If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. 2 Cor 5:17
Investing in God’s people from life to life
These pages are designed to aid study or investigation for Christian discipleship through individual Bible study, Cell groups, Home groups, or meeting one to one. The questions could be used alone allowing each person to use their own Bible.
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Questions are the key to a good discussion. Questions take the focus off oneself. Questions give the initiative to the group. Questions help people engage with the issue at hand. Questions help people to think. Good questions can help people move from intellect to action.
Taking a group through a set of material, helping them to engage with it and deepen their understanding involves a process, and each stage of this process requires a different type of question.
We will be looking at a variety of question types and how they are put together for a discussion.
A discussion can be broken into stages. Each stage is a discussion in itself. From first stage to end stage the material under discussion is covered. By breaking a discussion down to sections in this way, one can move to a new section in order to head off an unwelcome distraction to the discussion. One can also use it as an element of time keeping by allocating a certain degree of time to each section.
For each stage of the discussion there are three parts.
Why do people just say what first comes into their heads? A discussion rooted in the content is more rewarding than opinions without reference to the material. A good discovery question will launch the discussion, and focus attention on the material. A well placed question here will change the character of the discussion from sharing ignorance to growing in understanding.
Discovery questions have many legitimate answers. For this reason the are a good place for the leader to draw in various members of the group getting everyone talking.
To write discovery questions break the material into sections with titles. These sections each cover a wide scope. By a little use of English they can be converted into discovery questions. If the section is ‘prayer’, then a question would be - ‘What does this section say about prayer?’
What is a helpful word to use to start discovery questions.
Sometimes people can be hesitant to answer because they think the answers are too obvious. In that case just give a little gentle encouragement with one answer. It is worth working through this for the fruit of asking discovery questions, is that the discussion will be rooted in the material.
The heart of the discussion is to dig deeper. These questions present the opportunity. The best understanding questions will aim at the areas which people superficially think they understand, but encourage them to go deeper. I find that the most fertile territory to ask about is where I have had questions that bugged me while I was studying the material. Here are some examples -
Discussion that stops with theory is empty. It does not help us to engage with God for Jesus to transform us. In order to help the group move from theory to practice we need to assist them with application questions.
These are often the most difficult to ask, and we tend to end up with understanding questions by accident. It is worth thinking through how a question might be answered and think through whether it leads to action.
A key word for application questions is HOW.
How can we learn from what Jesus has done?
How do we end up doing the same mistake?
What practically can we do to learn from this lesson?
These questions are general questions that can be used in any group situation. They are not specific to a study and so cannot be specifically prepared. They are to help the group dynamics. Here are some examples -
Guess my thought
A common pitfall in crafting questions is to try and make the group discover what you have discovered. The amazing thing is that they never do! If you want to share what you have discovered you have to do it in a legitimate way by offering it as your participation in the discussion. Don’t try to make the group discover it, however important you think it is. Usually when someone is trying to do this they follow a strategy. They go to the insight and work back. So they write an understanding question that points at what they have learned, then they write a discovery question to lead the group to the understanding question. Inevitably when they ask the discovery question, no one picks up on the discovery they were supposed to get. The leader ends up saying “No, no, no, ...” to a series of legitimate answers. This is extremely frustrating for everyone.
Questions to make people have the right idea tend to be closed questions. These questions only have two answers. Yes or No. They do not lead to discussion, but to compliance. They leave the leader having won a point, but lost the war. Key words for closed questions are often of the form Do, Did, Is, Are.