For one it started out at youth group, for the other it was vintage clothing.
Annie and Milly, both youth, have decidedly different reasons for taking part in Alpha, but when hearing their stories one thing becomes clear – these two girls have taken Alpha completely in their stride and are now aiming above and beyond simply being guests.
Milly’s story begun with a simple crusade to find a new outfit.
One afternoon, while her father cleaned out his cupboards, she and her sister were searching through piles of upturned clothing, when she found a white jumper. Curious as to what its red, blue and yellow logo represented, Milly asked about it. “The jumper was from one of the first Alpha courses open to other churches back in 1993. My dad, after being invited onto Alpha, decided to volunteer as a leader to run a group and was one of the few to be given this”.
If she was going for vintage then this was a find, but the jumper inspired so much more than just an outfit plan. ‘I was intrigued by the concept of Alpha,’ Milly says. ‘I had always heard of The Alpha Course and Alpha Youth, but I didn’t truly understand what it was.’
In an almost perfect coincidence, Milly’s church was starting the Alpha Youth Film Series, ‘So I looked forward to finding out about it for myself – with the jumper too, as an extra layer.’
Annie, on the other hand, came across Alpha after joining her church’s Christian Union. When they discovered the series as a group, they decided to go through the content week by week. ‘It was incredible in helping me question life and figure out my own thoughts on the Christian faith. I was a baby Christian at the time, and Alpha really helped me. It’s one of the only things I’ve seen that really gives a structure to the first steps of faith.’
The discussion-based sessions created an open and relaxed space, which Annie says was a massive part of feeling welcome to take part. ‘It’s an incredibly safe environment. Alpha was accessible enough that those with no faith felt comfortable voicing their own thoughts’.
Milly’s experience has been similar, ‘It has helped me grow past a basic childhood understanding of what it is to be a Christian – but most importantly, it’s just a place you can bounce off each other as a group. I would really encourage everyone to try it.’
In fact, Milly is so passionate about Alpha that she now uses it as tool to share this renewed faith.
‘I hadn’t had much experience of being a leader,’ Milly adds, ‘but with Alpha that doesn’t matter. It helped me to understand that there is so much more to learn about God and the relationship we can have with him – now, as a stepping stone, Alpha is helping me to tell my friends about it.’
Annie, too, has transitioned from being a guest on Alpha to a leader. She’s put herself in various positions of leadership: leading worship, running Alpha sessions at a new Christian Union – ‘I’m even delivering talks to my peer group at Church’!
Annie says that this is no fluke. ‘To be a good leader you need passion, confidence and a love for God – Alpha gives you that confidence.’
Essentially, Alpha’s vision is to empower and encourage young people to share their faith with their friends, a big part of which is to equip and promote peer-to-peer evangelism. These girls represent the very heart of that vision: from exploring and legitimizing their own thoughts, they have now grown into boldly representing their beliefs.
Milly shares, ‘Before going on the course, I wondered: How could this thing be relatable to me? But as Alpha began, it suddenly became apparent that my questions about God were the same questions every Christian teenager was asking.’ This was also noticed by Annie, who makes the point: ‘Every teenager has the same burning questions. Alpha just creates a safe space to ask them, a space that most people don’t have.’
Both girls now have the confidence to go forward and put their strengthened beliefs into action. For them, this means leading their friends to faith. They have been equipped to lead, given the confidence to invite their friends and empowered to share their faith with those around them, they see their age not as a barrier but instead an opportunity.
Alpha is an opportunity to explore life, faith and God in a friendly, open and informal environment.