“Don’t just pair [leaders and helpers] because you need to—think about how their personalities match because that will affect the whole group.”
We know that encouraging guests to come back to Alpha week in week out can be a challenge. We also know that maintaining a motivated team can be just as hard. Adrian who runs Alpha in Kuala Lumpur talks to us about how he limited the drop off and fought the Alpha fatigue.
The church of HTBB in Kuala Lumpur has run Alpha for eleven terms in a row since they started in 2015. Adrian has overseen it since their fourth course and we ask him to share some of his top tips for creating great group dynamics that will keep guests coming back every week…
Prepare the team
Training the entire team that will run the sessions every week is essential to the success of any Alpha. It’s no different at HTBB. ‘First, we start off with a very good foundation of training – we ensure all our leaders come to training the week prior to Alpha starting’ explains Adrian. As well as preparing the team, training is a good time to make sure everyone is motivated and feels useful, ‘it’s important that we let them know how valued and appreciated they are, and how integral they are to their small group’.
Create a support system
At HTBB, around 80% of those involved in running Alpha do so after finishing their day job in the city. Adrian admits it can be challenging to make sure that the team are able to cope with the dual demands of a busy work day followed by Alpha in the evening.
Their solution? They created WhatsApp groups as a support unit for leaders where they send out any information and encouragement in the days before Alpha. The WhatsApp groups help leaders support each other as they can all connect and communicate directly on the platform. ‘What we’ve found,’ says Adrian, ‘is that when a leader feels that they’re well supported, it builds their confidence for leading a small group as well.’
Keep everyone in the loop
As well as using a WhatsApp group for leaders, on the day of each session HTBB also send out an email to the team where they outline the session’s topic, which highlights the themes and discussion topics for the week. ‘That way, even if they’re running late to a session, they will still know what the subject matter is and have something to contribute to the group discussion!’
When you run Alpha as frequently as they do at HTBB, a common challenge to come up against is leaders feeling the fatigue of consistently dedicating their time and energy to the course. The way to deal with this challenge is relational says Adrian, ‘it’s important to sit down face to face and to make sure they feel appreciated and that they know how important their contribution is’. It’s also important to listen to each host and helper and to understand the stage they’re at in their own lives in order to be able to offer them the support they need.
Pair on purpose
The relationships of those leading Alpha small groups can have a huge impact on the dynamic of the group itself – ‘when the team gels, it translates to the group’.
Adrian stresses the importance of having leaders and helpers who complement each other, ‘if the pairing is right, you get a good group dynamic’ he says. ‘Don’t just pair because you need to – think about how their personalities match because that will affect the whole group.’ A pre-existing relationship between leaders and helpers can help get the group off to a good start. To find Alpha leaders, Adrian approaches leaders of their church connect groups and then asks them if they can think of anyone in their group to join them at Alpha.
Even the work schedule of leaders is considered when choosing who hosts groups together at HTBB. ‘Alpha runs in the most hectic work months,’ explains Adrian ‘so it’s important to combine leaders who don’t work in a similar place or type of industry – that way if one leader unexpectedly can’t make it, due to traffic or work, hopefully the other will be present’.
Get to know your guests
Just as with pairing your leaders, it can be useful to consider the personalities and preferences of your guests when choosing a group to place them in. ‘Try to have a conversation with your guests’ before selecting their group, suggests Adrian, ‘if a guest just says one or two words, you know they’re probably more of an introvert – but if they’re very chatty they may be more extroverted and would do better in a louder, more extroverted group’.
The most important thing is that Alpha guests feel comfortable and confident to contribute to the group discussion whenever they choose. Considering personality dynamics when setting up your small groups could make a big difference to your guests’ experience of Alpha.
Create the right atmosphere
‘One thing we’ve noticed is that if we set the right vibe in the hall – and around the building – people will come,’ he notes. The team also realised that once they break off into twelve small groups after the talk it was helpful to disperse into smaller more private locations – ‘that way everyone can hear each other, and that it creates an environment where everyone feels able to talk’.
As HTBB enter their twelfth consecutive course they are continuing to learn what works best and to tweak their tactics for building great Alpha teams – we hope Adrian’s tips give you some new ideas for running your next Alpha!
You’ve read about Adrian’s experience in Kuala Lumpur, now discover how Jon in the UK got creative with Alpha and got his whole church involved in the process!