Thursday, 24 September 2015

Summer Camp Follow-Up

Maybe I'm late to the table on this, but it's a new idea to me.

We've been thinking a bit about summer bible camps recently. The subject has been on a number of our hearts; how to follow up with kids who attended a summer camp, perhaps referring them to a local Alpha to make sure they are properly spiritually cared for and/or discipled. I just had a great meeting with the executive director of a Bible here in Alberta. His heart is, what to do about kids as they leave camp - how to connect them with Youth Groups.
He told me of one kid who he picked up and delivered directly to a local church, but not every camp director can do that with every kid. It's also not practical to run a full Alpha Youth Film Series during one week at camp. So... how to integrate these kids into a group following camp?
A few possibilities:
  • Tell kids of local churches who are running Alpha and hope they contact them
  • Give parents the same info and hope they encourage their kids to do the same
  • Ask kids or parents permission to forward contact info to local churches so Youth pastors can contact and invite them.
In any of these scenarios, some kids are going to fall through the cracks, but here is what we're thinking as another possibility. What we plan to do for next year is run a Youth Alpha training for all his counsellors and cabin leaders before camp starts. It also might be a good idea to give kids a taste of Alpha while they're there; maybe run one session.

Then, at the end of camp season, each of his cabin leaders will run an Alpha in his/her own area (both campers and cabin leaders come from various locations in the surrounding area), so kids in those areas who already know them can attend. The relationship will already have been developed, so kids won't be walking through strange doors.
We still might still not capture everybody, but I think it's a genius idea, if I do say so myself.
Blessings,
John

Thank You For Your Prayers - The "Teepee" Church

Our Lady Of Seven Sorrows Catholic Church, Maskwacis Alberta
I was invited, on one day's notice, to make a presentation on Alpha to the board of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows Catholic on the Samson Cree First Nation reserve at Maskwacis, Alberta. I think it may have been a, "put your money where your mouth is" kind of moment, because I have been communicating for some time with Fr Nilo at Sacred Heart in Wetaskiwin about Alpha in that parish. Fr Nilo also oversees Maskwacis. Fr Nilo, by the way, is familiar with Alpha, and likes it, having taken a course at another Catholic parish a few years ago. I love Sacred Heart. They are a very active parish full of the Holy Spirit with a number of faith formation programs going on.

I called him, perhaps on a whim, perhaps on the prodding of the Holy Spirit, on Tuesday. After the usual pleasantries, he said, "Come to Our Lady of Seven Sorrows tomorrow night and make a presentation on Alpha to our board meeting."

Have you ever had a target you were striving for and, when you reach it, you say, "Wow, now what?" Well, I had achieved a sort of goal of, "breaking in" to this parish, but suddenly I felt overwhelmed and intimidated; totally unprepared on such short notice. Normally I can speak enthusiastically about Alpha at the drop of a hat, but this was different. This was for Catholics; a Catholic Church board, no less, and on one day's notice!

I did a couple of things: I prayed a prayer of thanks; I prayed a prayer for help; I called Amy, our Alpha Youth coach in Alberta, who had just been a part of a wonderful Alpha on another reserve in the area; I fired off emails to Josh, alpha's National Coordinator for Catholics, and Mark, our Alberta Catholic coach, Christ the King, Edmonton prayer chain and others at Alpha Canada. Then sat down and started working on a Power Point presentation.

Sister Anunciata gave me directions; "Come down Hwy 2A, turn right at the Fas Gas and look for the teepee church (see pic). Great directions. Found the place no problem.

I believe our presentation at went well. We were well received by the dozen or so board members there. Amy says she saw heads nodding during my presentation (I hope out of agreement, not boredom), and people were very interested in Amy's testimony about her recent Alpha for Youth experience on the Alexis Reserve. First Nations elders are very concerned with their youth.

Amy and I made our presentation in the first 15 - 20 minutes, then left, so I have calls in this morning to both Fr Nilo and Sr Anunciata to get their feedback. I am hoping there may be opportunities for courses in several parishes in several contexts from this meeting. (Parishes plus RCIA)
 
I await eagerly what fruit the Lord plans to bring from this opportunity. We will continue praying and hope you will too.
 
Blessings,
 
John
 
PS: just had an encouraging call from Fr Nilo. I will update as things develop.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Here We Are Again


Leaning on the Everlasting Question Mark


 Me and Mr Big Question again, at the Vanguard College (Edmonton) Ministry Fair, yesterday. This event is mostly for first-year students to investigate possibilities for placement opportunities to earn their field education credits.

Youth Coach Amy and I were there to 'raise awareness' (I hate that term; I sound like a supermarket checkout clerk) of Alpha, especially the Youth Film Series, as an opportunity for student interns to do just that, either solely by running an Alpha or by running one as part of an internship in a local church.
We were also there (at least I was, and I think it worked well for both of us), not only to meet the students, but to network with leaders and Youth Pastors of various local churches and ministries. We were joined by the Rev Jon Connell, who was hoping to find an intern for his own church.

I think the event was a great success for each of us. It was encouraging to see how many ministries who had tables there were either running Alpha's currently, who were familiar with Alpha or who were open to hearing how Alpha can be an effective tool in their own ministries. And that was just the other ministries present.

Many Students stopped by our table; some of whom had attended Alpha in their own churches or schools. Others, unfamiliar with Alpha, gave us the opportunity to promote it. We gave away lots of information and had lots of great conversations. And Jon, by the way, thinks he found his intern.

Just before the event opened (it lasted only over the lunch hour, from 12 to 1) I saw a young woman I thought I recognized. And I did. We had met at a Youth conference held at Centre Street Church in Calgary. She manned(?) a table for Vanguard while Amy, myself and Ben Woodman had an Alpha table there. She is involved in admissions at Vanguard and told me they are having their second-best year in their history, as far as enrolment is concerned. I find that extremely encouraging.

The Church is in good hands.

Blessings,

John


Token Old Guy?

Me and (Big Question) Mark
Amy Croy is our coach in Alberta for the Alpha Youth Film Series.  It is her passion to equip students to reach their friends with the good news of Jesus Christ. So she and Chet Kennedy of Beulah Alliance in Edmonton organized a gathering of Youth Pastors and workers at Beulah to network, strategize and hear about what's happening in that area in the Edmonton vicinity. It was about a week ago and for some reason it has taken me this long to finish this post.

One of the key aims is to see Alpha run in as many schools as possible. The ultimate dream is that every student in Alberta would have the opportunity to hear the gospel, to learn about the Christian faith and to have a safe place to discuss their big questions.

I love attending these youth events. It gives me great encouragement to see our Church in the hands of these dedicated workers and to hear of the wonderful things happening in this next generation. I believe the Alpha Youth Film Series is having a major impact on the youth of not only Canada, but increasingly around the world.

I am going to do another post right now on another event that both of us in the above picture attended yesterday, so scroll up or click the link.

Blessings,

John



Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Do It Again (Beach Boys Evangelism)



OK, so the context isn't quite right. But my point is that Alpha is most effective when it is run multiple times, one season following another.

For one thing, in my own Alpha's, and many others I know, guests reach the final evening of a course and don't want to stop getting together. And then again, finishing one Alpha is the perfect time for guests who have had a meaningful spiritual experience to begin looking forward to who they can invite to the next one.

It's also the ideal time ask potential leaders from your course just finished to serve on team for the next one.

Several times I have spoken to church leaders or Alpha coordinators who have wonderful reports on what happened on their Alpha, but for some reason felt that was it and there was no reason to run it again. Just this past week one Alpha coordinator was telling me how wonderful their Alpha was - they had at least 3 baptisms among the guests. I asked, "Are you running Alpha again this fall?"

He said, "No." I thought, "What?!" I didn't say anything, but graciously suggested that the perfect thing to do was to run another Alpha so that those who were baptized could invite their friends, or take advantage of their enthusiasm to encourage other church members to invite friends of their own.

Yes, each Alpha can work wonderfully on its own as a single event, but how much more effective it is when run as a continuous program.

Blessings, (and di di dip..., di di dip..., dip di di di dip)

John