Debriefing: A Powerful But Underutilized Ministry Tool

There is a big difference between talking about what might happen and what actually happened. In Christianity, a lot of us teach toward an event but don’t often teach from an event. We give reasons, scripture, background and purpose as to why we think people should be involved in something but miss the powerful conversation that should have happened once the event was over. Jesus was a master at debriefing. He did it in several ways:

  • Further explanation of his teaching, especially the parables.
  • Unpacking what happened when the 12 & 72 returned from their mission.
  • Appearances to his disciples after the resurrection.
  • On the road to Emmaus in Luke 24
  • Jesus reinstatement of Peter

This also takes place in the book of Acts:

  • The angels explain Jesus’ ascension in Acts 1
  • Peter’s speech to the crowd after healing a lame man in Acts 3
  • Peter and John’s report about all that had happened to them in Acts 4
  • Peter explains his actions toward the Gentiles in Acts 11

There are so many more but the point is this, there are valuable things we can glean from talking about what actually happened among us. Sometimes the insights that can be gleaned following the event are more important to discuss than the actual making the case for the event in the first place. We just have to add that into how we operate. Let me put it this way, would you rather talk about what you are going to do (say feed the homeless lunch) and then go do it or go do it and then talk with those you did it with about what happened and what it mean to you? And yet, so often we are set on doing it the first way!

For a great example of how Jesus did this read Luke 14:1-24 to see how Jesus asks a question, does a miracle to provide and answer and then uses what they just experienced as a launching point for further teaching about what just happened and how God sees people.

Here are a few helpful questions to ask after the fact:

  • How did the event accomplish its intended purpose? (If there was no intended purpose, may need to re-think the event itself)
  • How did the event advance the kingdom of God? (See Luke 9 & 10 following the sending of the 12 & 72. Notice what they report.)
  • What can we learn from what went well?
  • What can we learn from what didn’t go well?
  • How would we do it different the next time?

Those are crucial questions to ask within a week of the event. I can’t tell you how many times I thought how I would do it different the next time, only to not write that down and end up doing it the same way the next time and duplicate the same flaws over and over again. As was pointed out in a previous post we can analyze things to death. I am afraid that is rare. Instead, we often don’t really analyze much of anything.

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