For many years now, going back as far as I can remember, we have had a custom of spending some time in debriefing at the end of each year. We have created or borrowed a different approach each year to keep it alive and interesting. We have also added times of contemplation and the use of pictures, symbols and art to help visualize what has taken place. So, I would like to present you with a simple word based process for this year to debrief as an individual or as a couple.
The process in debriefing involves recalling what has happened in the last season of time and replaying the events in our minds. If those events were difficult, sad or emotionally draining, the process can be a little depressing if you don’t have any positive application. If our personal debrief brings to the surface wrong attitudes, responses or behaviours, just being aware of them isn’t enough. We need to identify what real changes need to take place and create some practical steps to get there. We all know that seeking to do this by ourselves isn’t always successful. We need people who can keep us accountable and encourage us by spurring us on and sharing with us when they see positive changes in our lives. Until we have this feedback from others, we will often ask ourselves, “How have I really changed?” Others have a clearer perspective and can be such an encouragement on our journey.
The debrief I have for this year is below and has 3 parts to it. I would encourage you to set aside some time now or in the next couple of weeks. Make yourself a cup of coffee and sit down to focus on this very important task and expect to encounter the Lord as you spend this time in his presence.
Part 1a – 20 questions in 5 categories
Part 1b – Actions and responses to the questions
Part 2 – Identify lessons learned as you reflect on your answers to the questions
Part 3 – How will I live differently in 2019?
I have added my own responses to part 2 and 3 as examples.
Are you sitting comfortably? Ask Jesus to be present – then begin!
- Where have I been this year? What nations have I visited, conferences attended, events and special moments taken place with friends and family?
- What were the highlights this year? – times of fulfilment, fun, learning, intimacy…
- What were the lowlights this year? – times of discouragement, struggle, challenge, disappointment, sickness, failure…
- What were the gains and losses as I look back over all the activities?
- What were key points in the year where I experienced Gods presence? – an inspiring word spoken, a fulfilling project, fresh understanding or revelation…
- What has been my spiritual rhythm this year? What have been the ups and downs? What has worked and what hasn’t? How do I need to tweak my rhythm for the next season? What new disciplines do I need to add into my life?
- Apart from any specific ministry I am engaged in, how am I living day to day for Jesus? What principles am I living by, what do I make sure I do every day, every week that brings joy to Jesus? How am I doing in the basics of Christian living – loving others, investing in individuals, giving hospitality, giving alms (generosity), praying for others/intercession, communicating blessing to others, …
- What spiritual truths have I come alive for me in this season? How have I grown more in love with Jesus?
- How am I doing physically? What have I done to keep fit? How has my health been? What changes do I need to make to live healthier? How’s my diet? How am I sleeping?
- How is my soul? What has taken away a sense of peace? What has caused stress? What keeps me awake at night? How is my anxiety level? How am I dealing with my signature sins and overcoming them?
- How are my relationships? Is there any reconciliation needed? How are my relationships deepening? What is causing a distancing in relationships?
- What am I doing to invest in myself? What am I reading that is stimulating, challenging and edifying? What courses am I taking? What new hobbies, activities am I taking up? How am I becoming a better person?
- If I had all the resources I could ever want – what would I like to do or be?
- What have been some of my lifelong dreams or more recent dreams that I really want to see happen? What development in any dreams have I seen over this last year?
- What has God said to me about dreams? How prepared am I to invest time, energy and money into these dreams? What are some practical steps to move towards them this coming year?
- What new dreams might the Lord have for me? Who does he want me to become? (His dream for me will never be something I don’t really care for – he gives me the desires of my heart!)
- Who are my closest and deepest friends? (We all need at least one best friend that we can share everything with.)
- Who are the people that I can go to for practical help, emotional support, advice and wisdom, prayer ministry or counselling, confession of sin, spiritual input ….?
- Who are the people that I am or could invest in through friendship, prayer, coaching, mentoring, debriefing, …?
- Who do I or could I take initiative towards with regards to communication, hospitality, pastoring, praying for…?
Actions and response to the questions you have just answered:
Allow each question to settle in your heart – the answer doesn’t often come immediately. So, sit with each question, and go beyond your first thought.
- What issues that have taken place in this past season have not been brought to closure? What do you need to do to bring that closure?
- What do you need to let go of? Offences, hurts, wounds – things people have said, done or implied; situations in which you think you could have done more or said more; emotional ties to someone or something; a project you are micro-managing, a situation or person you are controlling; …
- Who do you need to release forgiveness to? How will you go about that? What actions could you take to help in the process?
- Who do you need to ask forgiveness of? How will you approach them? When will you do this?
- Who do you need to be reconciled with? How will you go about this?
Part 2: Lessons learned in 2018 – my personal response
- We have limited capacity. Rite and I have been high capacity people, juggling lots of balls in the air and going from one project or retreat to the next, enjoying the fruitfulness and being fulfilled. But in recent years we have had less time between each new event and the lack of margins has depleted us. No one can keep going at a high pace 24/7 without negative effects.
- Our 10 years is up. We have given ourselves fully for 10 years in the retreat centre and there is a need for a new season and focus. There is a time for everything under heaven and like kids growing up, each development stage has its delights and difficulties, but you can’t stop in any one phase. Life is always moving forward, and we have to move forward with it.
- Focus on Legacy. We began asking questions like: What is going to count in the future? What do we want to leave behind? How can we finish well? Who and what do we invest our time and energy in? What can we do that is multipliable for the kingdom?
- Pruning a fruitful branch. Success can be a problem. You can’t keep adding things to your schedule and lives without taking something out. It’s one thing to prune a dead branch but quite another to prune a fruitful one. However, for us to produce more fruit, the retreat centre needed to be pruned – a particularly painful lesson.
- Identity in Christ alone. For ten years we have been introduced as – Stephe & Rite, they run the retreat centre. The centre had a life of its own. We didn’t have to think what we were doing today or next week, the schedule was set with guests and retreats. It is always a temptation for our identity to be wrapped up in what we do. In our case – the centre. Suddenly all has changed, and we now need to take initiative to connect with the YWAM community, engage in ministry and invite people home for hospitality.
- Times of intensity and rest. It’s been a joy to be able to add in times of margin and have a home to return to without jumping straight back into another ministry time after a trip away. It was a shock at first to wake up with no one else in the house, no one to feed and no one to pick up from the airport. It’s amazing how you don’t recognise just how intense your life was, until you come out of it.
- Finding Jesus in the storms. Some storms especially relational ones are out of our control and we can’t stop them, so we have to find that new place of trust and know that Jesus is still in the boat with us. We have found it helpful to work through the losses and challenges but not stay there and give our attention and focus to Jesus – looking to see what he does next and not allowing the difficulties around us to affect our personal walk with the Lord. Ps 107.
Part 3: How will I live differently in the new year? My personal response:
- Create a fresh spiritual rhythm for the year, made up of spiritual disciplines that I feel are important in this season, times for personal retreat, spiritual input, books to read together as a couple and for myself.
- Pace ourselves as a couple in travel, spending time with family, LDC, b2b and preschool ministry. Make sure there is transition time between each element.
- Make room for listening prayer/discernment time to hear from God about the priorities of ministry for the future and then time to plan for its implementation.
- Time for celebration of birthdays, anniversaries and special events.
- Find a new dependency on the Lord and others to continue to deal with my signature sins of self-reliance & self-righteousness.
My prayer is that all your experiences this past year won’t be wasted but as you bring them to Jesus, he will be able to transform them into learning and life.
May you enjoy a merry Christmas and a fruitful new year,