How to run a training course for new leaders

This section contains three model training sessions that you can use or adapt for your new Sycamore leadership team.

These are just suggestions about how you could structure some training sessions for people in your new Sycamore team. They will need customising and supplementing, depending on your needs and the experience of those leading the group.

General tips:

  • If you have a larger group, be careful of asking people to share too much because it can be daunting for many people. So as a rule, ask people to discuss things in two or threes; and then in the larger group ask for voluntary feedback from the small groups, but without asking everyone in the large group to speak
  • There is a fondness in Christian groups for sitting around in a circle, as if it seems more open and informal and welcoming. Sometimes this can work. But in fact people often relax more (and therefore feel more welcomed) if they are sitting at a table: they feel slightly less exposed, and they can have a cup of coffee in front of them etc. This is why many groups now prefer the café-style meeting where people are clustered around some small tables scattered around the main space
  • Always say to people that they can share as much or as little as they want
  • From the very start, make the environment as welcoming and attractive as possible: room, decor, tables, chairs, lighting, heating, front door, quality of tea/coffee, quality of cakes/biscuits, attractive name badges, music in the background, flowers on the table: these things matter and they will help you model good practice for Sycamore in general

Invite your team members to sign up for the Sycamore newsletter, and to join the Sycamore Leaders’ Forum here if they are on Facebook.


If you have not already done so: run a Tester Session!

See the full instructions here.

This will allow you to introduce Sycamore to the wider parish or chaplaincy community, and to recruit potential members of the team.

At the end of the Taster Session, invite anyone who wishes to come to the first training meeting…




Arrivals/Tea/Coffee (10 mins)

Start as you mean to go on by making the environment as pleasant and welcoming as possible. You are modelling good practice for all your Sycamore events!

Have some cake or good biscuits…


Welcome (5 mins)

Introduce yourself and explain how the session will run


Introductions (5 mins)

Ask people to introduce themselves to each other, saying a bit about who they are and why they have been interested to come.

If the group is large this can be intimidating to shy people. With a large group, keep it very simple with just names and no “forced sharing”, or ask people to introduce themselves to their neighbour to make it less intimidating.


Prayer (5 mins)

In whatever form is most appropriate


Sharing experiences of growing in faith (20 mins)

Ask people to reflect on these questions or something similar:

  • Say a little bit about your Christian background (growing up, family etc).
  • What has helped you to grow in faith over the years?
  • Which people have supported you in faith or been an example of faith to you?
  • Why have you stayed faithful over the years, or what brought you back?

Get people to discuss the questions in twos or threes. Then feedback any highlights to the larger group.


Brief introduction to evangelisation (15 mins)

The leader presents some reflection on the meaning of evangelisation using whatever materials they prefer. E.g. to summarise the ideas from the first section of this text by Fr Stephen Wang. Brief discussion follows.


Scriptural reflection about growing in faith (10 mins)

Choose one of these passages, as appropriate:

  • The call of St Matthew, Matthew 9:9-13
  • Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch, Acts 8:26-40
  • Zacchaeus the Tax Collector, Luke 19:1-9
  • The two disciples on the way to Emmaus, Luke 24:13-35
  • The conversion of Lydia, Acts 16:11-15


  1. Read the passage out loud and then the leader presents a reflection on the passage to help people reflect on some aspect of faith or conversion or evangelisation
  2. Read the passage out loud; give people copies of the passage to reflect on alone for 5 minutes; share reflections in twos or threes; then share highlights with the wider group


Brief introduction to Sycamore (10 mins)

Show the trailer – see the homepage here:

Brief explanation of what Sycamore is, how it works, and why the parish/chaplaincy hopes to use it. E.g. use the materials from the home page here or from the “Why join a group” page here.


Winding up (10 mins)

  • Questions and discussion
  • Tell people about the next session: Understanding Sycamore
  • Final prayer





Arrivals/Tea/Coffee (10 mins)

With some cake or good biscuits…


Welcome (5 mins)

Introduce yourself and explain how the session will run


Prayer (5 mins)

In whatever form is most appropriate


Introduction to Sycamore (25 mins)

The leader introduces the methodology of Sycamore and the main elements involved in each session.

You may want to summarise or simply read through the material on these two web pages:

Have plenty of time for discussion/Q&A


Watch Episode 4 (20 mins)

Watch the first two parts of Episode 4 (up until 15.12), without stopping for the discussion questions. Many people have already seen Episode 1 in the Taster Session, but this will give people a feel for one of the later films, when the themes are more explicitly religious, in the light of the introduction you have just given.

Brief discussion/feedback: What struck people about the film? What did they notice about the presentation/methodology? What did they like or dislike?


Introduce the idea of “open discussion” as opposed to “teaching and catechesis” (15 mins)

Summarise or read through the materials from this section of the website: How to run a discussion group. It’s helpful for everyone to understand this even if they are not going to be discussion group leaders.

Have some discussion about this.

One of the key ideas of Sycamore is to allow people to have an open discussion where they can share what they sincerely believe, without feeling that they are being judged or that they have to give the correct answer. This is not to deny that there are sometimes correct answers, but it’s to realise that people need space to speak freely and share ideas, and that they grow in faith through this conversation and through the relationships of trust and respect that are built up through these conversations. This is often hard for group leaders to appreciate, because there is an instinct to want to teach people and even correct people. Group leaders need to trust that there is plenty of teaching input from the content of the films themselves, and that their role is not to teach or catechise, but to help facilitate an open and honest and joyful conversation that arises out of the questions on the screen and the discussion that emerges.


Feedback, Discussion, Q&A (10 mins)

Have plenty of time at the end for sharing thoughts, feedback, comments, suggestions. Encourage people to come to the next meeting. Finish with a prayer.




How you begin to plan together will depend on how large your current team of leaders is.

(A) If you have a small group of leaders at the training session now (e.g. 3 to 10 people), then in effect this whole group may become your core Sycamore team, and you can work together and make decisions together, with a chairperson/coordinator to guide things.

(B) If you are a larger group of leaders at the training session now (e.g. 11+) then you may wish to identify just a smaller number to become the core group, who will make the major planning decisions at a separate planning meeting, while the others take responsibility for different areas of Sycamore, as if they were “sub-committees”.

IN BOTH CASES: Your team will probably want to allocate different responsibilities to different members of the team (see below), e.g. Discussion Group Leaders, Cooking Team, Prayer Team, etc


Arrivals/Tea/Coffee (10 mins)

With some cake or good biscuits…


Welcome (5 mins)

Introduce yourself and explain how the session will run


Prayer (5 mins)

In whatever form is most appropriate


General planning (30 mins)

Visit this page about “First steps for your team”.

Go through all the material from “INITIAL DECISIONS” onwards. Decide which areas you need to discuss now.

Make some preliminary decisions together as a team and work out what you need to do to finalise or follow up on these decisions. (This might involve further meetings, or discussions with the parish priest or pastor or lead chaplain if they are not present).


Forming smaller teams or sub-committees (30 mins)

Explain the main teams/roles that are needed to run a successful Sycamore:

  • The Discussion Group Team involves those who will lead the discussion groups, and will introduce and wind up the sessions. They will probably do the setting up and welcoming for a smaller Sycamore team.
  • The Food Team need to coordinate all the food planning (shopping, cooking, setting up, serving, tidying up and cleaning).
  • The Prayer Team is praying for the whole project and all the participants through the week, and hopefully they are able to meet and pray at an appropriate venue while the meeting is taking place – e.g. in the local church. This might be for people who have a heart for prayer, or who simply cannot commit to the Sycamore sessions for whatever reason but still want to be spiritually involved.
  • If you have a big team and a big Sycamore project with many guests expected, then you may also wish to have a separate Core Leadership Team who are not directly involved in these other roles, because they are focussing on the planning and coordinating; an IT Team; a Publicity/Marketing/Social Media Team

Then you need to put people into teams. This can be done in different ways:

  1. Simply ask people which team they would like to go into; if there are too many in one and not enough in another, then try to shift people around voluntarily. Use common sense. Hopefully you know each other reasonably well by now. Ask what gifts and talents and interests people have.
  2. If you are concerned that the wrong people will opt for the wrong teams, then as the leader you might want to allocate people from the start, making suggestions that people can go into particular groups. This needs sensitivity, especially if someone who can’t cook wants to cook; or if someone who may not be a good group leader insists on being a group leader. You can always say that these are provisional decisions and that you can re-think things as you go along. Emphasise the need to have a spirit of service.

And now there is time for each small team to meet together to have an initial discussion about their role and what needs planning. They may also want to swap contact details and arrange to meet each other separately to continue this specific planning.

One of the responsibilities of these small teams is then to invite others to join them from the wider community if that is needed. E.g. a small cooking team may invite others to help with the shopping or cooking even if they are not involved in the main Sycamore training.


Final discussion and prayer (10 mins)

All the groups come together. Brief feedback from each group. Finish with a prayer.




You may want to have another meeting following the model of the Third Meeting: with the whole team coming together for major decisions, and then splitting up into small teams/sub-committees for the specific areas again.

Or you may be at the stage where a core group can get on with some of the main planning, and the sub-committees can meet and plan separately. If you do this just make sure that you have ways of meeting together as a wider team for prayer and sharing.




It’s good for the whole team to come together for a meal at some stage, without any planning to do. Just to be together and get to know each other, and to pray together.




The Pilot Session – see here – will be a key moment for the team.

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