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Missionary Debriefing – Part IV by Tim Olson

Jul 11th, 2010 | By | Category: Missions Coaching - Guest Posts

This series of four articles is based on a Mission Coaches Network teleconference with guest speaker Ruth Maxwell. Ruth is a career missionary with SIM and has served in Liberia, Kenya, Canada, and presently, in South Africa. Ruth coaches extensively both within the mission and through outreach programs in South Africa.  She is a strong advocate and skilled practitioner of debriefing.

In Part 1 of this series we identified what a missionary might need or be looking for through debriefing. In Part II we asked, where does debriefing fit – when do they need it? Part III summarized the 10 steps used in debriefing upon a missionary’s return home.

In conclusion, Part IV is about you, the coach. We not only need to be a ‘good fit’ to be a coach and to fit well with our clients, we also need to be sure we are a good fit for debriefing. These questions and statements may help in that regard. 

I. Why use a coach instead of a person from the organization’s member care?

  • What resources are available through the client’s organization?  
  • Does the client need or prefer to debrief with a person outside of their organization? 
  • Would a counselor be more appropriate for this client’s situation?
  • Would this client benefit from an outside perspective? 
  • What does the client want?

II.  What might be the risks in debriefing with a coach?

  • Can the coach be objective?
  • Is the client vulnerable to being re-victimized in the process?
  • Will an on-going relationship compromise the debriefing process?
  • Will the coach’s future- or action-oriented process provide the client enough time to process?
  • Is the client ready for a future focus? “Right now you can’t even hope, but I will hope on your behalf.”

III.  What is the personal capacity and coach’s limitations? What is there about you, yourself that would not be helpful?

  • Can you objectively assess your ability to coach, to debrief and to understand cross-cultural issues? Awareness of the gaps in our experience allows us to operate with effectiveness. Lack of awareness gets us into trouble. What steps will you take to close the gaps?
  • What resources do you have for self-care, for self-debriefing of this trauma?
  • Are you able to let go of your own burdens that might interfere?  

Final thoughts:

What would it look like if every missionary could experience high quality debriefing at critical points in their career/life?

How will you choose to grow in light of these articles?


Located in New Hope, Minnesota, Tim Olson has his own business as a personal life coach after years as a pastor, teacher, school principal, business owner and missionary. In addition, he serves as a leadership coach for the National Fathering Ministry staff both in the US and in Ukraine. He is also a presenter for, helping non-profits  reduce turnover and keep their best people through identifying employee’s passions for work and applying them to their current jobs. Tim received his training in the Christian track of Institute for Life Coach Training and co-founded Mission Coaches Network. For more, see

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