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How to Run Alpha Online with Zoom
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Information from Alpha Canada

No doubt most are aware of the concerns currently surrounding Coronavirus (COVID-19). As some areas of the world are moving towards strict measures to control the outbreak, we want to provide churches with information in the case that any are not able to run Alpha in person.

First Things First

We are praying intensively for the end of this outbreak. We are praying for our leaders to make wise, swift decisions. We are praying for total protection to those most vulnerable. And we are praying that people come to experience that God is not a God of fear but a God of peace.

2 Timothy 1:7 “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

Alpha Online with Zoom

Precautionary Measures

In addition to adhering to locally recommended health practices, we also want all our Alpha Courses run online to be safe places where church communities can host a series of interactive sessions allowing guests to explore their questions about life, faith and God in a welcoming, judgement-free and safe environment. Please see some of our recommendations:

Alpha and Alpha for Youth are committed to taking all necessary steps to ensure our ministry is Online/E-Safety aware and competent. Please see more information here.

  • E-safety & Security
    If you are running Alpha or Alpha Youth online, please take all the necessary steps to ensure you as the church or ministry are Online/E-Safety aware and competent.
  • Protection of Vulnerable Peoples
    E-Safety is the collective term for safeguarding (protecting vulnerable individuals) involving the use of mobile phones, computers (including laptops, netbooks, tablets) and other electronic devices including games consoles, to communicate and access the internet, emails, text messages, instant messaging, social networking sites and other social media.
  • Maintain a Safe Environment
    It is important all churches, administrators, hosts, and helpers are diligent in keeping a safe online environment. For a full list of Do’s, Don’ts, and more information on this topic, please click here.

Top Tips

We reached out to churches already running Alpha online to get their tips.
  • Hospitality
    Even though groups are meeting online, churches can still put a strong emphasis on hospitality.
    • Heavier Email Communication: Send weekly emails re-capping last week’s talk/discussion and ask guests to share their thoughts via email. Make sure to check-in if someone missed a night.
    • Session Engagement: Make sure either the course host or group host is engaging right from the beginning of the online session – saying hello to people, asking questions, telling jokes. Avoid the silent downtime to keep excitement and enthusiasm high.
    • Chat functionality: Encourage hosts, helpers, and guests to utilize the chat functionality to comment and ask questions during the video as well as during discussion time when others are talking.
  • Host Preparation
    Make sure the hosts have all video files, discussion questions, and access to the digital solution the church has chosen. Churches have found that guests tend to get more vulnerable and more quickly online than in person. Prep your hosts so they can expect this.
  • Ensure Quality Discussion
    • Ask all guests to be on video
    • Ask all guests to join in a quiet environment if possible
    • Ask all guests to unmute during discussion. (Unless in a noisy setting). This allows for a more organic, free-flowing conversation.
    • Ask guests to not use green screen backgrounds to create a more natural environment.
  • Logistics
    • Internet Connection: If you are hosting Alpha Online, make sure you have a strong internet connection. If possible, plug directly into an ethernet cable.
    • Short and Sweet: Churches have found that in an online format, people start to lose interest at around the one-hour mark. We recommend keeping the full session to 1 hour- 1 hour 15 minutes.
    • It is so much easier to follow a conversation when you can see everyone. Though there are many video conferencing tools out there, we would recommend you or your Church create a paid Zoom account.

      With zoom, everyone on the team and each guest can easily download the app on their computer, phone, or tablet and there is no cost for guests to do this.

Creating your Alpha Online for:

1-12 Participants

  • Create your meeting room - this should remain the same for your entire Alpha.
  • Share the meeting details – link, etc. with your team and guests, be sure to include the dates and times when you’ll gather.
  • At the appropriate time share the video from the hosts screen.
  • At the conclusion of the video remain in your Zoom meeting for discussion just as you would in an Alpha group.

12-75 Participants

  • Create your meeting room – this should remain the same for your entire Alpha.
  • Share the meeting details – link, etc. with your team and guests, be sure to include the dates and times when you’ll gather.
  • Utilize the breakout room function on Zoom to build your small groups – including hosts and helpers. **This can be done in advance if team members and guests are invited to participate through Zoom. Otherwise you’ll need to create the groups behind the scenes as people join the call.
  • At the appropriate time share the video from the hosts screen for the entire group.
  • At the conclusion of the video send everyone into the pre-assigned breakout groups to allow for group discussion as they would on an evening of Alpha.
  • At the conclusion of discussion group members can opt to leave the breakout room and then leave the call. Just be sure you don’t end the call before your groups finish their discussion.

75+ Participants

  • If your Alpha is over 75 people, using the breakout groups can be a bit tricky. We recommend either breaking your Alpha into multiple Zoom calls or having each group host their own call and following the instructions given above for 1-12 participants. To learn how to manage Zoom breakout groups click here.

A note when sharing your screen:

It’s critical to click the “share your computer audio” and “optimize for full-screen video clip” buttons when sharing your screen through Zoom to ensure the best possible video and sound quality. To learn more, click here.