Whether to run one central group or multiple groups

If many people have signed up for your course, you need to decide whether to run one central group (with breakout rooms or sub-groups) or separate groups that run in parallel.

If you have a small number of people for your Sycamore group, then of course you will only need one remote group. E.g. if you have 8 people in your RCIA group or 12 people in an enquiry group.

But if you have a large number of people, you need to decide how to organise things. E.g. if you have 40 parents signed up for the “First Communion Parents” group, or 60 parishioners signed up for a Lent course.

There are three ways that you can use Sycamore remotely in your parish or chaplaincy: a single parish group run centrally, or multiple parish groups run separately, or self-starting independent groups.

Please read the three sections below to see which will suit your parish or chaplaincy best. It is also possible to choose multiple options, e.g. to run a central group but also to encourage self-starting groups.

(A) A SINGLE PARISH GROUP RUN CENTRALLY

The parish plans a course and runs a single group. Everyone meets together in a single video conference, at the same time, with the possibility of splitting into sub-groups for the discussion periods if the main group is large.

See the Key Decisions page here – much of it applies to remote groups as well.

  • The parish decides to run a particular Sycamore course/pathway and promotes that within the parish.
  • The parish Sycamore team, collaborating with the parish priest and the parish pastoral team, runs the promotion and publicity for the Sycamore course, and encourages people from the parish to sign up centrally with the parish.
  • If it is an evangelisation course for people outside the community, then the parish is not just inviting committed parishioners, it is also asking them to invite other people that they know. Or the parish might want to advertise the course more widely beyond the confines of the parish via social media, etc.

You run a single Sycamore remote group (see the Basic Structure of a Remote Session here).

  • If the group is larger, then you may wish to use your conferencing app to split people into smaller sub-groups for the discussion periods (Teams, Breakout Rooms, etc). You need to practice and pilot this carefully so that you don’t lose people!
  • If you are having sub-groups, then you can train leaders to run these sub-groups. See the Planning and Training sections of the Sycamore website.
  • Or you can have smaller sub-groups (e.g. 3 or 4 people) that do not need leaders or chairpersons.

(B) MULTIPLE PARISH GROUPS ORGANISED CENTRALLY BUT LED SEPARATELY

The parish plans a course and organises the groups centrally, but then the individual leaders manage and run the groups they have been given. The groups meet at different times, depending on what works for them. This gives more flexibility and allows the groups to adjust and develop as they wish.

See the Key Decisions page here – much of it applies to remote groups as well.

  • The parish decides to run a particular Sycamore course/pathway and promotes that within the parish. Or it advertises multiple groups at the same time with different demographics/focuses: E.g. one group for the housebound, another for young adults, another for parents (or a mothers group and a fathers group), etc.
  • The parish Sycamore team, collaborating with the parish priest and the parish pastoral team, runs the promotion and publicity for the Sycamore course, and encourages people from the parish to sign up centrally with the parish.
  • If it is an evangelisation course for people outside the community, then the parish is not just inviting committed parishioners, it is also asking them to invite other people that they know. Or the parish might want to advertise the course more widely beyond the confines of the parish via social media, etc.
  • The sign-up forms might have alternative meeting times if you are offering this, for people to choose which suits them best.
  • The parish gathers and trains group leaders who will then run the separate groups independently. This group of leaders needs a lot of support and nurturing.

When you have all your participants registered, the Sycamore team then arranges people into separate groups and allocates a leader for that group (depending on availability of leaders, timing of groups, availability of participants, numbers of participants, etc).

  • The group allocation might be made on the basis of which meetings times people preferred, etc.
  • The group leader then runs that group “independently”, but the various groups are all running in parallel. Once the initial allocation has been made centrally through the parish, the leaders contact people directly as group leaders; they agree the meeting times if this has not been agreed beforehand; they lead the group sessions.
  • In this way the groups have more freedom to change meeting times, to adjust the way they function, to make allowances for individual membersm etc – because they are not all following a single central timetable.
  • The group leaders will want to have their own team meeting as Sycamore leaders: to check in with each other, pray together, evaluate how the individual groups are going, etc.
  • It’s crucial that group leaders feel they are part of the main parish Sycamore team and not just running “self-starting” groups (see Section “C” below). They are involved in one single parish Sycamore course that is being run in different “locations” at different times.

(C) SELF-STARTING INDEPENDENT GROUPS

The parish trains individual parishioners to lead their own Sycamore groups, but they are run completely independently. You train interested people to be leaders, teach them how to organise their own groups, and encourage them to invite people they know to join.

  • This is a simple and powerful way of sharing the faith, because you are helping ordinary parishioners to take things into their own hands and start their own groups and invite their own friends and family to join them.
  • But the decision to actually plan and start and lead a group is taken independently by the individual involved and not by the parish.

You need to be very clear that these are NOT parish groups. For that reason the parish data protection, GDPR, privacy and safeguarding policies will probably not apply (but check with your parish and diocesan safeguarding coordinators if you have any doubts). They are independent groups run by individuals out of their own initiative, just as an individual parishioner might run a private prayer group or invite new neighbours round for a meal.

Here are some possible steps you can take as a parish:

  • Speak about evangelisation and Sycamore. Speak about the importance of faith sharing and evangelisation. Share the Sycamore resources. Help people to grow in their own faith and their desire to share that faith as missionary disciples.
  • Run a parish Sycamore group (see Section “A” above) – either a short course or just a taster session.
  • When people have experienced Sycamore for themselves as participants, you can then encourage them to start their own groups. This is using the “cell group” model from other Christian groups, where a single group can lead to many other groups growing out from it.
  • Gather and train a group of leaders who hope to lead their own groups. Help them grow together as a group. Encourage them. Prepare some training for them, based on the Planning and Training sections of the Sycamore website. Maybe agree which conferencing app they will use.
  • Discuss ways that they can invite friends to join their groups. There are so many possibilities here. You need to decide as a group of leaders what you hope to achieve and who you hope to ask. It might be a very informal group with one or two friends from the parish; it might be a couple of family members; it might be taking a risk and inviting friends or neighbours or relations or colleagues.
  • Pray for each other and pray for the people that you are going to invite.
  • Each leader now organises and runs their own independent/private group in their own way. They agree with the participants the time to meet, the method of viewing the films together, etc. See Section A above: how to run a remote Sycamore group.