Over the next couple of weeks, several of the posts will provide ways to “bridge” from the summer into the school year.

Pretty soon your students will flock back to campus, and they (and you!) will be ready to hit the ground running with a new season of college ministry.

Not. So. Fast.

Just as it’s important to follow a Big Event or a Spring Break Mission Trip with a debrief, you should consider holding a debrief for your returning students. Just because their activities weren’t part of your college ministry doesn’t mean they shouldn’t process what the Lord has done. (In fact, their activities might not have been ministry-related at all, but why not consider what God taught them through a summer internship or vacation with the family?)

I’ve written before about debriefing mission trips:

A purposeful Debrief is one of the best opportunities to help students “lock in” what they’ve learned over the course of a trip – as well as allowing the fruit to “ferment” and grow, as students and leaders share with each other what they noticed, realized, and gained from the trip.

A Debrief serves an evaluative purpose, too, as we ask, “What could we do better next time?,” “What was the most effective thing we did?,” and related questions.

…as well as our college ministry activities:

We can ask students the growth-related questions, too: “What did you get out of this week’s teaching?” “How did that ‘Night of Worship’ impact you?” “What did you realize while you were serving yesterday morning?” “What steps will you take to apply the series we just finished in small groups?”

…and couldn’t this all apply to how students used their summers, too?

Of course, since they’ve all done different things, debriefing may look different. I see a few options; maybe you see more:

  • Hold a large group debrief for all (or some) returning students. They can learn from each other’s various experiences.
  • Debrief students in groups – those who worked, those who did camp, those who did missions, etc.
  • Have students debrief with their small group leaders, or otherwise debrief in groups of 5 or 10.
  • Debrief students (as much as possible) one-on-one; enlist student leaders or volunteers as needed… even adult volunteers who aren’t normally involved in your ministry (what a cool connection to make at the beginning of a school year).