By Judy Riddlesworth
New Song UMC is located in Surprise, Arizona near several retirement communities, in the middle of a large family neighborhood. In the last two years, we started the 3DM program, building small groups into larger groups to form relationships with God and others.
The vision of 3DM is to change the world by putting discipleship and mission back into the hands of ordinary people. The values that 3DM publishes (at http://3dmovements.com/about/) are:
- Jesus as the Model: because the way of Jesus is as important as the words and works of Jesus
- Family at the Core: because who we are becoming is as important as what we are doing
- Life on the Edge: because leaders by definition are the ones who go first
- Listening for the Word: because becoming like Jesus is a journey of both Spirit and Truth
- Celebrating along the Way: because purpose and play make the family work
Following the 3DM model, when new people enter our doors we meet their needs, wherever they are in their faith walk. We do this through the Alpha course.
Alpha is a group course that encourages people who are at different places in their spiritual maturity to listen to each other’s questions and find the answers together. The program includes a series of humorous DVDs and discussions led by Nicky Gumbel on topics like: Why did Jesus die? How does God guide us? Why read the Bible? What does the Holy Spirit do? The class meetings include dinner and take place once a week for ten weeks with a retreat weekend in the middle of the series.
The most important part of the course is to eliminate roadblocks to a personal relationship with Christ. People come to Alpha class because of a spiritual search or out of curiosity about the class. The first class is usually composed of regular church goers. Individuals typically grow from being believers and just attending church on Sundays to mature believers. Others grow from being mature believers to being active disciples. One person from an Alpha class said, “The Healing Session and the weekend were very powerful for me. I have come to find that my faith is stronger as a result.”
People especially enjoy the special weekend with the Holy Spirit at the end of the series, the Healing Service, the videos, and thoughtful discussions, but most people who have gone through the classes say their favorite part is getting to know others in the class and building a relationship with them through learning about God. In fact, an important goal for this class is to build friendships and gain support from other Christians.
An interesting by-product of the Alpha course is that new leaders often emerge as new groups are formed. Everyone is given two invitations for the reunion/celebration dinner so they can invite new people to participate. This method has proven to be very successful and is the primary way that new people learn about and become interested in taking the Alpha course. This word of mouth and personal recommendation method is how participants become disciples to others. Usually after the first Alpha course a couple of participants will volunteer to help lead the next session and others will offer to make food.
All churches are working at discipleship. Through the 3DM program and Alpha course, New Song is blending and serving all ages, and all stages of belief and/or education.