One of the most important skills for small group leaders to develop is the skill of asking GREAT questions. Great questions will help create a great discussion. Of course it's more of an art than a science, but here are some tips that are hopefully helpful for you:
Secret #1: Ask open-ended questions!
- Avoid the yes-no, true-false, multiple-choice questions [“Is Jesus the sheep or the shepherd in this parable?”]
- Avoid questions that let people off the hook with a simple “Sunday school answer” [“Why did Jesus die on the cross?”]
- Ask questions that require people to have to share some actual thoughts and feelings [“Which of the challenges the author mentioned has been the most difficult one for you in this past year? Where are some ways that you have done well in overcoming that challenge?”]
Secret #2: Ask follow-up questions!
- Many people default to trying to stay pretty surface level with their levels, so get in the habit of not letting them off the hook—ask more follow-up questions.
- Here are some examples of good follow-up questions for short/simple answers people give:
- What makes you say that?
- How do you feel about that?
- How do you think that would’ve affected you if you had been living in the time of Jesus?
- How would you explain your answer to a non-Christian friend or neighbor?
- Try to get at the core of what people are really trying to say.
Secret #3: Start an argument!
- I like to tell my groups that if we all just always agree with each other and with every word that every author we read says, then it makes for a pretty boring group and somewhat pointless discussion. The point of actually discussing things is to get different perspectives and wrestle with things!
- Here are some examples of questions that can help create discussion by playing a little “devil’s advocate”:
- Do you really agree with what the author is saying in that chapter? Why or why not?
- Why did God design it to work that way? Why not just do (whatever else) instead?
- What would you say to someone who disagrees with that?
- Why do we really have to do it like that? Why can’t we just go (some other route) instead?
Secret #4: Make sure the rubber hits the road!
- I often tell my small group that by the end of the night, we need to make sure we apply what we’re discussing to our current lives—otherwise we just leave group a little smarter, rather than with changed lives!
- Whatever it is you’re discussing, make sure to end with some application questions. Here are some examples:
- So what in the world does that have to do with our lives today?
- How can you change your perspective from today on regarding that issue?
- What one thing can you do differently in this next week to start living that out?
- Some groups will add some accountability to that last question, recording what members share, and asking them to report back the next week.