This is a personal development course with an unashamed religious slant. It is an opportunity for anyone to explore the Christian faith in a relaxed setting over ten thought-provoking weekly sessions, with a day or weekend away. It is designed primarily for people who aren't churchgoers and each course is open to everyone who would like to attend.
People go for a wide variety of reasons - some want to investigate whether God exists; others are concerned about what happens after death. Some people have particular questions that they would like to discuss; others want to understand other peoples' beliefs or would like to explore what the purpose of life is. Many guests have never been to church, others may have attended church occasionally but feel they have never really understood the basics of the Christian faith.
The course is based around small groups of about 12 people, hosted by one or two leaders whose role is to facilitate and encourage discussion.
Courses vary in size, from one small group meeting in a home, to hundreds of people in a larger venue. Some courses are held over morning coffee or during a lunch hour, most are evening courses, typically lasting 2 hours. Whatever the course size, people tend to remain in the same small groups for the duration of the course so they can get to know each other, continue discussions and deepen friendships.
The whole course usually lasts for 10 weeks, with a day or weekend away in the middle.
Each session begins with a meal or refreshments - a chance to get to know others in the small group. There is then a short talk, which looks at a different aspect of the Christian faith each week. This is followed by a time of discussion in the small groups, where everyone is welcome to contribute their opinion, ask questions and discuss with the rest of the group.
The emphasis is upon exploration and discovery in a relaxed and informal environment. There is no charge for attending the Alpha course, although courses may ask for a contribution towards the food.
The Alpha course runs in 163 countries. Information available at www.alpha.org.