General Ministry
Josh Griffin

You wake up exhausted. Was that overnighter a dream? Where did your black eye come from? Why is your arm in a cast? Why are there 13 missed calls from various parents? What speeding ticket?

If you’re like us, after a big event or activity the last thing you want to do is re-live all the details. If nobody died, you probably count your blessings and move on to the next order of business (or should we say the next order of “busyness”?) And it’s the busyness of youth ministry that typically keeps youth workers from taking the time to evaluate our events and activities.

After all, you spent 2 months getting ready for summer camp…why spend one day debriefing it upon your return (that’s a rhetorical, sarcastic question)? So, after a big activity, get some rest and when your head does clear of sleep deprivation, here are a few ways to debrief like a professional event planner:

Gather the troops to celebrate
Have an evening after a big event already marked on the calendar to take time to celebrate what God did at your event. Make a sort of reunion feel to the night, including pictures, video, even a student testimony or screenshots from Facebook™ of people talking about the event. Make it known that debriefing will be part of the celebration. We reserve this type of nights for camps, retreats, mission trips etc. There’s probably no need to plan a special night just to celebrate a successful bowling outing.

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Talk about “The Good”
Start with the highlights — this will get everyone centered on why you did the event in the first place and get the discussion going so it’s easier to share the lowlights. What did God do? What were the stories and celebrations from the event? What went flawlessly? What was surprising?

Talk about “The Bad”
Potential improvements are easy for some people to see — so work on creating a list of what wasn’t best and quickly think of how to improve them. Time is best spent creating a list of things that could be improved rather than focusing on solutions — it is much easier to attach someone with a particular skillset to a problem later. Start the debrief asking people to “speak the truth in love”.

Talk about “The Ugly”
Things happen. Stuff gets broken and things bomb. Only the worst offenders get on this list — don’t put things that could be easily fixed here, only stuff you swear you’ll never do again.

Send off apologies/thank yous
In the course of youth ministry events you may be required to apologize for something that happened. You may want to offer to fix a lamp that was broken. Or return something that was stolen. And for sure a quick thank you to everyone involved in the planning, pulling off and follow-through of the event will go a long ways in making sure the next one is even better.

Here’s hoping your next event, and the debrief afterward, go great!

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

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  • James says:

    That’s great! We at Experience Mission (www.experiencemission.org) feel the same way. We emphasize the need to debrief, but not only to debrief and talk about the good and bad, but also to help process the things we experience on our mission trips. I found it extremely beneficial for my previous youth ministry to continue to apply what we learned during our time on the mission field.

    Mr. Griffin, your opening sentence spoke straight into my heart 😉

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