Burt and Susan Gavin had just settled on a time to meet with a group of young people for the New Hope training when their city shut down. As everyone stayed at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Gavins considered their options. “To be honest,” Susan said, “I was not very enthusiastic about doing New Hope online. I just felt we really lost the personal touch of face-to-face contact. I thought those kinds of things were important aspects of such a deeply emotional and spiritual study.”
But the group wanted to continue the training, so the Gavins moved the training online. They tweaked activities that required physical contact and found creative ways to accommodate the 40-minute time limit for their Zoom-based video calls. For instance, instead of having the participants carry each other to demonstrate the weight of bitterness, Susan had each participant hold a book in the palm of their outstretched hands as she droned on and on about bitterness. By the time she let them put down the book, their arms ached with the weight of the single book.
“It’s actually been really good,” Susan concluded. “The comments we’ve received, unsolicited from our members, is that they’re grateful and glad to have this time together, as well as time for deep reflection on their lives.”
The following is four tips from Susan Gavin on conducting a New Hope group over Zoom:
1. Experiment with breaking up calls
Since the free version of Zoom limits users to 40 minutes per call, Susan suggests experimenting with ways to break up each session. Susan ends her Zoom calls at natural breaking points, such as between activities, whether or not she has used up the entire 40 minute time slot. The participants take a 5-minute break, reflect on the story, or complete a healing activity before regrouping on a new Zoom call.
2. Email materials before the session
Another suggestion is to email the listening prompts to the group before each New Hope session, along with a reminder of the three listening questions. Participants call each other 15 minutes before the official Zoom meeting to share responses to the listening prompts, which allows the group to maximize the 40-minute session without a break during the ‘looking back’ phase.
3. Get creative with group activities
Susan suggests getting creative with group activities. For example, during drama skits, participants can read out different parts from the story transcript as if they were in an old-time radio show. At the end of the first 40-minute session, and after the story has been told twice, the Gavins email the story transcript to the participants.
Susan has also found creative ways to tweak the healing exercises. For example, one of the healing exercises asks participants to carry one another on their backs. Susan asked each participant to stretch out their arms and balance a book on their palms instead. Participants held the books until their arms began to ache while Susan droned on about holding onto bitterness. Once she finally let them put their books down, Susan asked participants to reflect on how they felt physically and emotionally during the exercise.