It turns out that the best questions for group discussion aren't questions at all.
One of the greatest skills that you need to run a good Bible study is the instinct to craft good questions. You know what I mean…
- Never ask a question where the answer is Yes or No. “Is this verse saying that God is good?”
- Never ask a question that is so blindingly obvious that no one will want to answer it: “Who loved the world so much that he gave his only Son?”
- Never ask multiple questions: “What has God said he will do for his people in verse 7, why will he do it, and what will be the result, and what horse won the 3.30 at Kempton Park Racecourse?”
- Always ask open questions that get people to think about what the Scriptures are actually saying: “What is the big surprise in v. 15?”
- Ask not just about facts (what) but also about motivation (why) and connections (how): “Why do you think Jesus asks this question the way he does?”
But I’ve discovered over the years that, as the title says, often the best questions are not questions at all. Here’s what I mean.
You’ve asked one of your finely crafted questions, and Janice, a young Christian who doesn’t usually say very much, gives a hesitating answer that shows she’s on the right track. You can tell by the wrinkled forehead that she has got a lot more thoughts in her mind but is unsure about her first answer so has not said any more. So now is your chance to deploy the finest two words in Bible study history.
Are you ready for them?
Take a deep breath and repeat after me:
Say these two words out loud now—they will change the face of your home group forever!
These words say loads of things to Jittery Janice or Shrinking Stephen or Hesitant Hannah or Timid Trevor. They tell them:
- You’re on the right track
- I’m interested in the thoughts that are in your head – please share them round so that other people can be encouraged by them
- The stage is yours…
It’s the equivalent of what some books call an “extending question” – but without the need to think of another question. With the right tone or even prefacing it with “I think you’re on the right track here, go on…” or “That’s an interesting idea, go on…” you are encouraging them to speak so they can encourage everyone else.
Try it at your next home group meeting, and you will be astonished by the power of these two little words to transform your group.
But a word of caution. Don’t tell your group to read this article. Word got back to a group I once ran about a training session I ran where I talked about these magic words. From that time on, all they did when I said “Go on”
was laugh at me…
Tim worked in several different professional fields before becoming a writer and publisher. He is editorial director of The Good Book Company (www.thegoodbook.com), which produces Christian resources for Christian growth, outreach and development. Tim studied Theology and Philosophy as an undergraduate, and leads training events for homegroup leaders. He has a passion for getting people connected with the message of the Bible, and encountering the loving saviour it reveals. TIm is married to Kathy, has three teenage daughters, and lives in SW London.
More from Tim Thornborough or visit Tim at http://home-group-leader.blogspot.com/