Tips for Outreach Debriefin
Before returning from your outreach location, each outreach team should take some time as a group to bring closure to their outreach experience. Three or four days is a normal amount of time to set aside for this. When your team arrives back to your home base, it should be ready to integrate back into the whole DTS and lose its identity as an outreach team to some degree. Usually the final debriefing week of a DTS is spent bringing closure to the entire 24 weeks of the school and so meetings as outreach teams do not occur on a scheduled basis any more.
Suggestions for Planning An Outreach Debriefing Time:
It sometimes helps if you consider debriefing in a different location than you have been ministering. This will help to gain perspective on where you've just been and it will free you from expectations and demands coming from those you've been in contact with during your outreach (i.e. churches, new converts, etc.)
1. It's nice to find a place where meals (and other basic needs) are easy so your team won't spend all their time and energy shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc. You might consider spending a little more money and eating at restaurants.
The Debriefing Process – Some Suggestions: (Be creative!)
1. Take a step back to evaluate the outreach. Ask the question, "What did God do"? What were some of the outcomes or results of your outreach? Why did your team make a difference? Did you accomplish your team goals? Looking back, what were some ways God used you that you couldn't have planned yourself? This could be accomplished through a team discussion.
2. Help the students identify what the Lord taught them individually during the outreach. How did they grow personally? What significant things happened to each of them. This could be a good time to have the students look at the personal goals they set for the outreach – their strengths and weaknesses. (You might accomplish this by going around and having each person share.) Keep in mind that some people might do better having advanced warning before being asked to talk about these things. Perhaps in the morning you could ask everyone to be prepared to share that evening, possibly giving some free time in the day to think about it.
3. Time of Thanksgiving and Celebration! Acknowledge and thank God for what He has done through your ministry and in your lives. You could have a special time of worship and sharing.
4. Pray for the people you've met and the places you've been to. This is a good time to once again lift up the friends you've made, those whom you've shared the Gospel with, the churches and workers you've been with, etc.
5. Rest & have some fun. It can be a big transition coming from an intense outreach environment back to your home base where things will be quite different. Use this time to slowly re-adjust. You might want to plan in some free time as well as fun activities for the team. Keep in mind that the more fun and free time you take, the longer debriefing time you will need in order to accomplish everything you want to do.
6. Encourage one another. Sometimes it's easy to see how everyone else has been a blessing to the outreach except for us. Speaking encouraging words to one another can be a simple yet powerful way of ministering to each other, especially after a difficult outreach. One suggestion is to draw names, then have a session where one at a time, each person reads the name they drew, then say (only positive)things about how that person contributed to the team and affirms them in ways that they see God using them. Let them know ahead of time that you will be doing this so they have a chance to think of affirmations for their team members and staff. Then, after that person has finished, the rest of the team can add things to it. You might then take time to pray for that person. This kind of a ministry to one another can be a huge blessing and can have a profound affect on the outlook a person may have on themselves and the outreach in general. Remember it is so easy to believe lies about ourselves and see only the negative.
7. Address any unresolved conflicts among the team. Ideally you would like to return from outreach with all personal and team issues talked about, worked through, and taken care of. This is sometimes beyond your control as outreach leaders, but you can at least make an attempt at promoting communication, humility, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Some issues might be better talked about as a team while other things might only concern a few people. As outreach leaders you should pray about each situation and ask God for wisdom in how to address it (or not to).
8. Prepare for your report back time to the school and base upon your return. (Try to be creative!)
Remember some things are only funny because you were there. Be careful of inside jokes.
Share about your ministry, the countries and culture, the church there, and what God has taught you.
Give people a taste of what your outreach was like.
You will usually have a bit of time to finalize your preparations for your report back at your home base, but you will need to begin preparing and brainstorming before you come.
9. Handout outreach evaluations to students and team leader should spend one on one time with each team member going over evaluation of their outreach time. This is a great opportunity to get some good feedback, as well as giving some good feedback to students individually.
10. Prepare team for rejoining the rest of the school. Be careful of comparing yourself with other teams. God has had unique and good purposes for each Team. Rejoice with ALL God has done in teams apart from your own.
Be careful of inside jokes when you are with others that can't share in them.
Explain that it can be normal to once again feel “strange” readjusting back to a large group, having different room-mates etc.
Discuss the issue of “reverse culture shock” and what it may look like and feel like – feeling alone, abandoned etc.
The school isn't over and so they may need a reminder and help to have their hearts open for what God wants to seal together in the Debriefing week.
When it comes down to actually planning your days of debriefing, it would be good to start thinking and planning out the 3 - 4 days in advance - before you even get started (or you may never finish all you want to do). Think through which of the above things/activities will be the most important to you and try to estimate how much time you think you will need for each. Then make adjustments if / as necessary.
Beware of major attacks that commonly occur during debriefing. These can manifest themselves in a variety of ways but usually have their final effect in bringing conflict and division to team members. Often, when teams and individuals start to let their guard down a little and relax, the enemy likes to try to take advantage of this - hoping to have us end the outreach on a sour note. Just be aware so as not to get caught off guard. If you recognize it from the beginning you can diffuse it.