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…
When Parents Want Advice
As a youth leader, parents will come to you on occasion for advice, especially when there are family struggles or their children aren’t communicating with them. It seems ridiculous, because instinctively we think “Why the heck are you asking me? I’m not a parent!” And while we cannot (and shouldn’t) make decisions for them, there are some principles that we can always fall back on to encourage and equip parents with – you do have something to offer. Read More…
Avoiding Leadership Silos
A CHALLENGE that arises when serving in a large youth department is the need for multiple teams to manage both the people and tasks that fall under our care. Often each of these teams will have a key leader, along with roles, values and expectations specific to that team’s contribution. The danger of siloing arises when these teams develop such a distinctive identity that they separate themselves from the other youth teams, or in the worst cases, the vision of the department altogether.
It’s important to remember that this isn’t usually done with any hostile intent; it’s simply a result of hanging out and serving alongside the same set of people week by week, and in the busyness of serving, accountability to the greater vision falls off the radar. Remembering of course, that these teams are made of people!
Symptoms of leadership siloing can often include hostility between teams, suspicion around the contribution of a leader on another team, team exclusiveness, reduced cross-team communication, and a sense of jealousy rather than celebrating a shared success. The drag will always be toward silos, so for this reason we need to be intentional about taking practical steps to avoid them. Read More…
Ministry of Availability
Have you ever had that moment when a young person is sharing with you their struggles and you feel utterly helpless? It’s like the situation is too large, anything you have to share will be too superficial, or perhaps you are struggling to even understand the problem.
Often the temptation within us is to try and “fix” the person’s situation. Perhaps the “solution” is perceived to be a piece of inspirational advice, an eloquent prayer, or even taking on responsibility for the burden ourselves. This gut instinct within us is often called “the saviour complex”, and while it may present itself as care, sacrifice or love, in reality it can actually be more about satisfying our own individual needs, or an attempt to gain control over our own insecurities.
Take a moment to digest that last sentence.
Please know that this in no way diminishes the value and importance of helping someone in and through their struggle, however it is critical to remember that as Christians and youth leaders, before introducing programs, Bible passages and 5-step solutions, we are first and foremost called to a ministry of availability.
It was Perry Noble, speaking of ministry to students that recently said, “This generation does not care about our ability, they care about our availability.” There is an incredible power and grace in simply sitting and listening to a young person share what is happening in their life; the struggles, the pain, the conflict, and not needing to provide the answers.
People don’t need to be fixed to be accepted, right? Read More…