The Art of Questions
Whether we are mentoring, coaching, or facilitating a small group discussion, we use questions to draw the BEST out of people. Questions come in many shapes and sizes, each designed for a particular outcome and used with a specific agenda.
There are some people who seem to ask just the right questions. If you haven’t yet met that kind of person, then perhaps you can become that person. In truth, this effect is a combination of listening skills and an toolbox of strategic questions. We’ll get to the listening skills in a later post, but for now, here are three three types of strategic questions that we can use in both individual and group settings to draw the best out of people.
Must-select questions are very powerful, particularly at the beginning of a conversation, or with a person who is being guarded, as it forces a person to both think and respond, while presenting itself under the guise of simplicity. An example might be:
- “On a scale of one to ten, how courageous do you think you are?”
Must-select questions like this are neither classically ‘open’ nor ‘closed’ (see below), but rather provide options within boundaries, priming the person for a follow-up question based on the information they have already given you. Read More…
How Can a Loving God Send Good People to Hell? (Spoken Word)
Tonight at church I did something really different. I actually can’t remember a time I when I have been so nervous (I’m talking days!) prior to sharing. Having been given the topic “How can a loving God send good people to hell?“, and a grand total of 5 minutes to share from the platform, the scene was primed for creativity.
So rather than preaching, I wrote and presented the message in a “spoken word” format while the graphic above progressively appeared behind me. It wasn’t just about communicating with a different style, but rather, with the limited time that I had, to share in a way that would prompt questions, invite people’s hearts to resonate with the imagery, and hopefully make a few key statements stick. The video can be found here, but for those interested here are the lyrics:
When I proposed to Megan I put everything on the line
in the hope that she would say, “Yes, you’re mine.”
Moments like these are stunning moments of love,
but it is still a choice, not a push or a shove.
An “Open” Sermon
I’ve been experimenting recently with a style of communication that I like to call an “open sermon”.
The idea behind it is that for so many young (and old) people, the sense of responsibility for personal revelation through the Bible has been lost, or more so, delegated to “professional” pastors who study a passage for a week or so, to later bring the truths to the church table for consumption. The result has been a rapid decline in Biblical literacy, and a consumer mentality within our churches.
An “open sermon” is a teaching of dialogue – and by this I don’t mean lip-service to this term “dialogue” that some indie-churches often profess to action while sadly not making any real changes – but I mean, actual dialogue, which means embracing a new paradigm of teaching.
Just a couple of weeks ago as a youth group we were looking at the Book of Revelation, because apparently that’s all the rage these days! I thought to myself, “I could tell them everything that I know, but what would that actually accomplish?” So I decided to break the teaching up into five sections:
- I initially provided an interpretive framework (this was especially important because of the content), and told them that we were doing things differently (10min)
- I split the whole group into four groups of around 20 youth and leaders, and gave them each a different yet “familiar” passage of the topic text. They read the passage and drew initial impressions with each other. (15min)
- A spokesperson for the group threw their thoughts back to me (everyone listening), and I reflected/paraphrased what they shared, adding more context to each passage. (10min)
- The groups then were asked to discuss the question: Why is this passage in the Bible? (10min)
- They threw their thoughts back to me (everyone listening), and I summed up. (5min)
A warning: it takes a lot more work for the presenter, as you need to be prepared for whatever the groups may throw back to you, but equally an encouragement: it was well worth the effort because that night was fantastic. The sense of exploration was brilliant, and you could witness young people taking ownership of their discoveries.
It’s the difference between being told about a treasure and finding it for yourself.
It’s early days, and I’m still wrestling with the paradigm, but if we can help young people step out of the consumer mentality, whether by practice or paradigm, I believe that we can help cultivate a generation of explorers.
What do you think? Have you ever tried an “open sermon”?
Dear Grade 5 Teacher…
Hey Mr McKeown,
I’m currently working on a sermon about the Book of Revelation (because apparently that’s what all the kids are into nowadays!) and was reminded of the time you mentioned to me, I think it was in Grade 5, that this mysterious book may not be just about the future, but about the past that breaks into our present.
That day, as a naturally confident 13 year old futurist, I thought you were crazy and wrong. It’s funny the things that stick with you as a kid, but I never let that conversation go.
So after six years of Bible College, I just wanted to let you know that I have rethought my position and I take my diagnosis back. Perhaps I can challenge this next generation as you challenged me.
Grace and Peace,
A New Idea
Well this is a new idea, planting my thoughts in the digital realm for all to consider. But isn’t that really what we want to be a part of anyway – a grander discussion on that which really matters, rather than simply float within the classic superficiality to which we have all become accustomed?
Rest assured, my thoughts are not about changing the world, and rarely would I claim them to be new, they are a reflection of the individuals, experiences and God that continues to shape my life.
After all, we live out of who we believe we are.