How to Ask Stimulating Discussion Questions
Practical advice for one of a group leader's most important roles
Joel Comiskey | posted 7/16/2008
Open-ended questions, on the other hand, elicit discussion and sharing. There is more than one right answer. Open-ended questions stir cell members to apply biblical truths to their own lives.
Preparing Dynamic Questions
Let's look at an example from the familiar passage in John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
- Observation. You could start out with a closed observation question like: "How did God demonstrate his love for us?" The answer lies within the text. In this case, you're simply asking the people to observe and answer what they see in the verse. Even someone who has never read the Bible could answer the question: "God demonstrated his love by sending his Son."
It's great to include a few observation questions in the beginning of the lesson. Such questions will help your members better understand the meaning of the Bible passage.
- Interpretation. You could go one step further and ask your group members to interpret what the verse means. But for the most part, this is still a closed question. For example, you could ask, "What kind of love did God demonstrate?" Some might talk about God's sacrificial love; others might refer to God's fatherly compassion.
The leader might be ready to talk about the Greek word agape, which refers to Christ's self-sacrificing love on the Cross. While there is room for a few such interpretation questions to better understand the Bible, this is not the goal of the cell group. If you use this type of question too frequently, your members will leave with lots of knowledge but little transformation in their own lives.
Observation and interpretation questions help us understand the Bible, but for the most part they're closed questions. They reach the head but not the heart. They can provide useful biblical information, but they'll generate little interaction.
- Application. Let's look at an open-ended application question covering John 3:16. You could say, "Describe your experience when you first understood that God loves you." You could then call on one of the believers in the group: "Susan, would you share what happened when you first experienced God's love for you?"
This type of question/exhortation takes the well-known verse in John and invites members to apply it. Many will share. You could also ask a question like, "How did you come to know God loves you? Did someone talk to you about God? Were you alone in your room? Share your experience."
Grab the Heart
Make sure you grab the heart during the cell lesson. Don't allow your people to leave the group without having applied the Bible to their own lives. I know of one cell leader who likes to conclude the Word time by saying, "In light of what we've read and discussed in this passage, how do you think God wants to use this in your life, or in the life of this group?"
I recommend, as a minimum, one application question for every two observation or interpretation questions.
Christian A. Schwarz and his team from the Institute for Church Development in Germany have proven that direct application to immediate needs makes the difference between an effective and an ineffective small group. They analyzed responses from 4.2 million people, from more than 1,000 churches in 32 countries. Schwarz concluded that successful small groups must be "holistic small groups which go beyond just discussing Bible passages to applying its message to daily life." In such groups, members are able to bring up those issues and questions that are immediate personal concerns.
|Topics:||Dialogue, Discussion, Education, Learning, Questions|
|Date Added:||July 16, 2008|