Recently, my congregation participated in a church-wide, intergenerational day of service. As part of this, we launched people into their service experiences straight from worship. People then served in three areas for two hours each before returning to our church for lunch and debriefing, which our high school teens led.
For the most part, this debriefing went extremely well. People were thoroughly engaged in conversations with one another.
For this, I'm thankful. After all, debriefing is important for five main reasons:
1. Debriefing fosters relationships. Oftentimes, when serving others, we become so task-oriented that we forget to talk with one another. Debriefing sets aside a time specifically for that. Through intentional conversations, relationships are formed.
2. Debriefing broadens people's experiences beyond that which they themselves were involved in. Our debriefing groups consisted of people who served in different areas during the day. Through them, people were able to live vicariously through one another. Our hope is that by learning about the other ways in which people served, in the future, people will be more likely to step outside of their comfort zone and serve in new ways.
3. Debriefing gives people the space to express frustration and gain a better understanding as to why various decisions were made. Within the group I was a part of, several frustrations were expressed, largely centered on how with better planning, we could have accomplished much more work. In response to these frustrations, others from our group shared how they viewed the day's success not in terms of the amount of work accomplished, but rather in terms of the relationships they formed with others. Such insights helped reframe the day for those who left frustrated. This, in turn, allowed people to leave focused on the positive rather than stewing over ongoing frustrations.
4. Debriefing integrates the present with the future. It allows people to both celebrate the impact their service had on our community while at the same time challenging them to think about how to continue serving in their daily lives.
5. Debriefing gives people the space to process their experience in light of both their emotions and faith. It helps people connect their actions with their intellect, and in so doing, integrate their well-intentioned acts of service with their faith. By sharing how they encountered God through serving, people articulate their faith. As people hear others share their encounters with God, they, too, are inspired and their faith strengthened as they become increasingly aware of God's activity in their lives.
To be sure, the work we did during our church-wide day of service was good.
That said, if you ask me, the most important part of the day wasn't actually the work.
It was the debriefing.