So you’re home from a spectacular mission trip. Now what? This blog series breaks down the what, why, and how of a post-mission debrief. For both great memories and stressful experiences, a thorough debrief is perhaps one of the most important parts of the trip. It helps solidify in individual hearts all the things God was pouring into each team member. It can also redirect a fixated memory from stressful situations by recalling the stories and events where God was working extraordinarily.
Part 5: A series of Sample of Questions by Category Used in Team Debriefs
This portion of the series offers actual debrief questions that were used with teams in 2015 and 2016. Hopefully you are reading this resource in time to prepare your team before you leave to expect a debrief session when you get home. But if not, I have found that even months after a person returns from a missions trip, a debrief is still effective in helping teams process and remember. Feel free to print these questions and use at will. You might notice that the questions and even categories were tweaked to match each team’s experience.
A new concept that we introduced in 2016 was a final debrief one year after the trip. The purpose was to follow up with discipleship and point team members toward any resources needed to facilitate their next step in growth or leadership. We found it helpful in three areas: 1.) fellowship among people who understand where they are in a growth track with Jesus, 2.) to remind the team members of the amazing things they saw and did with each other to foster relationship, and 3.) as a known checking-in point in the future for accountability.
When a person knows they will be asked how they are doing in their walk after a big investment of time and money, they are more likely to keep pushing forward in the areas they know need growth. Those questions are included in the third section of questions. That team was not aware of what the questions would be until they arrived. We conducted this debrief session in a private area of a restaurant. (A restaurant won’t work for a primary debrief though—tried it. Absolute chaos!) But for a smaller team and this low-key disciple accountability time, it worked perfectly.
DEBRIEF SAMPLE 1:
In this debrief, team members chose which questions they wanted to answer. Questions were written on index cards (with some duplicate copies of the same question especially in the “General” category), and scattered across a tabletop for them to read and choose their own.
General overview category: (Each person answer 5-6 questions in this category)
How do you feel the trip went?
What was the best part? What was the hardest part?
Did you experience any disappointments on this trip?
What really “made the trip” for you?
What one thing would you have preferred to be different?
What was the most important thing you learned about God while working abroad?
What was something new you learned about yourself?
What has been the most frustrating experience or situation since coming home?
In one word, what do you miss most about your time abroad?
Adjustment category (Each person choose 3 questions to answer)
Did you struggle to adjust back home? How did it manifest? Or how did you recognize it?
Now that you’re home, of what do you find yourself being critical, short tempered or irritated?
How’s your prayer life been this week?
What is God saying to you today?
If you are struggling to come home, what percentage do you think is emotional and what percentage is spiritual battle?
Integration Category (Each person choose 1-2 to answer)
What new perspectives have you seen come up in your heart in the last month or two?
Are any of your life goals changing? Has God given you specific direction (you don’t have to share it, just a yes or no)?
New thoughts and exciting changes tend to fade if not fed. Have you individually set a plan of action (or as a family or team) to preserve all the wonderful changes God did in your hearts?
DEBRIEF SAMPLE 2
In this debrief each question was asked aloud for the first time and whoever wanted to answer, or chime in, or add a point could do that, and then we moved on to a new question. This debrief was more like a group conversation because of the group’s experience. The team included four senior-leader adults who had gone multiple times to the same location and one newbie, but he was well-practiced in life and in missions elsewhere. Another unusual thing about this team was that almost everybody on the team got sick. It greatly impacted their trip and their ability to function according to the plan they had laid out for 4 months. It is evident in the first line of questioning where we spent more time than I would have thought necessary.
Facing Personal Wellness Challenges Category
How did you deal with the tummy trouble?
How did it feel to be praying for others and still not feel well and have to take medicine yourself?
Did it affect your faith or anyone else’s faith that you know of?
How did you respond to the challenge?
If you go back into your memory of a day you couldn’t get out of bed, could you look around that room to see where Jesus was at that time?
Leaving your Host Culture Category
What was most delightful about leaving your host culture? (Ha! You’ll get some hilarious answers here!)
What was the most painful thing about leaving?
If you were to capture both the delightful and the painful in ONE picture, what would it look like?
What value might this picture hold for you as you re-enter your primary culture?
Coming Home Category
If you decide to go again, what do you want to make sure you do again? What might you want to do differently?
What did you expect it would be like to be welcomed home? How did your return differ from those expectations?
How have you responded inwardly and outwardly when people say “welcome home.”
What has been your most delightful thing to return to at home?
During which situations abroad did you perceive that God acted most extraordinarily?
How did these faith encounters distinctly affect your faith-walk and your view of him? How could testimonies of these encounters build faith and encouragement in othes?
What paradoxes are you currently encountering in your re-entry transition?
In what ways can you thrive in the new areas and things God has added to you while away?
Married/single/team Dynamics Category
What advantages and disadvantages did you note with being single, married, or married and without your spouse and on the field?
How did your team members most encourage you?
If you were to describe your team in three words, what would they be?
What wisdom do you want to take forward from these team experiences and future teams?
SAMPLE DEBRIEF 3
One-Year Post Return Debrief Questions. This style of debrief can be sent to participants ahead or introduced live for the first time. It can be conducted in many formats: more than one team at a time, participants can break into groups of 2-4 and answer questions to each other instead of in a large group, or all together around a table. It is thoughtful and conversational in tone and less interview-like.
Where is your heart today in relation or position compared to where you were when you left your mission post?
Do your actions match where your heart is at in relationship to God with a comparison to where you were a year ago? How are you different? Why do you think that is? Have you changed your routine at all? How? (your heart can be mismatched in either direction depending on your workload at a given time.)
Who are you talking to about the NEW CHALLENGES God has dropped in your path?
What are those challenges? Do they seem bigger or smaller than “prepping and going” on your mission trip? How do you feel about the size of your challenge?
We would love to hear how this debriefing resource worked (or didn’t work) for you. Please forward your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Debrief For Missions Teams
Kim Frolander, Vineyard Missions Blogger
Kim Frolander started attending Inverness Vineyard Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1994. She spent two years as a volunteer/missionary in Jerusalem, Israel, and upon coming home, she trained with Bubba Justice and led missions at IVC for 3.5 years. Now she uses her experience and degrees in research and writing, (formally known as English and History) for curating resources for Vineyard Missions. She has authored eight books and recently founded a non-profit ministry, the Ruth Israel Initiative.