This article was written by Stephanie Cooper and originally published on p2c.com.
Have you been struggling to make meaningful connections online recently? It probably feels like you’ve had a thousand zoom calls by now, and it might feel exhausting to sign onto yet another one. P2C-Students was worried about this problem as they considered ministry plans for the fall amidst the new pandemic restrictions. Though they’d run a successful Alpha program before COVID-19, they weren’t sure if translating the course online for the summer would meet the needs of students or allow them to build real relationships. Would exploring Christianity online work?
To the delight of P2C-Students’ staff, online Alpha filled a void that many students were feeling. “In our breakout discussions, the groups have been opening up more and more,” an attendee shared. “Maybe because it’s online — people are not holding back from sharing their opinions openly.”
Other students shared that they’ve felt disconnected during the pandemic, and online Alpha has provided a community for them this summer. With no need to commute and easy access to the group, 53 attendees regularly turned up each week of the course.
An atheist student participant shared that “We carry different beliefs, but we can discuss in a friendly way. That’s really awesome.”
Eleana joined online Alpha after being asked by a P2C-Students staff member at her university. She’d participated in Alpha before, so she was curious to see how the shift to exploring Christianity online would work.
“I love Alpha because it’s focused on conversation. It felt less intimidating to invite friends because I could say ‘the goal is not to convert you, it’s just to have conversation and to discover what Christianity is.’”
Eleana was surprised at how well she connected with others in her group, particularly when they ate a meal together. “I thought meal time was going to be awkward, but it was actually good. Eating a meal is always this community thing, so you wouldn’t think it would work on the computer, but it really felt like we were eating together. People really connected in my group.”
The most powerful part for Eleana was in exploring Christianity online with a non-Christian friend. Her friend had been asking her questions about faith for several months, and Eleana was excited to offer an opportunity for him to understand Christianity on more than an intellectual level.
“I think Alpha was the first time that the Christian faith became personal to him.” During a time of worship, Eleana reached out to her friend and asked to pray for him. “He became emotional. He said this day meant a lot to him.”
Her friend later shared that he had joined Eleana’s church’s online services, and his roommate had decided to join as well!
We’re excited to see how Jesus is working in the midst of physical distancing. Not only did students create new friendships online, but they were able to attend more regularly than before, reaching new levels of honest sharing. What we thought would be a problem has opened new doors for connecting with students and exploring Christianity online.
After the success of this summer program, P2C-Students is running Alpha in the fall as one of their four main ministry initiatives for this year!
Jesus is still bringing students closer to himself. Faith conversations are happening, and big questions are being asked. Whatever the next few months hold, P2C-Students is committed to passionately calling students to participate in Christian community and God’s mission in the world.
Do you know a friend who would be interested in exploring life, faith, and meaning? Sign up here!