What an incredible year it’s been for Alpha.

At the start of 2020, Alpha online didn’t exist. In fact, it wasn’t even something we were developing. Even in early March, we could see a short lockdown coming, but thought we’d help churches finish current courses online and go back to in-person delivery by the summer. How wrong I was!

Everything changed, from how we worked to what we communicated and how we delivered training. It was challenging and new, but we began to see a culture emerging of people who felt isolated, wanted to be seen, and needed a place to ask questions. They weren’t happy to simply consume content, they wanted to contribute to a discussion and this was reflected by the number of churches reporting increased attendance online. In just over a year, we saw almost 8000 courses run online with over 205,000 guests. 


As a team, we were rushed off our feet. We quickly prioritised learning from local churches then communicating their best practices nationally, creating training resources, and answering tens of thousands of questions.

"In just over a year, we saw almost 8000 courses run online with over 205,000 guests."

For me, the most exciting part of this process was working closely with a large number of local churches across the UK as they pioneered Alpha online. Although Alpha has had a rich heritage in our nations for decades, taking the course online felt like we were launching a new ministry and the best part was that we were all learning together. Suddenly no one was an expert, everyone was finding their way, and for many churches the thought of pioneering something new was really exciting.

After a year of learning from churches and observing cultural shifts, it’s clear that Alpha online is here to stay. It serves a purpose far beyond a response to lockdown restrictions, and provides a long-term strategy for local churches to engage their community, share Jesus, and breathe new life into invitational culture.

Where digital delivery for some ministries has created barriers, for Alpha it’s removed them. Church members are no longer bound by location when it comes to inviting people to Alpha, instead they can easily invite friends and family they’ve always wanted to share their faith with.

The most common response when Alpha leaders asked their guests why they chose to try Alpha online was, I never would have come in person.” This response tells us that, regardless of the pandemic, there were a whole load of people out there searching and seeking with nowhere they felt comfortable to explore. From feedback like this, we worked out that the three main barriers to attending Alpha in-person were:

  • family or work commitments;
  • transport or cost of travel; and
  • location.

Before March 2020, many Christians felt they’d already tried inviting everyone they knew and this meant there was a lull in course sign-ups or new commitments to faith. Similarly, many churches felt unable to run Alpha due to time and cost commitments or worries about venue. By shifting Alpha online, however, we’ve not only become aware of a completely untapped audience, but the physical barriers have been removed so that churches are much more able to reach them. In so many areas of our church life, the virtual doors are swinging wide open for mission.

"By shifting Alpha online, however, we’ve not only become aware of a completely untapped audience, but the physical barriers have been removed so that churches are much more able to reach them."

The new normal that we’re emerging into is really exciting for the future of the church. I’m based in Liverpool, a city of over 800,000 people, and for the first time I believe it’s possible to reach everyone who lives here with the good news of Jesus. No longer is it just a desire or a dream but without having to worry about building capacity, this could become a reality!

So, over the next year, I want to join with church leaders across the UK in dreaming big for our nations. The whole UK Alpha team want to help you reach your towns and cities so that we can invite a nation to try Alpha and meet Jesus. We’re not passionate about delivering a course, but instead about seeing lives transformed and God’s church grow and flourish.

Finally, to all the leaders who pioneered Alpha online last year: a massive thank you” from all of us at Alpha! Because of the learning and feedback that you’ve shared with us, we’ve been able to resource other churches as they run Alpha, some for the first time, sharing the hope of Jesus with their communities in a season when it is most needed.