After a week of serving others, hanging out with friends, eating a lot of candy, spending time worshipping with hundreds of other students and creating some life-long memories, the Flower City Work Camp students are back home!
We are hoping that you've had a chance to connect with your student after what was an undoubtedly exciting and tiring week. And...we're hoping they've had a chance to take a nap: if you haven't noticed yet, teenagers are nicer after naps and meals...(they're a lot like adults in that way!)
But once the dust settles, favorite meals have been cooked and naps have been taken, we would strongly encourage you to do some debriefing with your student. Because here's the reality: Most people, regardless of age, have a hard time processing their experiences in such a way that allows them to truly digest their significance. And without that process of sifting, sorting and evaluating memories and experiences, few (if any) long-term changes stick.
So this blog is just an attempt to give you some tips on how to best process a significant experience like this with your student. Don't view this as a rigid set of questions to be answered, but rather a guide that houses some helpful principles.
- As a general rule, it's better to wait before asking deep and probing questions.
- Most students come home from a week-long experience either talking a mile a minute, or walking around like a zombie who hasn't had their morning cup of coffee in 10 years.
- Neither of those conditions are ideal for serious processing - if they're a talker, let them talk and make mental notes of what sticks out most. If they're a zombie - let 'em sleep. Give 'em food, and wait!
- 1-2 days of normal life will probably allow short-term memory loss and sleep to naturally sift through the less important memories, and allow the significant ones to crystalize.
- It might be worth encouraging your student to journal or write down some memories or thoughts while it's fresh, but save the in-depth evaluating for later!
- Set up a special and uninterrupted time for debriefing
- With the rate our lives move, you probably won't get around to this kind of activity if you don't schedule it. So put it on the calendar, and protect it!
- Consider making it a conversation around a dinner table so the whole family can listen in.
- Oh yeah - try turning off your phone and the TV while you do this. Your student (whether or not they know it or want it) can't have enough of your undivided attention.
- Think outside the box about what might've made an impact on your student.
- Remember that the event's purpose doesn't always line up with the most significant lessons learned. This is true of most NYM trips (or events in any part of life!)
- Think about your most significant memories: a trip out West with the family might carry awesome memories of the Grand Canyon, but there are probably other memories that stick out that weren't the intended purpose of the trip - like how you learned that you're prone to car-sickness or how your relationship with your brother was enriched and cemented in a meaningful way.
- So think of sideline experiences or unusual circumstances that might've happened incidentally during FCWC, but might've have a significant impact.
- (We will give some examples of possible questions in just a second)
- Always think long-term.
- Emotional experiences are fantastic environments for seeing God and the world in a brand new light, but they have a tendency to create a false view of the way normal life and lasting change work.
- Allow your student to run through the normal course of emotions that high-intensity experiences can bring, but in your debriefing, try to point them toward tangible changes, steps or perspectives that can take the "experiential" and quickly-fading parts of spiritual growth and replace them with a foundation for long-term impact.
- i.e. - A student who says, "I just loved helping these kids see the love of Jesus! I want to start an orphanage tomorrow!" would be helped by a gentle guiding comment like, "That's awesome! How about we start by getting you plugged into serving with Kids on Sunday mornings! That way, you can make a lasting difference in kids you know now, and start figuring out what kind of skills it would take to run a ministry like an orphanage. I'm on your team - let's do this!"
So, there are some principles. We'll be re-publishing this after most of our big events just as a reminder! But here are some FCWC specific questions that might be helpful. Happy debriefing!
- What was the best part of FCWC 2015?
- What was the worst part of FCWC 2015?
- What do you think it means to be SENT by God? Where do you feel that God is SENDING you?
- What was your favorite song you learned this week? Why was it your favorite? Can I buy it for you on iTunes?
- What did you learn about YOURSELF that surprised you?
- What did you learn about GOD that surprised/challenged/excited you?
- What was it like to be without your phone for 4 days in a row? Did you miss it?
- Since you haven't checked your notifications on social media in a few days...has your perspective on how important they are/aren't changed at all?
- What is it about FCWC that makes you want to serve others?
- What outlet could we find to allow you to serve for more than just a week that could have long-term impact on YOU and on those you serve? Can we work together on a project like that?
- (Idea: serve together at Northridge Church or one of our partners found at NorthridgeServes.com)
(Below are some pictures that Aaron was able to snap while taking a shift as an overnight leader - they will give you a small glimpse into what FCWC is like at Browncroft Community Church!)
If you receive this blog via email, you can click HERE to see the images.