The basic structure of a remote session

Here are some different ways of structuring your Sycamore session, depending on how you have decided to view the films in your group.

Once you have decided how you will watch the films in your group, you can then work out a timetable.

STARTING THE SESSION: WELCOME AND INTRODUCTIONS

In a non-remote/physical Sycamore session, you would try to have a meal together, or at least some tea or coffee. This gives people a chance to relax and get to know each other in an informal way. This isn’t possible with a remote group, so you need to find some other ways of introducing each other and breaking the ice at the beginning of the session.

There is not set formula, but here are some ideas about how to welcome people, before you start watching the film. You could have about 10 minutes of conversation, if the group is not too large, with these elements:

  • Give time for people to log in and settle down.
  • Welcome people, introduce yourself and the session, and explain roughly what will take place in the session.
  • Maybe: invite people to introduce themselves. E.g. at the first session, to say something about themselves, why they chose to get involved in the Sycamore session, etc.
  • Maybe: start with prayer. Depending on what kind of group this is and whether it will be appropriate.
  • Maybe: start with some kind of icebreaker or relaxation exercise or “grounding” exercise, that helps people to focus, reflect, relax etc. But only if this will help. For some groups it may feel awkward and unnecessary.
  • Maybe: gently invite more sharing. If this is not the first session, and people know each other a bit, you could prompt the conversation by asking people to share something about their week, or reflect on the last Sycamore session and what they got out of it, etc.
  • You need to judge what level of conversation to have. If people are nervous and do not know each other, then keep it light, and don’t pressure people to over-share or put people on the spot. If people know each other well then you can enjoy thinking of questions that will help you to share your life and faith together.
  • You also need to judge how long this introduction takes. 10-15 minutes is probably the most needed.

THE STRUCTURE OF THE SESSION

Watching the film in sections and pausing for discussion: If you are watching the whole film together, then you can follow the normal Sycamore timetable for the film and discussion, with a pause for discussion after each section of the film.

Watching the whole film without pauses: However, if it is difficult for participants to switch back and forth between your video conferencing app and the Sycamore films, then you may wish to watch the whole film together – without pausing – and then have a longer discussion at the end. Or for people to watch the film privately before the session.

See the Basic Timetable for an enquiry session here.

But if you are using Sycamore for sacramental preparation and catechesis, see the Sacramental Preparation advice here.

For general advice about leading a Sycamore discussion group, please visit the How to Run a Discussion Group page here.

To see the Discussion Questions for each session ahead of time, visit the Session Guides here.

A default Sycamore session usually looks like this:

  • Welcome, Introductions etc led by the host/leader
  • Play ‘Part A’ of the film: Presentation by Fr Stephen Wang + Discussion questions on screen
  • PAUSE THE FILM FOR GROUP DISCUSSION
  • Play ‘Part B’ of the film: “Vox Pop” interviews + Presentation + Discussion questions on screen
  • PAUSE THE FILM FOR GROUP DISCUSSION
  • Play ‘Part C’ of the film: “Vox Pop” interviews + Presentation + Discussion questions on screen
  • PAUSE THE FILM FOR GROUP DISCUSSION
  • Play the Final Reflection or Interviews and finish with the Credits
  • Conclusion led by the host/leader

The length of the discussion time depends on the group dynamics and on your timetable. A discussion period might be anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, so the whole session, including the Introductions and the Film, may last between 60 to 90 minutes.

If there is one single group, then the group leader needs to judge when the discussion has come to a natural end.

If there are sub-groups, then the organisers need to agree a fixed time for each period of discussion so that the sub-groups know how much time to have and the sub-group leaders can work to this.

PRAYER: If it is an enquiry group with non-Christians present, you need to decide whether it feels appropriate to pray as a group or not. And if you do pray, to introduce it in a way that does not make the non-Christian members feel pressured or alienated.

If it is a Sycamore group for committed Christians, e.g. sacramental preparation or faith formation, then it is a good rule always to pray at the beginning and end of the session, even if the prayer is very simple. The group leaders need to decide on the best way.

Always have an agreed and advertised time to start and finish, and always finish on time, even if you started late (e.g. “we start at 7.30pm and finish at 8.45pm”).