorts out the Zoom breakout rooms.
  • Guests are then invited to join their small groups, with the same hosts every week.
  • Guests could continue to sign up and join up until week three. 
  • Alpha is mentioned every week on our online Church at Home service when there the opportunity is given to give your life to Jesus as a next step.
  • Communication outside the evening is key (which is not the way Alpha usually operates). Each week the guests receive 2 emails:
  • On a Tuesday with the guest guide attached and a link to a youtube worship song to listen to. We also include the links for the online platform and the Zoom meeting. That way they get everything they need for the Wednesday in one communication each week.
  • On a Thursday they get sent the Vimeo link so they can rewatch or catch up if they missed Wednesday night (many of the guests are rewatching the episodes)

Our plans for the Holy Spirit Weekend Away:

  • Friday – Guests get sent the Vimeo link for ‘Who the Holy Spirit’ to watch in the evening.  Group hosts will use their Whatsapp group to chat on the Friday night and encourage their guests to watch the episode.
  • Saturday – Saturday Night Box Set Alpha.  Using the Online platform at 8pm ‘What does the Holy Spirit do’ then onto Zoom for small group discussion. Back to the online platform for ‘How can I be filled with the Holy Spirit?’ Then back on to Zoom for Ministry time then into small groups. Invite to ‘Church at Home’ on Sunday
  • Sunday – ‘Church at Home’.  Group hosts to chat on WhatsApp with their guests

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