Coffee Break Bible discovery leaders use questions and conversation to engage people in God’s story. It’s a technique we learned from Jesus! Curious to know the number of questions Jesus asked during his conversations with people, I did an online search which yielded well over 100 questions. (And those are just the ones recorded in Scripture!) Here’s a sampling:
“Do you want to get well?” Jesus asked the man unable to walk for 30 years. (John 5:6)
“Who do the crowds say that I am?” Jesus asked his disciples. (Luke 9:18)
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked a blind man. (Luke 18:4)
“Which of the two did what his Father wanted?” Jesus asked the crowd, the chief priest and the elders. (Matthew 21:31)
“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus asked the rich man. (Matthew 19:17)
What do you notice about the questions Jesus asked? I’m struck by a few things. Jesus’ questions were simple—not complicated—and asked in everyday language. Each one was personalized and appropriate to the needs of the individuals with whom he was speaking. For example, the question he directed to the religious leaders challenged their perception of obedience to the law; the question he asked of the blind man addressed his immediate physical need. And, while each question was simply stated, each question was also deeply profound. Consider Jesus’ question to the rich man. How would you have answered that? What happens inside you when someone asks you a powerful question?
Jesus asked questions because he loved people and wanted a relationship with them. He also wanted his audience to think for themselves. He wanted them to remember what they learned— if people discover things for themselves rather than being told, they are more likely to remember it. And he wanted them to discover the truth of their own attitudes and/or patterns of thought. Jesus wanted to their responses to lead to life change.
Like Jesus, Bible discovery leaders use questions to invite conversation, reflection and response. We use application types of questions to build relationships among group members and to build a relationship with the God who wrote the story. Our questions cause people to think, to remember, to discover and reflect on inner thoughts and attitudes. We ask those questions with the hope of transformation!
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when asking questions. Please feel free to add your own ideas to the list!
Ask open ended questions which require more than “yes” and “no” or one word answers.
Ask “What?” and “How?” questions instead of “Why?” questions. “Why?” questions often suggest there is one answer. People tend to sort through their thoughts and choose the best option rather than opening up the conversation to a variety of answers. The “Why” questions also can create a defensive reaction and turn off analysis. “What?” and “How?” questions open up the conversation to many possibilities. Test this idea with these questions, “Why do you feel that way?” vs “What are the reasons you feel that way?” and How did you come to feel that way?
Practice asking questions. Asking good questions is a skill that needs to be developed and practiced. As you prepare to lead, answer the questions in your study guides with questions of your own. Ask yourself questions about what you are reading. Pay attention to which questions take your breath away or stimulate curiosity.
Use technology to ‘ask around’. Sometimes it’s helpful to ‘ask around’ for more information to enhance what you’re learning about God’s story. One Coffee Break leader I know encourages group members to ‘Google’ during group Bible Study! They use their cell phones and other devices to search for definitions, maps, blogs and more. She finds that these online searches encourage personal discovery and equips participants with information in a way that levels the playing field. Tip: Calvin Seminary has a great study tool for Bible study leaders. Visit the Calvin Seminary website for a Scripture Study app featuring different translations, access to commentaries, blogs about the text, and more.
Asking quality questions is important. Having good Bible study materials to help us understand the context and meaning is helpful. But what’s really great is the Story. We have a compelling, amazing story about the battle between two kingdoms. God sent his own Son to conquer sin for his wandering people and set the broken relationship right. What a privilege we have to share that story! Amen?
What is your experience with engaging friends in God’s story? What has worked? What challenges do you face? I’d love to hear your stories and ideas! Please share them.
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