By Chris McRae, BCI Discipleship Team Leader
Discipleship is the application of principles and practices for followers of Jesus Christ. It’s the goal of church life, particularly as evidenced in small groups, to lead men and women toward maturity in Christ such that they begin “looking like” Jesus in character and behavior. One of the dynamics that can take place in a gathering of like-hearted men and women comes out of the time of discussion. As a group leader, as well as for other participants, it is important to provide an atmosphere where healthy, life-changing discussions can take place. Facilitating such practice is the role of asking good questions.
One of the most important skills in small-group facilitation is not having all of the right answers, but asking the right questions. Here are a few secrets to good question-asking:
- Open-ended questions. In a small group you are not looking for the right answer as much as you are looking for people to share some actual thoughts about the subject being discussed. So, avoid the yes/no, true/false, multiple-choice questions. Also try not to ask questions that have simplistic Sunday School answers.
- Follow-up questions. Initially most people are going to answer a question on a surface level. Follow up questions help them to think a bit deeper and to explain what they mean. Don’t settle for a first, brief response. Some examples of follow up questions are:
- Can you “unpack” for us what you mean by that?
- What makes you think that?
- If you had been present when this occurred, how might you have heard it?
- Is there a way you could explain that to a non-believer?
The idea is to get at the heart of what someone is trying to say.
- Challenging questions. We want to be careful here but sometimes a response to a question should be challenged. Not necessarily because it’s wrong but to dig deeper into what is behind the statement. We don’t always have to agree with each other. I don’t like pointless discussions. The point of a discussion is to get different perspectives and wrestle with issues! Here are some examples of questions that can help create discussion by playing a little “devil’s advocate”:
- Do you really agree with what is being said in that passage? Why or why not?
- What do you think God was up to “behind the scenes” there?
- How would you respond to someone who has a different opinion about that?
- Do we really have to do it like that?
- Is there only this one way of understanding what is being said here?
- Practical questions. One of the desired outcomes of a small group discussion is that we’re actually talking about our real lives. We don’t simply want to become smarter; we want to see lives changed. One way to do this is to wrap up with some practical application. Some questions that help along those lines:
- What does what we’ve talked about have to do with your everyday life?
- What change of perspective about this issue do you need to consider?
- What one thing can you do this next week to live out this teaching?