“A quality debriefing experience is the key that unlocks the potential of long-term life change for most team members,” says mission leader Steve Moore. Even though every mission trip experience is a little different, anyone committed to listening can do an effective mission trip debriefing.
1. Consider the elements of a good debriefing.
Typically, debriefing addresses re-entry issues, celebrating what God has done, retaining life lessons and changes, and preparing to communicate about the trip to others. To serve team members with diverse personalities, combine verbal and written processing as well as group time and time alone. Expect some tension as people respond to debriefing issues in different ways. Encourage them to give grace to one another and be patient with the process, expecting God to work through it. For more ideas, see the following articles:
- Sorting It Out: Simple Questions for Debriefing Short-Termers
- Coming Out of the Fog
- Coming Home: Debriefing Exercises to Help You Process Reentry Shock
- The Keys to a Quality Debriefing
- Keeping the Flame Alive
- Discover Your Part in God’s Plan
- After the Trip: Unpacking Your Crosscultural Experience By Cory Trenda and Tim Dearborn
See also an article from Youth Specialties called Debriefing the Mission Trip.
2. Prepare for follow-up.
A few years back, mission trip specialists collaborated to create resources that address mission trip follow-up – that is, debriefing and more. See The Next Mile. You may find it helpful to consider their list of top ten issues short-termers deal with following a mission trip. See also 20 Mile Markers, simple ideas for follow-up which are designed to inspire and invigorate those who went.
For those whose purpose in going was to explore long-term direction – or who came back thinking that way – simply processing the experience on the field and how it applies to life back home is not enough. The best resource for charting your course from short-term to long-term may be a mission coach or mentor.
The longer and/or harder the trip has been, the more debriefing is usually needed. Those returning from a trip of several months or more may profit from reading a book like Craig Sorti’s The Art of Coming Home, or Peter Jordan’s Re-Entry. Pack one of these in your suitcase. Pull it out toward the end of the trip and read an excerpt to your team. See if any of the readers among them would like to pass it around.
3. Check in with your team before they start checking out.
For best results, don’t save all your debriefing until the trip is over and you’re back at home. Many teams include some kind of daily check-in time during their trip as well as a wrap-up before leaving the site or part-way home (e.g., in another city along the way). Some incorporate time for personal journaling, video blogging, and other mechanisms for processing and communicating about their experience as it unfolds.
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By the ShortTermMissions.com Community. Compilation of responses in a forum.