Weekend Planning Considerations
Thank you to Dick Hertel, St. Bonaventure Catholic church, Mpls, MN
For more thorough information on planning the Weekend Away, we encourage you to purchase the How to Run the Alpha Course: Director's Handbook.
A key part of the Alpha course is the Weekend or Day Away. This involves a fair amount of planning, some of which needs attention weeks beforehand. For example, retreat facility, schedule for the events and talks of the Weekend, special assignments for leadership team members to conduct the retreat, car-pooling, registration process including collection of money, and publicity.
Arrangements for where the event will be held need to be made well in advance of even the course itself, since good locations generally book up quickly. This means taking some risks, with God’s help, since you don’t know very accurately the number who will be attending. The space needs to be large enough so there is not excessive interference between groups during discussions and prayer time. On the other hand, cost is a factor, since we don’t want to have people skipping the retreat if they cannot afford a pricey package. If possible, include some scholarship options for reduced or no fees for those who can’t afford the full price.
Preparing your Team
There needs to be a training session on "Praying for Others" for the team at least a week ahead of the Weekend. Everyone who plans to pray with the guests during the Weekend, or after the "Does God Heal Today" talk (Week 8), needs to attend this training. Suggested material includes “The Alpha Course Small Group Leaders DVD”, Session 3: Praying for Others (Note: this used to be called Ministry on Alpha).
It is highly recommended that besides viewing the video (or equivalent), there is a time for the team members to actually practice praying for each other in groups of perhaps three to four.
This is especially true if praying for others is new for your Leaders and Helpers. It is much better to "practice" praying for each other a few times in the safety of this training session than wait to for the Weekend as the first time to pray aloud.
Specific People Needed for the Weekend:
||Handles all logistics and communication with retreat facility personnel.
||Comfortable in front of people. Able to help people relax and keep the Weekend moving along smoothly.
|Worship Leader & Musicians
||Very important team in preparing hearts for the teaching and prayer times of the weekend.
||Welcome the guests and help people find their rooms. May even include preparing a small card with a Bible verse and piece of candy or chocolate for each person.
|A/V person (if using DVDs)
||Make sure you bring the DVD and have the proper equipment to show it. Know which talks will be viewed.
|Speaker (if doing any talks live)
||It is nice to have a live speaker for some or all of the Weekend talks. If doing the talks live, please still follow the general outline provided in the Alpha Course Manual and Questions of Life. This will ensure that the material is covered and allows the guests to still follow along.
||This can be done by a team either on site or from home. Having prayer coverage for the Weekend is very important.
|Drivers for car pools
||Can be either small group Leaders, Helpers or guests. Please ensure that everyone who would like a ride to the facility has one provided.
|Meal team (if not provided by facility)
||Be aware of special diets or other food related issues.
|Registration & finances
||Handle all registration and money related issues for the retreat.
|Entertainment (if offering)
Not all courses offer entertainment on the Weekend. For those that do, it is a time of laughing, playing and bonding together.
Some of these functions may be combined in one person, depending upon the size of the course.
When praying for guests, it is helpful to determine ahead of time who will be praying together. Remember to take into account such things as having some all-female, all-male, as well as mixed teams. It is a good idea to have a team member more experienced in prayer paired up with someone who is just beginning to pray for others.
Also, remember that generally guests will feel most comfortable praying with their small group Leaders or Helpers.
It is helpful to tell people up front that the Alpha course includes a retreat, so they do not feel blind-sighted. Make sure to give them the specifics of date and time at least a month ahead so they can make arrangements with the rest of their family members.
The publicity for the retreat should happen for several Alpha sessions before the actual event, to encourage their attendance, to answer their questions, and to have time for registration. Having a few people share their story about attending the Weekend Away on recent Alpha courses is also highly recommended. Here is a link to suggested questions to ask during this interview.