youth worker, youth ministry, experience

Debriefing Leadership Experiences

By Doug Franklin July 26, 2012

Leadership experiences are very important in the leadership development process. As many of you know an effective student leadership development program needs to focus on the two sides of leadership development, solid leadership training and real leadership experiences where students play the role of a leader.

Today I want to talk about how we make the leadership experience transformational in students’ lives. First we must understand that there is more to a great leadership experience then just doing the experience. We must agree that debriefing and mentoring of student leaders need to be part of the process. Jesus was the master of this as he worked with his disciples, remember in Luke 10:1-20 when Jesus sent his followers on a mission trip and then they returned Jesus sat with his disciples and debriefed the experience. Jesus knew that his followers would face these trails again; debriefing the experience now would help them in the future. We must do the same with our student leaders. Whatever leadership experiences has just happened we must be international and set some time aside to debrief the experience and help students apply the lessons to their lives

This is the LeaderTreks process for debriefing a leadership experience

1. Uncover the truth
Ask question that will lead students to uncover the truth about the leadership experience. They should be able to uncover good things and areas where they struggled. Make sure to celebrate the wins and to be honest about what needs to change. In this first step don’t do much talking just ask questions and let students process what took place. I like to ask two main questions: What was the problem you were facing? And how do you did you feel when you were facing this problem? These two questions should be enough to help students uncover the truth about how the event was lead and expose what leadership skills need to be improved.

2. Identify areas for improvement
In this step you are going to play the role of mentor, a person who helps students understand what they have experienced and how they can grow from it. Students have uncovered the areas of their leadership that needs work. Its fresh in their mind having just having experienced it and you are going to come along side and mentor them through changes they can make to improve. You still going to want to ask questions but here you are also going to want to teach. This is a great opportunity to turn failures into wins by making actions steps to change.

3. Apply the leadership lesson to life
Students will now see how their leadership needs to improve but you can take it a step farther with by asking them to apply what they have learned to their daily lives. It’s not our goal to develop leaders just for youth group events but to equip students for long-term leadership in the kingdom. The questions are simple: How does this apply to your life at school, in your family and with your friends? Ask students to be specific and ask them if you can hold them accountable, this will make a difference.

Leadership experiences for students are so powerful. They want to do a good job and they want to be effective as leaders. When you debrief with them they understand that it’s ok to make a mistake and they know that you have their backs. A student leader who has a mentor and friends who supports them will do great things for the kingdom of God.


About the Author

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners  who never leave their side. Doug grew up in…  Read More