This week we released a new podcast. You can watch it or listen to it here if you haven’t already done so. This is not unusual for us. We’ve been consistently producing the podcast every week for quite some time now. However, this week there were a few things that were new.
The first new thing was the topic. It was a brand new book. Unlocking Your Parish: Making Disciples, Raising Leaders with Alpha is the new book from Ron Huntley and Father James Mallon. It is an in-depth look into why Alpha was fundamental to the growth of Saint Benedict Parish and is filled with the wisdom and learnings that only come from real experience with the process.
The second new thing was the method. This was our very first Facebook Live broadcast for the podcast. Typically we are “live to tape” which means that all things being equal, what is recorded ends up being what is broadcast. However “live to tape” also gives you the opportunity to edit where necessary. This episode was broadcast live on Facebook. This meant that whatever happened on the episode was seen in real-time.
Now the reason for a live broadcast was to be able to engage directly with our audience. This process meant that people watching the broadcast could listen to what was being said and ask a question based on what they heard. We were graced to have so many listeners and so many questions that we weren’t able to answer all of them but it was wonderful to be able to hear the needs of our followers and respond directly to their concerns.
We also wanted to take an opportunity here to answer a few of the questions that were asked. There were so many incredible questions but these were some that we found particularly interesting to answer.
Why do we have to stay with our table groups? Why can’t we move around each week and meet new people?
It’s a great question. The answer lies in the concept of breadth versus the concept of depth. Alpha is about sharing our beliefs with one another. Sometimes, those are difficult conversations to have. Sometimes we want to share that we’ve fallen out of love with the church or that we’ve lost faith or that we doubt our faith or the institution.
In order to get comfortable enough with people to ask and answer very tough questions, you need that depth and that depth doesn’t come from moving around. It comes from stillness. It comes from sitting with someone. It comes from being with someone. As Alpha leads to Team and to Connect Groups and to more involvement with your parish you’ll meet those people and you’ll develop those relationships but if we don’t become comfortable asking why and truly listening to the answers, we will not reach that next stage.
How can people bring Alpha, Divine Renovation to a parish if the priest isn’t interested in it? Should they start on their own?
The fact is that the ideal situation to bring Alpha into your community is when leadership is leading. When leaders lead it is easier to accomplish difficult things. This is not to say that it is impossible to grow a community of faith under leadership that seems less than optimal. You can run Alpha in the home. You can form Connect Groups in your community. Inspired people can do many things when they come together.
But let’s bring it back to leadership. Often perception and misconception is where we are truly failing as leaders and as followers. Understanding the why behind a priest’s objection to a program such as Alpha can go a long way. What is their faith story? What are they afraid will happen if they don’t. What are they afraid will happen if they do? If we can have these conversations, which can be difficult on their own, then we can move forward.
Is it easier to run Alpha when you have the support of your priest? Yes. Is it possible without it? Absolutely.
Are there effective ways to encourage Alpha grads to reach out beyond the parish?
This speaks to the heart of what we encounter through the process of moving our parishes from maintenance to mission. What do we mean when we say “maintenance”? To maintain is to keep things as they are. This means keeping the same people in the same buildings at the same times. Some parishes are great at maintenance and this can be incredibly dangerous because when you become comfortable tending to the needs of the people that are within (and it is a huge job) you lose track of Jesus’ call for us to tend to the needs of those who are without.
When churches are missonal its parishioners see before them the opportunity to reach out and seek out those that they don’t see every Sunday. So how do you encourage Alpha grads to reach out beyond the parish? If you’re really doing Alpha properly, you won’t need to. If you really dig into the heart of Alpha you’ll have a hard time stopping Alpha participants from reaching out.
We also need to challenge the idea of “grads”. Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet. It’s the beginning and when we think of graduation we often think of the end. Having experienced Alpha leads us to the next step and the next step for those who’ve experienced the full richness of Alpha is evangelization.
Matthew 4:19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”
We hope you enjoy the book. If you haven’t ordered your copy yet you can do that here.
We know that Alpha can help you to bring your parish from maintenance to mission.