As we begin a new year with our Basic leadership students, I’ve been taking them through a series of discussions and reflections to help them get the most out of this past year. In order to then plan how to make this coming year intentionally fruitful.

Some of us are great a remembering the past, others being present in today and others regularly dreaming about tomorrow. All three are great and needed if we are going to get the best out of life.

As a leader, we need to consciously and regularly take time to think back on our last season. Whether that’s a year, semester or specific time frame we’ve just finished – to debrief thus bringing to a close what’s ended, note what we’ve gone through, reflect on what that meant and how we’ve grown. To then be intentional in our planning of what we need to do in the next season in light of all this, so we move forward in our development goals.


“A time of reflection and evaluation of an experience with the purpose of beginning to bring closure to it, so that those involved can move on to the next step or event.”

Debriefing is a great tool to use regularly to take time to acknowledge what happened and deal with anything that needs to be processed. So we don’t carry hurts or unresolved issues further than we need to. You don’t have to wait for something ‘bad’ to happen to do this. Good experiences and regular events can be even more fruitful if we take the time to look at, learn from and think about how we could make better for next time. You can go through it by yourself, with someone else or as a group.

There are three phases debriefing takes you through – it’s good to write down your responses to each of them.


To think back over the time frame your debriefing and ask different questions around the main topic of “What happened?” You’re not looking at trying to evaluate it, or reason why it was that way. You’re stating what happened and how it made you feel. To give words and value to what you experience and noticed about those events.

When we speak them out, we bring it into the light. We acknowledge it happened; it was real and what our thoughts and emotions were. Sometimes it will feel big on the inside, but when we speak it out, it makes it seem smaller and not too big to carry. Or giving words to an emotion you aren’t able to express before so weren’t able to process until now. 

For example – When Mark took over leading the team, things changed because Susan wasn’t there anymore. I miss her. Mark isn’t Susan.

When something in our life changes, whether we’ve caused it to happen or someone else has brought the change. Acknowledging what happened before is no-longer what happens now helps us to process that change. There is, in essence, a death. Sometimes it’s good and needed and brings more life because what was before was sucking the life out of other things. Other times it’s unexpected/unwanted, and we need to mourn the loss of what has gone. It can be a person, project, object or an idea. 

A few months after starting a project is an excellent time to pause and recognise, the time, energy, resources and emotions needed to give to this project. To note how it’s affecting everything else around them because you’ve had to change other things to make room for the new project. Sharing what happened in the new project and how it affected other parts of your life are conscious observations of the changes and effects it had on you. The good and the harder to adjust to, the ones you liked and agreed with but also the ones you might still be a struggle. All are worthy of note and attention.

Other questions you can ask during this phase:

  • What were my exceptions from this time?
  • Do I have any disappointments?
  • What struggles did you have?
  • What are the highlights I’m taking away from this time
  • What did God speak to me during this time?
  • What was the result/ outcome/ effect of that news/ decision / event…?
  • What am I thankful for from this season?

It’s best to pause here. 

To note what needs further processing time – either with someone else or just you and God. 

To thank Him for what He’s done and you’ve been a part of.

To give back to Him the things you’ve been carrying which you are no longer part of or responsible for (e.g. if a project has ended, a team member has moved on).

To forgive (or continue the process of forgiving) those who’ve caused you pain or frustration. Or to ask for forgiveness for your responses/failures that have hurt others.

To consciously bring to a close this past season – to let go of things you shouldn’t carry into this next season and to give back to God anything you’ve taken on that is His carry. To trust God that He will take care of things you’re not responsible for. 

And lastly, to celebrate with God what has been achieved in this season, the blessings it’s brought you, others and God.


So what? In light of what happened – what was the result. What does that mean for me now, today? 

Now we take the observations we’ve noted and look at them with perspective. Not only with our internal viewpoint, but also asking God to show us them from His perspective. To look at the why and how’s. 

Questions like:

  • What could have prevented the disappointments, struggles?
  • What caused me to react/ respond in the ways that I did?
  • Why did that make me happy/ sad/ frustrated/ relieved? 
  • What have I learned about myself as a result of this season? E.g. strengths, weakness, things I didn’t know that I needed to know.
  • If I could do this all over again, what would I keep the same? And what would I change and why?
  • What did I learn about those I worked with during this time?
  • How did my or others leadership affect that happened?
  • Why did things work out the way they did?
  • How have I grown in this season?
  • How did we function as a team, was everyone utilized to their potential?

Stressful times can bring out the best and worst in us. It show’s us what we’re really like on the inside when we don’t have time to respond just react. We can see what we actually can handle or endure without breaking. Or how much grace and patience we have when confronted with challenges. It’s when we are put to the test and see the results in ourselves and others.

We may not like all that we’ve discovered in our reflections, but they are the truth and the foundation of where we are and need to grow from.


Now, we take what we’ve discovered in our observations and reflections and apply them to our lives going forward. Where we answer the “Now what?” What do I need to work on/ change, to make myself a better leader and the things I’m responsible for making happen be more fruitful?

This step takes more work, thought and prayerful consideration. It is where we can be intentional in our development and partnering with God. To help the fruit of our experiences translate from having a marginal effect on our responses, character, planning and actions to bringing a fruitful transformation personally and for others.

As a leader, we have the responsibility to look at what things we need to change in our planning and carrying out of events & projects – the practical things we need to learn. But to go deeper – to work on the internal parts of our character & gifts, how we process, communicate and respond to everything around us.

Questions to ask God to help you answer:

  • What areas of my character do I need to develop to become a better disciple and leader?
  • What are my gifts (e.g. spiritual) that God wants me to continue to learn about and practice?
  • The first person I am leading is myself – how can I grow in my self-leadership abilities in this next season
  • What do I need to develop in my communication skills and forms that will help those I’m working with and wanting to reach?
  • What ministry areas do I have to develop? 
  • Who do I need to ask to help me and what do I want them to help me with specifically. Perhaps ask to mentor me for a season in that area?
  • What practical areas do I need to develop in to help me lead/ manage/ run better?
  • What books should I read in this next season/ year to help me learn more about leadership/ ministry areas?


Now for the rubber hit’s the road bit:

Who can I ask to help hold me accountable to do what I’ve said I want to do in this next season/year?

Now, take your thoughts about how you can apply what you’ve noticed and learnt from this past season.  And write steps you can do to develop yourself into the leader and person you want to be. Easier said than done, but entirely possible – because you’re not alone. You have others around to ask for help. Or if some of you have sat and done these steps together, then you can help one another achieve them. And God is with you. He is your greatest cheerleader.

At the start of this year, I wrote a blog #4-Looking ahead to 2021 This blog looked at how we need to look a year ahead with God to see where we want to be and then plan this year accordingly. This is something I do at the start of every year which you can do after looking back on 2019 or as part of the process I’ve shared above.  

Sometime soon, I will write a blog about SMART goals – to help you not only plan how to apply but also how to breakdown your goals to clear action points. So stay tuned 🙂

Also, if you’d like to share some of your application points in the comments section below – we can inspire one another with helpful ideas of areas to develop in too. Thanks for reading and sharing – you are amazing!