Debriefing is an aspect of mission trips that, although just as important as the experience itself, is commonly not given the necessary attention. Lipscomb's short-term mission efforts are extremely formative in the lives of our participants. Team leaders bear the responsibility of aiding participants in the process of preparing for, experiencing, and unpacking from their mission experience.
Debriefing begins before you depart to your trip location. In order to effectively serve, team members must be mentally and spiritually prepared for the things they will encounter and be a part of. Engage your team in conversation from your first meeting on. What is their view of short-term missions? What do they believe the purpose/long-term vision of the trip is? Why are they going? What do they expect the trip to be like? What fears do they have? What sort of questions do they have about the trip? Utilize your returning team members to help answer questions. Allow time in your meetings for small group discussion, personal reflection (journaling), and prayer focused on specific aspects of your trip.
During the Trip
Debriefing during your mission trip should be a daily activity. Allow team members to share what they experienced during the day (or day before depending on time of discussion). Talk about how they've seen God moving in the people they're serving, the ones they're serving alongside, and themselves. Discuss social issues and cultural differences witnessed and the impact they have on the local community. Be a facilitator; allow your team members to do most of the talking, but offer insight and present new questions where you see fit. Have time for both team discussion and personal reflection/journaling scheduled daily (one in the morning, one in the evening).
This is perhaps the most vital time frame when it comes to debriefing. Following the trip, team members can sometimes experience a disjointed feeling between their life during the mission trip and life once they return home. Mission trips inevitably invoke a desire for change in one's life; coming home and making that change a reality in a place that largely has not witnessed what you have is the difficult part. Maintain a closely knit team after your trip is over. Encourage team members to regularly communicate with one another and your team's leadership. Several team members will experience the same difficulties in transitioning back into their everyday lives, so having each other to talk through struggles with is invaluable. Make yourself available to your team members for any kind of discussion. Gather your team together on a few occasions to continue discussions begun during the trip and to share in each other's challenges and praises. Talk about "What now?"; how to use the things God has opened your eyes to through your mission effort, practical applications that can be implemented into everyday life. Discuss how your trip fits within the greater mission of God to the world, and how you can continue to live as part of God's mission. Share memories with one another, and pray over the people and the work being done in your trip's location. Continuance of personal reflection from before and during the trip will help team members see the changes that have come from their experiences; encourage them to do this for a few months following your return.