Missionary debriefing is a relational and intentional process that provides an opportunity for a missionary to tell their story—by verbally processing past and recent events from their point of view, complete with their emotional responses at the time and since then.
As the above definition demonstrates, missionary-specific debriefing is an amazing gift that God has called His people to develop and offer to missionaries who have made the transition from life and ministry on the field back to life and ministry in the states, or who desire to remain effective on the field.
At Shepherd’s Staff we refer to the debriefing for those that have returned to life back in America as TRANSITIONAL debriefing.
And as the previous two posts have revealed, those that receive the gift are REFRESHED and REALIGNED for the next season of life that God has in store for them.
But God hasn’t limited the gift of debriefing to just missionaries that have made the transition from the field back to America.
He has also called His people to develop a slightly modified version of that same gift to offer to the missionaries who are in the midst of life and ministry on the field, or who have returned to the states for a period of time with the intention of going back to the field.
Shepherd’s Staff refers to this type of debriefing as MAINTENANCE debriefing.
MAINTENANCE debriefing also produces two beautiful and important fruits in the life of the missionary who accepts the gift.
First, it produces an encouraging CONFIRMATION that they are exactly where God wants them to be and that He is pleased with them and their faithfulness to the work He has given them to do.
When those that are still serving as missionaries tell the story of the many ways God moved to make it possible for them to get to the field, and then how He has sustained them despite the challenges they’ve faced, they are beautifully confirmed in their calling.
Second, it provokes them to consider whether certain aspects of their lives and ministry might need some CALIBRATION for their own well-being and the health of the ministry that God has called them to.
As the missionaries answer a few strategic questions about the hard things they’ve experienced thus far, their responses to them, and how they feel right now about life and ministry-related aspects of their lives right now, most of them recognize they need to calibrate a few areas of their lives and ministry for their own good and the good of their ministry.
The Difference between Transitional and Maintenance Debriefing
Transitional debriefing is best accomplished by devoting at least two days to the process. It bears the greatest fruit when the one who does the debriefing has gone through the experience themselves and/or has received intensive and lengthy training to be as loving, gracious, and helpful as possible.
On the other hand, Maintenance Debriefing can take as little as a few hours and be led by any mature believer with the right heart and a short time of being equipped to be a good questioner, listener, and responder.
Shepherd’s Staff believes that every one who knows and loves missionaries should encourage the missionaries they know that have returned from the field to receive the gift of Transitional debriefing and the R & R it provides.
We also believe that everyone who knows and loves someone who is currently a missionary should encourage them to accept an on-field, or while-stateside, Maintenance Debriefing and the C & C it provides.
Pastor Jeff Jackson is the founder of Shepherd’s Staff Mission Facilitators and currently serves as the director of Church Relationships and Missionary Care. Jeff previously served with his family as church planters in the central Philippines and in the United States.