School Year Debrief for Youth Pastors

in Coaching on June 11, 2012

I don’t know what your summer ministry year looks like (here’s what mine looks like), but we have a significant shift at the end of a school year.  As such, it makes sense to do an appreciation event and a debrief with our leaders.  Here’s what we did, but I’d love to hear what you do in your ministry!
All our volunteers received an invitation to come over to our house for “Frogmore Stew”, a fun way to have a meal together that’s part of my wife’s family traditions.  We all ate in our house and had a great time!  The chemistry on our team is really healthy, which helps.  For about 45 minutes, we ate, told stories, and laughed.  Then, I went into my office and snagged a giant 3′ legal pad on an easel and told everyone we needed to get down to business.  Here are a few of the ground rules I started with…

  • I opened up by telling our volunteers, “The purpose of this is to make our ministry more effective.  We had an amazing year and learned a lot.  But if we don’t take the time to celebrate the wins, and critique the weaknesses, we stunt our own growth out of laziness.”  I then went through our past 12 months to refresh their memories.
  • It was my first full year of ministry with this church, and the previous youth pastor’s mom is still one of our small group leaders.  I know little to nothing about how our ministry ran, the values it held to, or the depth of the ministry before, but I knew from the get go there would be nothing healthy about comparing our ministry over the past year to how things ran when her son was in charge, whether it’s been better or worse.
  • I also made sure everyone knew we weren’t comparing ourself to other ministries in our city.  There are a couple churches pulling form our district that do things very well, a few that don’t, and a few that pull people in but don’t have the best theology.  Comparing ourselves to those churches or ministries wasn’t going to be beneficial, so I addressed that from the get go.
  • I made sure everyone knew the only comparison we’d make is how we were over the past year compared to the potential for ministry we had.
  • I gave everyone permission to be critical, but reminded them, “I’m standing right here.  If it’s critical with a purpose, let’s hear it.  The only way we’ll improve is if we address weaknesses, but don’t make anything personal.”

We got off track several times, but here are the things I asked our volunteers to address and made note of…

  • STRENGTHS.  What did we do over the past year that went really, really well?  What did we do that made you come alive?  What was a situation/scenario/conversation that sticks out over the past year?  What was the best thing of our midweek services?  What was the best thing of our retreats?  What about these things make you see it as a win?
  • WEAKNESSES.  What do you feel like didn’t accomplish it’s purpose?  What did you walk into feeling ignorant or unprepared for?  Where do you think our ministry’s weakest point is?  Where do you think your personal ministry’s weakest point is?  What needs the most help in our midweek services?  Anything you look at that makes you think, “…nice try?”
  • KILL IT.  What about the last year, if anything, would you say wasn’t lined up with our purpose?  What was it that we did, if anything, that was more hassle than payoff?
  • CRITIQUE.  Anything else we didn’t hit on yet that, looking at the past year, you’d like to discuss?

It was really revealing, challenging, and encouraging to hear their feedback, and it puts us in a healthier place as we prepare for next year!  What about you?  What does your debrief look like?

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