I love newspapers. There’s something wonderfully nostalgic about opening up a large periodical on Saturday morning and thumbing through the pages with one hand and a big cup of coffee in the other. It’s pretty clear that a newspaper’s main purpose is to be read for information. However, there are many other uses for that weekly gazette. Newspaper can become resourceful wrapping paper or perhaps packing material for your wedding china. That same newspaper can be used in potty training a puppy or, as my husband & I found out firsthand, helpful for defraying the impact of flooding after a pipe explosion. The newspaper is great for its main purpose, but it can be equally utilized in a variety of situations. While it is the same entity, it takes on a different feel and form.
Youth Alpha is the “newspaper” of Youth Ministry. That may sound slightly ridiculous, but stick with me here. Like the newspaper, Youth Alpha is an absolutely wonderful resource that can be utilized in many different and unique ways.
Reaching Teens in a Pizza Shop
Just like the newspaper was created to be read and to spread information, Youth Alpha was created to be an evangelistic course geared to reach teenagers for Jesus. It is an 8, 9, or 10-week course (customizable to fit with the church calendar) that looks at topics central to the Christian faith. Like regular Alpha, a typical session is geared toward non-Christians and involves food, worship, an up-front talk, and small group discussion. Additionally, high emphasis is put on the Youth Alpha Retreat, where kids are invited to explore the Holy Spirit.
I had the awesome opportunity to participate in a Youth Alpha Course that followed the curriculum as written. We empowered our youth group students to bring their non-believing friends to a pizza place in town each Wednesday night. After fun, food, and fellowship, a leader would give a short talk on the Gospel. We’d split into small groups and further discuss the information that was presented. My table typically consisted of one Christian kid and about ten extremely skeptical atheist and/or agnostic students. Most of them just came for the free pizza. However, even though we were talking about Jesus, they showed up week after week. Their participation was enthusiastic as they shared, argued, and genuinely dove into conversation. After 10 weeks, most of the kids came to the weekend retreat. There, many met Jesus for the first time and, better yet, took huge steps towards growing in Him. This successful example, supported by prayer, faith, and staff dedication, proved Youth Alpha’s core structure and its effectiveness.
Other Great Ways I Used the Material
Youth Alpha’s curriculum and material, however, has reaches far beyond the suggested course. Like our friend the newspaper, there are other creative ways to utilize the material. We recently used this curriculum to teach our Sunday morning “Breakout” sessions for both the High School and the Middle School students. While the topics took us back to the basics—with sessions revolving around questions like “Who is Jesus” and “Why did He Die?”—we saw that our church kids could really benefit from this program as well. For them, it was a great refresher of the foundations of faith and further equipped them to talk with their friends about Christ. The material itself is very engaging and appealing to students, and they responded enthusiastically. Additionally, it’s extremely low prep for the leaders. The talks are already written, making leader’s lives easier. Each talk provides multiple points and amazing illustrations for each point (from animations, to movie clips, to YouTube videos) that really resonate with the students.
Finally, I had the opportunity to use the material in teaching my Young Life Campaigner’s group (Bible study). Most of the kids who were coming were new Christians, or strong seekers, and it was great to be able to dig deeper into the foundation of faith with them. They loved the videos and the illustrations, and it allowed them to get a better understanding of each concept while engaging them in their technological world. While this group was totally different than the other two groups, the material molded to fit them as well.
Once again, like the newspaper, Youth Alpha is a wonderful resource. It is easy for the leaders to use and follow. It is clear and concise, but offers a wealth of information. There is even a great website with more resources at your disposal to print or download. Even if you don’t think your student ministry is ready to run a Youth Alpha course, the material is great to have for your Sunday School or Bible Study. And who knows…God may open the doors to have you run a Youth Alpha Course sooner than you think.
For more information, visit http://youthalpha.org/.