The importance of debriefing after a Love Avenue event.
By Ceeja Malmkar, Love Avenue Champion, Grace Communion Surrey Hills, OK
I’ve enjoyed event planning for as long as I can remember. As Jesus drew me back into church and ministry, that passion never changed. In fact, it opened a whole new world of ministry for all of us in a little church in Oklahoma.
As a Pioneer/Connecter, I love to bring people together, and I love to think outside the box. I have been blessed with an amazing Love Avenue team who are diverse, unique, and full of passion. What started as a neighborhood camp and a water balloon battle has flourished into six big events we plan throughout the year (one every other month). I cannot begin to explain how wonderful it has been to have found a healthy rhythm of events/outreaches that work in our target neighborhood. Once we found the events that worked, we were able to continue to build on them and make them better each year. We do this through our tradition of debriefing after each event.
There’s a common understanding that once you do something, it’s always easier the next time you do it. While this may be true as we become more comfortable and confident in our ability to actually execute a repeat event, it does not mean the event will automatically grow in quality or attendance.
Chances are, you have heard some form of the saying “Those who cannot remember the past, are doomed to repeat it.” This is why debriefing after any outreach, mission, or event is vital. I’m 38 years old, and my husband likes to say that I have a “steel trap” when it comes to memory. While his confidence in my brain power is flattering, I can’t remember what I did last week most of the time. I have learned that this is true for most people, regardless of age. I live my life always utilizing a planner and lots of notes.Read More
It was a few years ago when my friend, Nikki Payne, helped me understand that “debriefing” is celebrating all the positives, and then working together to find the “gotchas.” I absolutely fell in love with that term because it makes everything less personal and more positive. When we are debriefing (finding the gotchas), it’s important that we create space for everyone to be open and honest without the leadership feeling personally attacked.
I believe we should always start with recognizing and celebrating all the heart and work that goes into planning and executing an event. After celebrating all the wonderful things, it’s just as important to come together and ask the team, “What were the gotchas?” There is no such thing as a “perfect” event or neighborhood engagement. We are always learning and growing. After years of doing some of the same events, we find new “gotchas” each and every time, and it is exciting to be able to find creative solutions together.
The gift of “gotchas” is simply that—a gift. It’s a gift to be able to work together alongside our amazingly loving and relational God. It’s a gift to be able to celebrate our participation with him while also relishing in relationship with one another. That’s the beauty of being team-based. As a team, we all want to reach out to love and serve our neighbors the best way we can. We are always better together.
I highly encourage everyone to utilize the gift of “gotchas” by always debriefing after an event or outreach. Every volunteer has unique experiences that we need to hear about, enabling our future events to have an even bigger and better impact for both the people we serve as well as those of us serving. If done with respect, honesty, and love, debriefing gives us the opportunity to reflect on our ministry engagements together and provides clarity on how we move forward.
There will be debriefs where discoveries are made that changes our course of ministry events. Sometimes we are led to make changes, and sometimes we may need to rethink an entire event. Regardless of what details and revelations your debrief brings, it will certainly always bring a sense of clarity in the direction we are moving.
Lastly, it’s important to know when to debrief. You want to bring your team together as soon as possible after an engagement event. Much of the time, this may be the same day, or the weekend following the event. In my experience, I have found that it is often during an event that people will come to me with suggestions or “gotchas.” I have learned that in those instances, to always respond with a “please write that down and bring it to our debrief meeting?” I cannot tell you how many times I thought I would do something different next time but forgot to write it down and ended up duplicating my flaws over again.
Debriefing allows for so many things to happen in our ministry teams. It allows us to examine and analyze through the lens of loving others well. It allows us to support one another, and it brings our teams together. It allows us to take a step back and reevaluate the “how” and the “why” we do things as a church family. It is indeed the final step to any event or outreach, and it is just as important as planning the event itself. We are better together. Let’s relish in that while we embrace the “gift of gotchas” known as debriefing. 😊