Last night a film crew came up from London to catch a flavour of what an alpha course with families is like. I hoped that the children would just be themselves; that the hustle and bustle would continue as 30 folk share food together; with drinks spilled, chocolate covered faces and hands, lego everywhere, chatty adults, dig in and help yourself if you want seconds etc etc
And I'm pleased to say it went as normal, someone fell backwards off their chair, mini-disagreements occurred, sensible food was left on plates while lots of ice cream was consumed. Adults deep in chat and yet at one with their kids, prior to moving downstairs for 50 minutes of "separate" time; adults in discussion and kids making fantastic crafts to take home.
I was interviewed to say why and how this vision came about; I hope I was natural with what I said; I certainly didn't prepare a script nor did I get time to apply copious amounts of lipstick - though YES, COLLEAGUES WHO READ THIS, I DID WASH AND STRAIGHTEN my hair (there was an in-office debate about whether I would go to the hairdressers before 4pm!!!)
I hope it inspires people to open up their homes or churches to noisy, unpredictable, jumpy-about children and their parent(s), because community can be forged wherever we are willing to meet together and care and show genuine interest and concern. If you know anything about me and not much about alpha - the outcomes of the course is not my primary concern. I run it and leave the outcome to God. He does the conviction; the hard work; I've just got to be faithful to providing the means by which people can talk and ask questions and bounce ideas off other people in the group. So last night, when someone spoke about a theory I can in no way agree with; my response was: "that's an interesting point. Thank you. What do others think?" - in alpha your job is to allow people to discuss, and muse and listen, not to force your point of view.
I am very concerned when I hear people say: my church has no children or young families in it therefore I don't need to think about getting Disclosures or running a kids club or a family event etc. Not much is needed to provide a place of welcome for kids and teens and families and age, status and resources don't matter; it's the vision and open heartedness of those who provide such a time and space. People reading this might think "it's all right for her to say that, where she is" but I am sure that I would run teatime alpha no matter where I was; its not down to the church but down to friendships with people OUT there - all you need is a cooker, the alpha course and a floor to eat from!