Leading a Small Group: Part 2 Asking Good Questions

Last week I wrote about some of the fundamentals of leading a Small Group. Today I would like to tackle some of the types of questions you could use to help your small group interact as you study together. I will briefly discuss the social side of asking questions in a small group, and then look at how to best ask questions in the formal study portion of your time together.

Part of participating with a small group is informal, social conversation. Maybe chatting people up is not your thing. (I can relate–I chat, but it is often the discomfort with silence talking). Can I share a question prompt that I learned way too late in life? My friends were teaching their 5 year old to carry on a conversation. Another friend, Matt had mentioned going to church, and my friends prompted their son, “What is something that you don’t know about what he just said?” The boy thought for a moment and asked, “What does your church look like?” Not a profound question, but as he listened, he kept thinking about things he didn’t know–and wanted to know–and voila! Conversation. Did she just say her dad was a veterinarian? Um, “Did you ever go on calls with him? What was that like? What is a memorable animal that he worked on? What kind of relationship do you have with animals today? How did his practice impact your thinking?”

Developing relationships is just part of being in a small group. Typically, you would have some objective that you would be pursing, learning something together through a more formal time of study.

What kind of questions should you not ask in a small group study?

  • Obvious Questions: “Who is buried in Grant’s tomb?” Often these answers will lead to one-word answers or dead silence.
  • Yes/No questions: “Do you know who made the world?” Everyone will say yes, but you haven’t left any room for discussion.
  • Obscure Questions: “Will you define the epistemological underpinnings of the worldview articulated here?” Anyone in the room should understand what you are asking.
  • Too personal: “Jane, tell us about a time when you experienced murder in your heart toward your children.”

What kind of questions should you ask of your small group?

  • Warm up:  Bring people to think about the topic of the passage. “Tell me about a time that. . .”
  • Interpretive Questions:  “How did the original recipients understand this?” “What cultural or historical elements are at play here that we don’t typically understand?”
  • Questions of clarity: “If you had to summarize this information in just a couple of sentences, what would you say?” “What is the main point of this passage?” Have people understood the passage well enough to summarize it or pick out the main point?
  • Connections: “How does this passage relate to other portions/stories/concepts of Scripture?”
  • Application.  “According to this passage, what are we supposed to do or be? How does this impact our daily walk?” Stick closely to the passage; it is easy to start making applications that have nothing to do with what the Scriptures are communicating.

Finally, what happens when people ask questions that you can’t answer or you are still facilitating discussion? It is never wrong to say you don’t know. It’s also not a bad practice to throw a question back to the group even if you know the answer. “How might the rest of you answer that?” If there is no answer, or you really don’t know, “I’m not sure, and that deserves a good answer.  Let’s study it this week before we come back next time, and we can discuss it then.”

In the next post, I will provide you with a sample small group Bible study framework. Until then, get out there and ask some good questions!

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