Debriefing Adult Leaders


Flickr Creative Common John Polley Brand CommunicationsMost of us in youth ministry world are in the middle of trying to cobble together some last minute vacation time and get ready for the fall. But have you taken the time to debrief what you did over the summer? In Youth Ministry world summer can be a blur, it is our most intense program time and most intense relational time. These trips are deep, emotional, and life altering for both the students and adults. It might be the eleventh time you helped rebuild a house, but it might be the first time your adult leaders have.

Have you taken the time to debrief these experiences with your adult leaders? Debriefing summer trips with your adult leaders is just as important as debriefing with your students. For many adults, they may have had their first encounter with poverty or it might be the first time they have heard their faith articulated in an understandable way. These experiences need to be debriefed, and will be helpful in several ways. First, it trains them to debrief others.  Debriefing an experience is one of the best tools we have and it is crucial that we train our leaders to do it.  Experiencing this first hand will help them understand not only the steps to a debrief but also the value of this practice.  Second, it helps them to process a shared experience thereby creating a deeper bond with you and the team. Processing an experience is actually part of the team building. By processing the experience, you create a shared memory, maybe a few inside jokes, and a deep sense of comradery.  Third, it gives you the opportunity to clarify and correct theology or stereotypes. One of the largest benefits of debriefing is the opportunity it presents to respond to theology, stereotypes, and experiences.  Here are some of the questions I use with my adult leaders. I have also included a link for a .pdf version so that you can save them.

What did you enjoy about (conference or service trip)?  What did this experience teach you? What was the main message (of the speaker or the week for you)? How did God speak to you through the week?  What did God teach you? How are you going to integrate this experience into your daily life? What could we do to improve this experience? Did anything happen this week that we need to follow up on?

What questions would you add? Why do you think it is important to debrief experiences?


Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons / (c) John Polley Brand Communications



  1. Dan Snyder says:

    What an excellent idea!
    This also gives a great time for “action/reflection.” Youth Leaders can use these times to talk about about what’s happening internally in their adult ministers. What did you learn about yourself and the way you relate to God, people, students? Explore why you might have avoided certain conversations/experiences. What did you notice about the dynamics in the group and the part you played? What group-story of the summer has stayed with you and why?
    This action/reflection style of ‘supervision’ is a practice that can be integrated into regular meetings with adult ministers. It provides the deepest level of life change. Thanks for pointing this out so that we don’t miss the opportunity.

  2. Dan that is a great insight the more time we devote to reflection and integration of experiences the better leadership we will build.

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