Something new has been brewing in the Bellevue YMCA. The city of Bellevue, WA lies just east of downtown Seattle. The YMCA there has a long history of serving their community through a series of outreach and service programs. Recently the Bellevue Y launched their first ALPHA group. ALPHA is one of the new nationalministry partnerships we are exploringin the US Mission Network. If the initial results are any indication, the team at the Bellevue Y made a very wise decision!!
The ALPHA model is brilliant in its simplicity. Alpha is an opportunity to explore life and the Christian faith in a friendly, open and informal environment. People are invited to a short series of classes over a set time period. Each meeting starts with food and friendly conversation. Then the leader draws the attention of the group to a series of open-ended questions that serve as a discussion starter on various elements of faith. In the midst of today’s hectic culture, this non-threatening approach is the perfect tool to introduce the foundations of Christianity, especially to those who are searching for a deeper meaning in their life.
Cheri Pamer, (on the left side of the photo) is the Senior & Family Connector at the Bellevue YMCA. She said, “The highlight was that we reached people from the community through the post card that was mailed out that would have never gone to a local church for this program”. She went on to explain that three of those who regularly attended the Alpha classes have now become a part of the church that the YMCA was collaborating with for this initial series of classes. A couple of the ladies even decided to join Cheri’s Tuesday morning Bible study. And the Y lifeguards taking their breaks nearby entered into some great discussions with the volunteer cooking staff each week.
A number of the folks who attended these classes at the Y, including some members of the Y staff, would never cross the street to attend the same class at the church that was partnering with the Y and Alpha to make this opportunity available. The strategic advantage of having a neutral place, like the Y, to hold these exploratory discussions was clearly demonstrated by Bellevue’s experience.
Eric Watson, the Regional Director for Alpha in the Seattle area, pointed out that “relationship building is key” in the Alpha program. People have to sense that those they are talking with are walking through the same kind of things they are. The common bond of sharing this journey through life, with all of its ups and downs, forms the basis for meaningful interaction between the participants.
For more information on Alphago to their website: www.alphausa.org or contact us at the US Mission Network. We’d love to see Alpha in many more Y’s across the country.