The concluding part of this series on lessons from Jesus’ feeding the 5000 focuses on completion of the task.

Mk 6:42-45  And (the people) all ate and were satisfied. And (the disciples) took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men. Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.

Once the people were fed we have an understanding of the scale of the miracle that has just occurred; ‘..all…were satisfied’. Can you imagine how much food that represents? Suppose there were in fact 10,000 people and each had quarter of a loaf of bread and half a fish. That would mean 2,500 loaves from the original 5 – a 500-fold increase – and 5,000 fish, a 2,500-fold increase. And just imagine how much litter! We are told there were 12 basketsful.

So there are two further aspects to this story from which we can learn. First, there was the clear up after everyone had gone home, an inevitable requirement after any event. Unfortunately, this is often not adequately planned. If the event is a major one it is irresponsible just to leave it to chance that enough people will volunteer to put the chairs away, return any relevant equipment to the store etc. Planning for this is as important as planning the setup if the venue is not to be left looking like a tip – hardly a good testimony for the next user.

Even more important, however, is the debrief. We know that this must have taken place. How else would we know the statistics of the event? Also, we were told in verses 31, 32 that it had been Jesus’ intention to take the disciples away after the ministry trip to debrief them so it seems that now was the opportunity to do so.

Why debrief? There are three main reasons: 

1. It gives the workers the chance to unwind and share their personal stories and perspectives. This is particularly relevant after a major and demanding function. 
2. It provides the opportunity to monitor whether the intended purposes were achieved. This implies that clear goals had been set at the beginning, another vital component of planning. 
3. Perhaps most important, it provides the opportunity to learn from the situation and decide what changes should be made on another occasion.

I have referred previously to the annual Leadership Conference that we, as a family of churches in Newfrontiers, have held for many years at the Brighton Conference Centre in the UK, attended by 4-5000 people. Within a few days of the end of that Conference I gather the Management Team together in a relaxed environment. We share personal stories (some highly amusing!) about our personal experiences and testimonies we may have heard from friends or post-conference correspondence.

Having relaxed we have a more formal session. In preparation for this occasion the conference has been divided up into categories (Programme, Worship, Administration etc). The Team of 12 is split into 3 groups. Each category is then discussed by all groups within a defined timeframe. A record is kept of observations of what worked well and suggestions for change. After each topic the groups are rearranged so that each person works with someone different and the process is repeated. The resulting suggestions are captured and organised, and they become a foundation document for planning the following year.

We then end with a good meal together as a way of saying ‘thank you’ for all the hard work they have put in.

This debrief meeting represents the end of the Conference from the organisers’ point of view (although there will be on-going financial matters to handle as invoices are received). It also represents the beginning of the preparation for the following year’s Conference. It is a vital and essential concluding step in the management of the Conference.

This posting brings us to the end of the first body of teaching on Biblical Administration, using the story of the Feeding of the 5000 as a basis of learning some fundamental aspects. In subsequent postings I shall be looking at the calling to administration, and specific skills in depth which we need to exercise such as Time Management, Planning, Handling Finance. But for the next few postings I shall be considering matters related to my other major passion – how to serve the needs of the Poor more effectively. Visit again to learn more!

Learning point:
Debriefing is a vital step in monitoring performance and learning from experience. It requires careful planning to ensure effectiveness.

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