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That’s the question Mary Ellen and Laura posed to the fifty women who belong to their Tuesday-morning golf league—a group that gathers each week from May to October to play eighteen holes of golf at the Village Links in Glen Ellyn.
Mary Ellen has been part of the group for twenty-five years, and Laura for twelve, so they have gotten to know most of the women in the league as they were teamed up in different foursomes from week to week.
For some time the two women had individually been thinking about ways they could share the faith that was at the center of their own lives with the women they’d gotten to know through their weekly golf outings.
So when Mary Ellen reached out to Laura and another friend about the idea of hosting a Bible study and inviting the women from the Tuesday-morning league, the response was almost immediate. Within a half hour, she heard back from both women, and they met for coffee that same day to begin to discuss and pray about ways to reach out to their golf friends.
Their first topic for discussion was what the group should study. The women explored a number of possibilities, but when Mary Ellen received an e-mail from Marie Allison, who leads the Alpha program at Wheaton Bible Church, she was pretty sure she had the answer.
Marie had written to announce that she was offering a class to teach people about how the content of the Alpha Course—which is offered several times each year at the church—could also be presented in smaller, more informal groups in people’s homes, using a videotaped version of the talks.
“I’d been through Alpha a couple of times before,” Mary Ellen says, “and I thought, That would be perfect, the content is so good, and it’s already prepared. The work is already done.
“At the training class,” she said, “Marie showed us how the videos work and taught us about what you might call the ‘rhythm’ of Alpha—starting with a welcoming meal together followed by a teaching video, then discussion. She encouraged us about how much people enjoy the Alpha videos and gave each of us a leader’s guide that included discussion questions to use with each video topic.”
With their content set, Laura and Mary Ellen agreed that the group would meet in the winter at the same time when the league normally met to play, thinking that most of the women would be free because that was the day they normally set aside for golf.
“In the winter, those of us who are available often meet at an indoor golf facility on Tuesday mornings to hit some practice balls, then go out for breakfast,” Mary Ellen said. “Since they’re already out, we thought we could have breakfast together at one of our homes and do the Alpha study after that.”
The next step was to find out whether any of the women in the league were interested in being part of the group, so they decided to mail invitations to all fifty women. “We wanted it to be wide open,” Laura said, “and we didn’t want to exclude anyone.”
“In the invitation we asked them if they were interested in exploring Christianity,” Mary Ellen said. “And since the first lesson in Alpha is titled, ‘Is There More to Life Than This?’ we decided to play on those words and begin the invitations by asking, ‘Is There More to Life Than Golf?’
“We told them that we were going to study the Alpha lessons, and told them they could go online to learn about Alpha,” she adds, “because there’s a lot of information about Alpha on the Internet.”
They mailed the invitations, then waited. After a week—when they’d heard from only one woman—they were a little disappointed. But they agreed that if it was going to be only the three of them, then that must be what God wanted. “Then the e-mails started to come in,” Laura says, “and pretty soon we had seven women who wanted to join us, and many more who wished they could but had work or other commitments.”
So on a Tuesday morning in February, a new home-based Alpha group held its first gathering—and the studies soon became a can’t-miss highlight of the week for the participants!
“Even when someone had to be away,” Mary Ellen says, “they would try to watch the video online—sometimes even sending us their thoughts and questions in an e-mail when they couldn’t be there in person. It was so encouraging.”
The women who were part of the group point to two key elements of their experience: the relationships that grew as the women learned and shared and prayed together, and the new understanding they gained of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
For EJ, one of the participants, the honesty and sharing among the women was a special experience. “I’m new to this golf league, so I thought this might be a good chance to get to know other women,” she says. “I am so thankful that golf led me to join these wonderful ladies and thankful for the opportunity to learn about how God is working in each of our lives.
“I’ve been playing golf for many years,” she adds, “but I can’t remember a time, before I received this invitation, having any conversation with other golfers about God.”
Judi, another member of the group, says, “When I got the invitation in the mail—not just one of our golf e-mails—I knew that Mary Ellen and Laura were writing about something that was important. I said yes because I was interested in the idea of learning about Christianity along with friends.”
Another participant explains, “I was pleased to receive the invitation and was so glad to be able to explore and grow my faith in such a natural way. Before I decided to participate in Alpha, I didn’t know all of these women very well, but now the ladies in our Alpha group have become very special to me. I am learning to share questions and thoughts while we learn more about each other and about how to incorporate faith into everyday life.
“God is working on me,” she adds, “and I am still struggling to turn my life over to Him, but through my dear friends in the group I am learning that I have their help and support.
“I am blessed to have signed up to be part of this group.”